Lionesses: Female Soldiers Are Seeing Combat

Illustration for article titled Lionesses: Female Soldiers Are Seeing Combat

A new PBS documentary, Lioness, sheds new light on the role of women in combat. (It's reviewed in today's Times.) While technically prohibited from direct ground combat, female soldiers in Iraq frequently find themselves occupying a "gray area" that's never existed in prior wars. As one soldier puts it, “We’ve had grenades thrown at us, shooting at us with AK-47’s. It’s a fight-or-flight thing. When someone is shooting at you, you don’t say, ‘Stop the war, I’m a girl.’”The documentary, part of PBS's “Independent Lens” film series, follows five women in an engineering battalion — part of the first "Team Lioness" group which volunteered to accompany male combat units to central Iraq. The women have diverse backgrounds — from supply clerk to West Point grad — but all are thrown into an unprecedented military situation. A Pentagon spokeswoman told the Times, “A recent RAND report confirms that the Army and all other services remain in compliance with the DOD policy regarding the assignment of women in the military" which prohibits female troops from direct combat. But, she continues, “Women will continue to be assigned to units and positions that may necessitate combat actions within the scope of their restricted positioning — situations for which they are fully trained and equipped to respond,” As the documentary makes clear, in this new military world, with its guerrilla warfare, there is no distinction between "combat" and the discharge of normal duties — which included searching and communicating with Muslim women. As a result, more female soldiers than ever before have ended up in combat, often without adequate training, and are suffering the same consequences as their male counterparts — PTSD and depression. Indeed, statistics from the British Ministry of Defense suggest that female soldiers are affected at a far higher level than their male counterparts. And, by the same token, therapists are not necessarily trained to help women in combat situations where they are not "officially" supposed to be. The film, which airs on November 13th, is apparently not polemical — one of the soldiers profiled says she is very much for women in combat, provided they're trained — but makes the need for scrutiny of women's roles in modern warfare very clear. Women Soldiers Suffering From More Mental Problems [Telegraph] Battleground: Female Soldiers In The Line of Fire [New York Times]



Why are women prohibited from direct combat? I would never in a million years want to be a front line soldier, but should a solider be prohibited from that because she has a vag? This seems like an accepted form of discrimination and it bothers me that a woman would be prevented from doing something she wants because of gender