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October 13, 2009

Concerned Women Against Women on Submarines

The Navy is considering a policy change that would allow women to serve on submarines, and this has the Concerned Women for America...well, concerned.

Let's compare the actual story...

The nation's top military officer has called for lifting the ban on women serving aboard submarines, in a significant step toward reducing the barriers to women in combat. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he seeks the change to broaden opportunities for women in the military. "One policy I would like to see changed is the one barring their service aboard submarines," Mullen wrote in answers to questions from Congress before his Senate reconfirmation hearing last week.

Lifting the ban would allow women for the first time to serve as officers and enlisted personnel aboard the strategic fleet of fast-attack and other submarines where sailors live and work in cramped quarters at sea for six months at a time. After combat- exclusion rules were lifted in the early 1990s, women in the Navy were allowed to serve on surface combat ships and in combat aircraft, but the ban on their employment in submarines remained.

The Navy has for years been exploring how best to bring women into its submarine force. In a statement this week, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said he is "very comfortable addressing integrating women" into the force, but added, "There are some particular issues . . . we must work through."

One issue, he said, is living space. Packed with specialized gear, spare parts, and food and other supplies to operate independently for three months, a submarine is extremely cramped...The submarines would have to be modified to provide adequate privacy for enlisted women and men, senior officers said.

Of greater concern, officers said, is the rate of retention for women in the Navy -- about 15 percent, compared with more than 30 percent for men -- and the possibility that the integration of women could lead to gaps in the relatively small submarine force. Women often leave in their late 20s to start families, although to improve retention the Navy in 2007 lengthened to one year the period that female sailors can remain ashore after childbirth...

...Once the ban is lifted, it would take a few years to integrate women successfully, both by training female Navy officers and enlisted personnel at all levels to move into the force and by designing a program to ensure a steady flow of women into jobs, the officials said. Integration would start with a small pilot program, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

One reason the Navy seeks to integrate women on submarines is that they make up a growing percentage of college graduates, including engineers. "There is a vast pool of talent that we are neglecting in our recruiting efforts," a senior official said. [The Washington Post]

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said Thursday that allowing women to serve on submarines is "an idea whose time has come" - and he said he sees no big hurdles to making it happen...he said he and other top officials believe "women should have the ability to serve throughout the Navy," and he sees no major impediments to their becoming submariners. [Forbes.com]

...with the press release that Concerned Women for America put out in response to this news.

Navy Considers Endangering Women to Appease Feminists
May lift ban on women on submarines

"National security is the Navy's primary mission, not advancing women's careers."

Contact: Demi Bardsley, Concerned Women for America (CWA), 202-266-4820

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation's largest public policy women's organization, is disappointed in recent statements by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus indicating their wish to lift the ban on women serving aboard submarines. Admiral Mullen advocated the policy change in written congressional testimony on Friday. Navy Secretary Mabus said he was "moving out aggressively on this."

"Unlike any other assignment in the U.S. Navy, the submarine service is a hazardous environment for women of child-bearing age," noted CWA President Wendy Wright. "No other assignment exposes women to a constantly recycled atmosphere of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and more than 200 potentially toxic chemicals. Those contaminants remain even with filtering. While normal adults can adjust to this environment, a developing child in the first trimester cannot, and the levels of carbon dioxide that crewmembers are exposed to can be linked to birth defects. Also, no study has been done to determine the impact of this environment on a woman's fertility."

"Another serious consideration is the threat to the life and health of the women assigned to submarine crews should an ectopic pregnancy occur. These cases, about four out of every 1,000 women per year, can be life-threatening situations that demand evacuation," Wright said. "For a great many women, the acute symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are their first indication that they are even pregnant. Pre-deployment pregnancy testing is not a silver bullet either, since tests may not give a positive reading in the earliest stages of pregnancy."

"Along with the medical issues, there are very real social and psychological difficulties posed by mixing the sexes in the 'Silent Service,'" Wright added. "Military readiness and cohesiveness will be affected, and commanders will have the added difficulties of harassment and fraternization to deal with, which are inevitable in this situation of confined quarters with extremely little privacy. National security is the Navy's primary mission, not advancing women's careers." [Christian News Wire via Right Wing Watch. Emphasis mine.]

From this I think we can learn a few things about the way things work in the CWA's world:

1. The CWA knows what's best for the Navy better than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of the Navy, and other senior military officials.

2. The CWA doesn't trust the women who are actually in the Navy to weigh the risks and benefits of serving aboard a submarine and decide for themselves. If your priorities aren't the same as the Concerned Women's priorities...you're wrong.

3. The CWA has never considered that a man might
have a potentially serious medical issue that they're not aware of, and that routine pre-deployment medical testing wouldn't necessarily reveal. They're also unconcerned with any potential health risks for women that aren't related to pregnancy or fertility.

4. In the CWA's world, woman=mother, or potential mother. No exceptions. If you're not pregnant, you're pre-pregnant. Lesbians, infertile women, women who don't want kids...they just don't exist (or shouldn't exist). And since that's the case, we should always be prioritizing that role over all else. If there's even the tiniest, remotest chance that you could be pregnant with a miracle baby capable of hiding from all pre-deployment pregnancy tests, or that your fertility could be affected (although there's apparently no evidence to suggest that it would be), well then why are you even considering getting on a submarine? What kind of woman are you?

4a. Of course, for all of their pregnancy talk, the CWA glosses over the actual problem of rape in the military, which is the one point that they could have raised that might have made their overreaction about the pregnancy issue seem a little more reasonable. Unfortunately, I suspect that their idea of a solution to that problem would be for women to wise up and realize that they don't belong in the military in the first place.

5. The CWA can't grasp the idea that maybe it hurts national security to exclude smart and talented and dedicated women from activities that they're perfectly capable of doing just because they're women. I'm guessing they also have trouble comprehending the fact that it's a bad idea to dismiss people with critical skills from the military just because they're gay, which happens to women at a disproportionate rate and is something that's actually worth being "concerned" about.

6. The CWA apparently thinks that top military officials devote a lot of time to thinking up new ways to make feminists happy.

So, based on this little exercise, I think we can safely conclude that there is no resemblance whatsoever between our world and CWA World.


Crunchy Carpets said...

I thought they would object to women working in an environment that for all intents and purposes is shaped like a penis.

Anonymous said...

I'm usually not a fan of groups that choose a single group to lobby for because they usually do things so over-zealously that they either create just as much oppression as those that spurred them into action or start to belittle the oppression of other groups because they're the important ones. I'm quite happy to find one that doesn't. Thank you for using your voice.

Anonymous said...

I'm not usually a fan of organizations that choose a single group to promote. Because usually they either oppress those they seek to liberate or they belittle the struggle of other groups because their struggle is the important one. Judging by this entry you are different. Thank you for using your voice.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the double post I thought my computer had gotten it lost.

Akinoluna - a female Marine said...

What if a man on a submarine gets appendicitis? Seems like the necessary actions would be the same: Get them off the submarine as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

Having appendicitis is not comparable to pregnancy and childbirth. A male service member would be back to work within a week or two. I had knee and head injuries that I nver even got light duty for.

So, let me say this about that. Unless sea/shore rotations are the same for women as they are for men, women will never be accepted. As long as women are allowed to slip out of unpleasant duties that men must perform, they will not be accepted. This happened in my MP unit. Some women were allowed to refuse to carry a firearm and patrol the base.

If you want equality, I think that is great. I'm a feminist. Unless the women who serve are physically incapable of doing the job, they should be doing the job.

Carsonist said...

I just wanted to make one thing clear: the CWA isn't a feminist group. It's a group of right-wing wackos designed to suppress women's rights by pretending they represent women.

Jezebel said...

The Captain - I think you're misunderstanding Akinoluna's point. She's not directly comparing pregnancy/childbirth with appendicitis. She's responding to the CWA's argument that women shouldn't be on submarines because they could be pregnant and not know it and end up suffering a serious complication like an ectopic pregnancy that would require immediate medical attention. What I said in the post, and what Akinoluna's great appendicitis example shows, is that it's just as likely (or unlikely) that a man could suddenly develop a serious and previously unknown medical issue that would require treatment, so that alone isn't a good reason to disqualify women from submarine service.

Anonymous said...

"Unlike any other assignment in the U.S. Navy, the submarine service is a hazardous environment for women of child-bearing age"

Sorry, this is just hilarious. I suppose people in the military never sustain work-related injuries and they never die on the job. If they did, though, I'm pretty sure that death ceases all child-bearing capabilities of affected women.