Why should women wait to help command submarines?


The man in charge of the U.S. Navy’s submarine group 10, has said that female officers are going to serve on submarines.  Some submariners are cool about it.  Others feel cold toward it.  It’s great for those women who want to serve on a sub.  But some fundamental questions are being ignored.

Is it more important to ask why the U.S. Navy is doing it?   Or to ask why politics and our society’s hesitance have allowed the service to wait until only the last several years to finally consider this?   Only several years ago, women were placed in combat positions.

The U.S. Navy published a frank story in October’s “Navy Times,” mentioning that, among other details, this is deliberate; the Department of the Navy has been discussing this for several years.

There was a pithy scene in the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” where a female and senior senator asks Demi Moore’s character, Jordan, how she felt about being denied submariner service.  (I could not find the clip from that film)

“Did it piss you off?,” the senator said.

“Yes, ma’am.  It did.” Jordan said.

“Good.  I like pissed off,” the senator.

The movie broached the consequences of a women undergoing SEAL training; probably the penultimate alpha male cadre.  The military services have a very public and shaky history of treating women with abject distain.

Tailhook, which happened in 1991.

There’s another compelling and telling scene from the 1990 HBO film, “The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson,” (who had his own unnerving bout with the U.S. Army in Texas), where he admonishes his lover for her desire to serve in uniform – “Do you know how shabbily the Army treats women!?!”

But she stands her ground.  Which is what anyone must do to move past or beyond a naysayer or an obstacle.  But so much more so for women.

After you’ve been around a while, you notice that North America’s laws and behaviors are about a generation behind.  Life moves far too fast for our laws to keep pace.

The argument for separation, segregation, or denial of women’s service, as with anyone from our society’s margins, is that including them will threaten the good order and military discipline.

On NBC’s “The West Wing,” Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Fitzwallace, provides a mature, concise, and no-nonsense retort to that rhetoric in the final minute.  The context is about “Don’t Ask.  Don’t Tell,” but the principle works well beyond that.

No matter your background or color, if you’re different, you are often told to wait until someone else feels more comfortable around you.  You have to decide: do you wait, or do you make your own way?

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