In the United States Army there are still many barriers to women’s advancement. The Army is the most discriminating employer in the country and makes specific jobs available to specific genders. Controversy about women's role in the U.S. military, particularly in combat, arose in the 1970s, but warnings about women's physical and emotional weaknesses have proven misplaced. Displaying technical skills, intelligence, physical prowess, and courage, women now serve in all military positions except those classified as "direct ground combat" and aboard submarines. These remaining restrictions are unnecessary and may impede combat readiness.
More active roles for women in the armed services followed the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and the fallout from the Vietnam War draft. Rosemary Mariner notes, "…high-quality female recruits into nontraditional fields made the all-volunteer force possible." Since the Persian Gulf War, deploying American forces from Bosnia to Afghanistan would have been impossible without women. According to Adam N. Wojack, in 2003 women comprised 14 percent of all soldiers and about 20 percent of army soldiers; they now "…fly attack helicopters, command military police companies, drive infantry soldiers into combat on trucks, and 'man' logistics bases far forward, or in the midst, of ground maneuver forces." Women are essential to the U.S. military.
Yet the same demeaning, sexist, and fallacious arguments utilized 30 years ago to keep women from active service still restrict some positions today. Conservative social critics, like Phyllis Schafly and James G. Bruen, maintain combat roles for women result in the "abandonment of children," and others opine that "people do not want to see women coming home in body bags." Yet, as Lin Hutton states "…women already have. [T]he tragedy of body bags is devastating to any family, regardless of…gender." Death is a risk in any combat role, direct or otherwise, and, as Mariner states, "…if American women are good enough to die for their country, they are good enough to fight."
Other critics focus on women's supposed weaknesses, such as lack of physical and emotional strength and stamina, and fears that co-ed combat units destroy cohesion and encourage sexual harassment and illicit sexual relations. Wojack denies women are "too 'weak' to do an infantryman's job," as does Rosemary Skaine, who argues that women have overcome physical shortcomings by training and by utilizing new