Women as frontline soldiers would be a victory of sorts, but ultimately we want peace as well as equality
Of all the hard-gotten rights that have been, or are about to be, granted to women, I’ll confess that the ability to kill an enemy at close quarters is not one that has preoccupied me much. Joining the army was never on the agenda, and in general my friends’ interest in soldiering is limited to the sexual “I’m one marine away from joining a choir,” said one recently, though I’m not sure if Gareth Malone’s singing military wives would accept the unmarried and promiscuous. Nevertheless, there are thousands of women who want to be soldiers who will be pleased that their options may be about to expand.
That’s the thing about rights: some of them don’t affect you at all, and some are for everyone. Mama doesn’t want to be a soldier, but it’s nice to have the option, isn’t it? That the army is considering lifting the ban on women in combat roles is a victory for gender equality; any employer should be welcoming to women, and that includes the armed forces. France, Germany, the US, Canada and Australia, among others, have led the way. In the UK, 30% of army roles are off-limits to women, and General Sir Peter Wall has said in an interview that this is hindering recruitment.