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Will Letting Women Fight Fix Gender Inequality?

Why It's No Panacea for the Military's Ills

U.S. Military cadets run in full combat gear at West Point, New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. Mike Segar / Reuters

In 2016, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that all combat service roles would be open to women, without exception. It was a controversial move, and it gave way to grossly disparate predictions about whether the policy change was good for the military. Naysayers argued that allowing women to fight would lower physical standards, ruin camaraderie in a historically male-dominated space (breaking up the “band of brothers,” so to speak), and destroy the military’s capacity to recruit by removing the revered all-male combat unit, or, as the scholar Andrew Exum called it, “one of the last places where that most endangered of species, the alpha male, can feel at home.” Supporters, on the other hand, contended that integrating women into combat roles would enhance military capabilities, making the institution a more equal one that could, in turn, help reduce problems of sexual harassment and low rates of female recruitment and

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