Arms And The Enlisted Woman

Arms And The Enlisted Woman

Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Arms And The Enlisted Woman
    Book Description:

    "This book is about America's most unknown soldiers-enlisted women in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines." Focusing on the decade from 1972 to 1982, Judith Stiehm uses personal narratives, interviews, policy statements, and other material to explore the experience of American women in the military-their reasons for enlisting, their roles, their self-image, and the way they are viewed by civilians. Although there are now more than 200,000 women in uniform, Stiehm asks why the policies concerning enlisted women "so often appear to fly in the face of both logic and evidence." Her analysis of the effects of change in military policy on women of different ranks and ages reveals how certain functional myths (e.g., "war is manly") are challenged by the presence of women. The result has been an uneasy accommodation. Arms and the Enlisted Woman includes a vivid first-person account by a female veteran of one woman's experience in the Air Force. Honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant after six years of working as an airplane mechanic, this woman describes the struggle to be taken seriously and treated equally, and to excel in a non-traditional field. She also relates the joys of seeing a job well done and being part of a cohesive team. Her mixed reaction to her military career epitomizes the difficulty with which enlisted women have been assimilated. Stiehm also analyzes the rapidly shifting military policies concerning women as well as the reasons for certain erroneous but persistent beliefs about them, and remarks, "One thing seems to be certain. To the professional military the enlisted woman is a raw nerve."

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0478-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is about America’s most unknown soldiers—enlisted women in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. It is also about the making of policies concerning enlisted women. Above all, it is an effort to explain why those policies so often appear to fly in the face of both logic and evidence.

    I hope that those who are serving and who have served as enlisted women will like this book—that they will find it fair, authentic, and meaningful.

    I know some readers will not like it. Some of my feminist friends will find it militaristic, flawed by a...

  5. I. The American Enlisted Women
    • 1 Overview: The Most Unknown Soldiers
      (pp. 11-27)

      Enlisted personnel rarely emerge as individuals. When they do, It IS almost inevitably because of heroic acts of combat. Because enlisted women are relatively few and new, because they are not assigned to combat, and because ambivalence about their role continues, they are both individually and collectively an unknown quantity. In Appendix A a veteran of the U.S. Air Force tells her own story. This concrete and particular account (virtually unedited) tells the story of one woman in one service at a specific moment. The airman tells how she came to enlist. She also describes her basic training, her schooling,...

    • 2 The Generations of Enlisted Women
      (pp. 28-46)

      Recent policy changes have turned a single chronological generation of enlisted women into several attitudinal and behavioral generations, as interviews with enlisted women reveal. In this chapter the cohort method of analysis will be adapted to register important policy changes, with emphasis on how different changes have affected different women. In assessing these effects it is important to remember that all women who join the U. S. military do so voluntarily. They do not enlist expecting or wishing to change the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines. The services do change, though, and the changes can surprise service members—sometimes...

    • 3 Backlash and Freeze
      (pp. 47-80)

      As the previous chapter showed, military women experienced nearly constant progress toward equality from the late 1960s through the late 1970s. For a decade every change for women seemed to expand opportunity, to offer new (but not impossible) challenges, to reflect institutional respect and acceptance. Thus, a whole generation of women came to understand the military not as wholly fair, not as nonsexist, not as sweetly reasonable, but as a rapidly changing organization in which each change seemed to be for the better. In the late 1970s, and certainly by 1980, military women began to have a more mixed view...

  6. II. Making Policy for Enlisted Women
    • 4 Military Opinion
      (pp. 83-107)

      In the military, as in most institutions, policy is based more on opinion than on evidence. Thus, the opinions held about military women are important, and those of senior men are especially important.

      Many studies of attitudes about and of military women were done during the 1970s. They reflect a variety of concerns and are therefore not completely comparable. Still, their findings are mostly compatible and also appear consistent with studies done during the 1980s. Constancy is not surprising, since two fundamental facts have not changed: women are proportionally few, and they are formally barred from the military’s defining activity—...

    • 5 Litigation and Legislation
      (pp. 108-133)

      Policies about military women are affected by legislation and litigation as well as by military opinion. Legislation specifically related to military women is minimal, but it is mightily constraining. On the other hand, litigation—especially against the Navy—has proven surprisingly effective in increasing women’s options.

      The Navy seems especially prone to describing itself as bound by legal requirements. This would make change hard to accomplish if change were desired. On the other hand, it makes it possible to retreat with grace: for example, if a suit is brought and won, the Navy can portray itself as always happy to...

    • 6 Research
      (pp. 134-154)

      In the fall of 1983, most of the community doing research on military women, as well as representatives of military policymakers from both Congress and the Pentagon, gathered in Chicago at a special meeting of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.¹ This may have been the largest and most professional gathering of its kind; nevertheless, the climax of the meeting was the impassioned plea by a woman Marine officer: “No more research!”

      The warm reception given this apparently perverse appeal was due partly to the irrelevance felt by many in the audience, who had learned only hours before...

    • 7 The Bottom Line: Accessions
      (pp. 155-178)

      Qualified women volunteers cannot count on being admitted to the military. Enlistments are guided by detailed accession plans that prescribe or predict the number of women to be inducted. That number is the bottom line. It represents the resolution of forces for increasing and for decreasing women’s military participation.

      In general, forces in favor of increase include war, the All-Volunteer Force, low military pay, and low civilian unemployment. Countervailing forces include limited assignments (because of the combat exclusion), and concerns about women’s attrition rate, their preparedness, their preference for “traditional” jobs, and their cost.

      Since women’s accessions fall far below...

  7. III. Meta-Influences on Policies
    • 8 Public Opinion
      (pp. 181-192)

      President Jimmy Carter proposed draft registration for women and men following the December 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by Russia. But even before Carter had formally submitted his proposal, Speaker of the House Thomas P. O’Neill announced that the registration of women “wouldn’t go,” that it would be “anathema around here.”¹ He was right; it did not go, probably not because Congress was so opposed to women’s registration, but because it was opposed to debating the issue. The probiem was not that there was a consensus, but that there was not. Thus, the result was less the product of a majority...

    • 9 Biology, Sex, and the Family
      (pp. 193-222)

      When civilians with unformed opinions about women in the military first begin to think about the subject, they often begin with biology. They question women’s capacity, their fitness and strength; they ponder the meaning of sex between soldiers; and they reflect upon military families—particularly those in which mothers and wives wear uniforms.

      Fitness is a concern both at the time of enlistment and during service. Establishing physical standards for enlistment has proven relatively easy and noncontroversial; establishing and, especially, enforcing standards for continuing service have been more problematic. Physical strength has become an issue only recently as women have...

    • 10 Myths Necessary to the Pursuit of War
      (pp. 223-234)

      How is one to understand the competing and sometimes contradictory views, data, and analyses presented above? What sense can be made of the explanations given for policies enacted and rejected? Should one simply ignore the abrupt changes in accessions? Should one disregard the tenuous relationship between research and policy? Should one overlook dubious legal distinctions and contradictory yet sincerely held opinions? Must one simply accept incongruity, disparity, the apparently surreal, or is there a discernible pattern in what has been set forth?

      One thing seems certain. To the professional military, the enlisted woman is a raw nerve. To discuss her...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-242)

    When he retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1984, Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr., said, “The greatest change that has come about in the United States Forces in the time I’ve been in the military service has been the extensive use of women…. That is even greater than nuclear weapons, I feel, as far as our own forces are concerned.”¹

    Is this credible? Can a handful of young, unprivileged women be more unsettling than nuclear arms? This book began as a story about pioneering women, a tale of bold, independent women prepared to challenge taboos, take...

  9. Appendices
  10. Abbreviations and Insignia
    (pp. 287-288)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 291-305)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 306-324)
  13. Index
    (pp. 325-331)