Santorum belittles military women

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has what Atlantic executive editor Josh Kraushaar calls a “serious woman problem.”

Santorum has always struggled with the ladies — at least in the polls. He called out women for using birth control and engaging in non-procreative sex in an Evangelical blog last year. His 2005 book blamed “radical feminists” for undermining families and encouraging women to work instead of running the household.

Now he’s giving women, and not just those darn radical ones, another reason to cringe.

After Obama’s administration made the decision to allow women in the military to serve closer to the “front lines” by opening up more combat positions to women, Santorum told CNN last week, “I do have concerns about women in frontline combat … I think that could be a very compromising situation where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

After his words were met with boisterous disapproval, he reflected on his earlier comments by claiming he was actually referring to men’s emotional issues — basically, that in instinctively protecting female soldiers, men are consistently compromising military missions. In short, he said serving on the front line of combat for women is not “maximizing what (women) can bring to the table.”

What should they be bringing to the table, then — homemade pies?

U.S. News & World Report’s Robert Schlesinger clarifies: “So … Santorum thinks that when the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping, men — emotions running out of control — will drop everything to protect the unit’s women. This is insulting to men — helpless slaves to our emotions, we — but is especially so to men in the armed forces.”

Aside from unintentional insults to men, Santorum’s assessment underestimates the women of our armed forces.

“These are not the ladies from the church garden club,” said Kim Jacobs Walker, a Yahoo! columnist. “These are professional soldiers in superior physical condition. The military has physical requirements that every soldier must meet in order to be placed in combat.”

Iraq War veteran and Huffington Post contributor Jon Soltz agrees.

“Women have shown that they are just as capable as men in their combat role,” he wrote. “And they’re willing to make the same sacrifices. For me, when I first got to Iraq, my very first convoy was attacked, and it was a woman who suppressed the enemy. There are a lot of women like that.”

The fact is, in a hazily frontlined war like Afghanistan or Iraq, combat can happen at unexpected times in unexpected places. NPR’s Joshua E. Keating wrote Monday, “This week’s rule change in the United States was largely a reflection of the fact that women are, to a large extent, already participating in combat.” Soltz pointed out that female soldiers are indispensable in Afghanistan, where women routinely accompany male soldiers to make sure things are “respectfully done.” Women are already engaging in combat, and they’re doing it well.

If we’re talking physical ability, then sure, men (for the most part) are built to be faster and stronger. But if we’re talking brain chemistry, you can’t just say that one gender is more or less emotionally suited for war. There’s an element of intrinsic bravery here, and you can’t say you have more of it just because you have the ability to grow a mustache.

Santorum’s words may have come from a place of protectiveness, but they certainly erred on disrespect. Soltz says it best: “If women didn’t prove themselves as combat troops every single day, I’d be the first to say that maybe we shouldn’t let them in combat. But they are.”

_Megan is a senior in Media._