Posted by: maddiebogan | January 17, 2019

Women in the Military

One topic that has interested me and that I have been thinking about is women leaders in the military. I grew up in a military family, had many friends whose parents were also military, and my boyfriend is about to commission into the Marine Corps. While it was the men in my family that served, it is still very interesting to me to see how the roles of women in the military have changed and how it is still so difficult for women who serve in the military to achieve higher ranks.

Historically, all branches of the military have been very male dominated. Men were the only ones on the field fighting and the women only acted as nurses. Nowadays, more and more women are in combat fighting with the men as well as serving as drill instructors. While is it amazing that women now have these leadership opportunities, it can still be very difficult for them because it is such a “masculine” role. One article that I found talks about the double bind women face in leadership, and specifically in the military. Like we discussed in class, women face a double bind in leadership roles because they get criticized for being too assertive and aggressive because it is seen as too masculine, but also get criticized for being too warm and caring because people will not respect her as a leader. The article then talked about how there is a very few percentage of women officers and even fewer who make it as generals and admirals. While all branches of the military are accepting to women, it is still hard for them to achieve these high leadership roles because it is such a male dominated field.

The double bind can hold women back from higher leadership roles because people will see them as too masculine or not respect them as much as a man because they are too caring. However, for the military specifically, I think the main reason men dominate is because of their physical qualities. Men are stronger than women because of how they are built biologically, and in a field that is so physically demanding it makes it harder for women. It is certainly not impossible as there are plenty of incredibly strong women serving alongside men in the military, but it is one reason that can hold women back from becoming an officer. Despite this, the roles of women in the military have still changed dramatically over the last 20-30 years and it is just one area that shows the progress women have made as leaders.


  1. P.S I am not sure why the article link is showing up four times but it is the same article

  2. In regard to women in the military and in leadership positions, I feel like this double bind is even more difficult because of the physical demands of the position. Furthermore, because this has traditionally been a male-dominant field, breakthroughs that are currently being made by women are threatening to the norm of history. After reading the article, one of the quotes that really stood out to me was ‘military women currently in leadership positions should also be aware of their own stereotypes and should be mindful to not act on them in ways that will limit their subordinate’s potential.’ This quote was one that really caused me to stop and think for a minute of just how influential women within leadership positions can be in regard to navigating the labyrinth. I think when it comes to leadership positions, it can become very easy to get caught up in the power that comes with it. However, it is important that as women, when given these different leadership roles they should act in ways that seek to break the stereotypes that have been created rather than doing any action that may give anyone any reason to doubt them.

  3. This topic is very interesting to me, especially because my uncle was in the army and I was talking to him about his experience over break and he actually brought up how awesome it is that more women are interested in the field. I brought up how there are many women in ROTC here, and how no one makes it a big deal to see women out there, but I know that is different. I know it is getting a little better, but I think it is always going to be a male dominated field just because males are built differently then females and the task they have to perform are typically easier for males. While this is still a male dominated field I think seeing women in the army will start becoming more common and seeing women out there will become more and more the norm. I also agree with Alexis on her quote, because that quote also stuck out to me. Women should not have to worry about stereotypes when they are leaders, they should be able to focus solely on being a good leader for the team just like males. It definitely took me back to read this.

    • I agree with your point about how although women have been making huge progress in this field, it will most likely remain a male dominated field simply because of the physical demands of the individuals. However, I also agree with you that it is so great to see more women taking on this strenuous and impressive profession. I find it interesting when the article asks “where on the feminine-masculine spectrum should they [women] fall to show appropriate leadership in this environment?” I think this is an important question to analyze because it is so complex. While I do think a woman leader in the military doesn’t necessarily have to display masculine characteristics, I do think it is probably necessary for someone who is actively involved as they would most likely be more successful.

  4. There was a section of the article that discussed adaptation in acquiring a leadership position. The point of this section was that women should not have to adapt or change anything about who they are when obtaining a leadership position, but should instead continue to be unique individuals, using those characteristics to their benefit. This contradicts a section from the Lorber article that we read at the beginning of the semester. In the Lorber article, there is a section that mentions women at West Point in 1976. There was a dance, and the women and men alike had short hair and gray trousers. It was difficult to tell them apart. The women were required to wear skirts for future dances in order to distinguish themselves from the men at the Academy. Similarly, the article goes on to discuss how women in the U.S. Marine Corps are required to take classes in makeup, etiquette, hair care, etc. to differentiate them from the men. I do not think this is right, women should not have to change who they are to “fit” a more masculine position. Like Maddie’s article, I think that women should not have to adapt their physical appearance to be respected as women leaders.

    • I agree. Often times I worry when I’m in a leadership position if I am doing all of the “right” things a leader should do. But the thing is, the things I keep thinking are “right” are not things I should be worrying about. I shouldn’t worry about looking like a woman when I’m in a position of power and I shouldn’t worry about my voice not sounding commanding or strong enough. Women in the military should not have to worry about fitting this masculine stereotype role that the military has created because most of the men don’t fit it perfectly either. And the women also should not have to change themselves to seem more feminine in the military just because people feel uncomfortable that a girl looks more manly. People are just people trying to get through life by accomplishing what they believe in. The more we try to see everyone as just people getting through life as best as they can, the better we might treat each other.

    • I would agree wholeheartedly with this comment. Especially in a field where women are just beginning to acquire significant leadership roles and become more normalized in this field, they should not have to change their physical appearance to “blend in” with the men. I understand there are certain ways that members of the military need to dress, keep their hair and facial hair, etc. for the organization of the military, but women should be able to form their own lane within these rules – not be encouraged to “look more masculine.” In my opinion, this limits the advancement of women in this field and objectifies them even further when there is increased attention on just their physical appearance. While the notion of women “acting more masculine” is seen in many fields, I feel that it is most prevalent in this profession given the nature of the work. I look forward to discussing the dynamic of the double bind further in class this semester

  5. I have a huge amount of respect for the men AND women who serve in the military and this double bind that exists is discussed more now that more women are joining the military to fight in combat rather than serving as a nurse, which, as you stated, was the typical role of a woman in the military. Men are definitely built different biologically, making it easier to be physically stronger and capable of leadership positions in the military, however I feel that physical appearance should not be a factor in selecting a leader, especially in the military. After reading your post and the article linked with it, I thought about to one of the first article we read about women in the military having to wear their hair and make-up a certain way to look the part of a female, and similar to what Hannah said in her comment, women should not have to change their look to match their gender. I’m sure most women did not join the military and expect to have to change their look to be seen as more feminine. Although it is getting better with more women joining the military, I still think that it will continue to be a male-dominated field because of its history. Again, similar to what Hannah has commented on, I related this the another post about the first female to be a coach of a division I football team, but was criticized for not looking the part of a female due to her masculine qualities. If women are changing to “fit” a more masculine position, are they really breaking through these barriers and showing that women can be in masculine positions. I stick to my statement in m other comment that it should not be about masculine or feminine features rather the ability and skills of the person to lead.

  6. It is so impressive to me to see an increase in women in the military because women do have the disadvantage of biologically being less strong. This, of course, does not mean all men are stronger than all women but even growing up in P.E. class having different fitness test standards for boys and girls has shaped us to think the girls should be less physically strong than men. I think it is great to see more women going into the military because it does break down the barrier that assumes ALL men are tougher than women, therefore, the military is only for men. I hope to see an increase in women in the military and taking on leadership roles.

  7. I think the idea of the double bind is really interesting, and I think our reading for this week about Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin also basically talked about this idea. Women in leadership contexts can be caught between a rock and a hard place, where they are either labeled as a “bitch” or a “ditz,” the former being the more driven/assertive/even “masculine”, and the latter being incompetent/charming/”feminine.” It was interesting to see how both sides of the coin could be detrimental to women in seeking support, not only from men but also from other women.

    • In regards to your comment about our reading for tomorrow which mentioned the rock and a hard place (labeled as “bitch” or “ditz”) I think it is so incredibly ridiculous that women have to go through this. It is easy to say that this may be due to men refusing to sacrifice their masculinity by being lead by a woman, but why must some men feel that way? I think the underlying issue of why men feel intimidated by women in leadership positions is because this is still a relatively new concept. There are countless of successful male leaders who have made history, but women leaders who have been just as successful have not yet had the time to make such a lasting impact which renders some males to be questionable about whether women will make a “good leader”. Not to mention ( as horrible as this may be ) employers are cautious of hiring young women because of the possibility that they may become pregnant and take maternity leave. Although this is something that should be celebrated, many companies view it as inconvenient because they are losing an employee for several months.
      I believe this fear of women becoming pregnant may be the source of some discrimination towards women in the military. Women are still not allowed on submarines because of the fear they will have relations with men, but it is aggravating that we are seen as unable to control our hormonal urges.

  8. The idea of women in the military is a topic that really interests me and even prior to reading your post I had considered doing this as my research topic in class. I also grew up in a military family with my dad serving in the Army for 30 years and my mom served a few years in the Army and Air Force as well. Growing up in military communities it was a fairly unspoken yet obvious observation that majority of the service members were males and interestingly enough most of the women I know in the military are married to male service members.

    I also was thinking about the evolution of women in the military and how, like you said, has changed drastically in the past 20-30 years. It made me think back to the “Molly Pitchers” of the American Revolutionary War. At this time women, obviously, were not allowed too serve in the military. During this time women would often carry water to cool down both the cannon and the soldiers. The legend has it that one women, Mary Hays, went to bring water to her solider husband and after she collapsed during the battle, she took over operations of his cannon. Even “way back when”, women had this desire to serve and fight for our country. Now flash forward to today and there is big controversy over women in combat. As you said the military is still male dominated due in part of the physical strength it takes. I think the physical tests you must pass in order to be in the military helps with the fairness of women having opportunities to be in the military. It really comes down to being able to pass the tests. However, what I do not know and would be interested to learn more about is the challenges women face when trying to obtain higher ranks and have more higher up leadership roles in the military.

  9. Growing up, I was always under the impression that the reason why women did not serve in the military was because women were child-bearers, and we could not risk having a child-bearer killed. I knew that this wasn’t the sole duty of women, but women had to be protected so that we would be able to repopulate. While this may have been part of the reason why women were not a part of the draft system in the 1900s, it is hardly an excuse to exclude women from the military today. The article discusses the double bind for women… If women are too nice, they will not be respected and if they are too harsh, they will not be liked. I understand that it can be difficult for a women to be taken seriously in a role that is usually held by a man. Because it is more difficult to gain respect, this might deter women from succeeding in these positions.

  10. I read a different article from the Wall Street Journal ( on this topic and it really stood out to me (this article was written by a woman). I am all for equality and for women joining the military but in combat units I do not think that equality is the best way to go. You touched on it in your post on how males are biologically built stronger than women which is not the biggest reason that I think this but it is a valid point (even though there are so many women that are stronger than me and could beat me up). The article mentioned that the military began to change the physical fitness standards from what men have to do in the hopes that more women would qualify. This is dangerous as it lowers the combat effectiveness of the group fighting. The article also cites the Marines infantry-officer training course, which only two women have passed. It says that most of the women who have failed, have failed on the grueling endurance test that is administered on day one. The Marines then lowered the requirements and also changed it from a pass/fail exercise to an unscored test that does not effect the candidates overall score. In regards to many women not being generals or admirals, combat is what raises you through the ranks in the military and many women do not have the combat experience in order to be successful in those roles. The quote that stood out to me the most in this article was, “War isn’t about promoting equality. Its objective is to break the enemy’s will through precise lethal engagement, with the lowest possible loss of American life.” War is an extremely, extremely different setting than a CEO job or high ranking corporate job. I am all for women being integrated into the military but not into combat units.

    • I also want to stress that this article is in the opinion section of the WSJ but still written by a very reliable source.

  11. This is a very interesting dynamic that you bring up Maddie – in the military, I would argue that women almost have to act more assertive and aggressive given the nature of the job. However, the biological restrictions that women face are very notable in this field, more so than we would see in other professions. I never grew up in a military household, but I have had friends who’s fathers and brothers served in the military. I would be interested to see more research done on this topic, especially as gender barriers are being broken every day in this field. At the same time, women still face many setbacks within the military, as seen by the issue of sexual assault and non-reporting that has been given great attention within the past several year

Leave a Reply to madisonmccormick0173 Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: