Ground zero: the gender wars in the military

Ground Zero tells the stories of women and men in the military as it relates and examines the issues raised in the polarized debate over women in combat: The biological aspects of women's lives, including menstruation, pregnancy and motherhood, are cast as threats to national security by servicewomen's opponents, while these service-women's advocates use those same issues to press for expanded child care, parental leave and gynecological services. The exposure of harassment at the military academies and in the services has signaled a call by their opponents for women to retreat, but it has been taken by their advocates as a mandate to challenge the male culture. The cultural issue revolves around not whether women can perform combat roles, but whether they should. Linda Bird Francke writes about women who have served and died in combat zones and about women who have been driven out of the services and the elite military academies by harassment. She calls attention to women and men who persevere in challenging the resistance to equality in the services. She describes a determined hard core of right-wing conservatives and disgruntled military men who continue to use every kind of issue and allegation - quotas, reverse discrimination, lowered standards - to reverse women's progress in the military. In the end, two simple facts remain. The Armed Services need women. And, in the male culture of the military, the battle of the sexes will never be over.