Women in Combat: A Critical Analysis of Responses to the U.S. Military's Recent Inclusion Efforts

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Virginia Tech

In this thesis, I analyze responses to the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule (DGCDAR), the policy that until January 24, 2013 formally barred women from serving in combat. Specifically, I use feminist theories of embodiment, equality, and difference to interpret how interlocutors represent female service members in the "Letters" section of the Marine Corps Gazette and interviews I collected from members of the military community. I find that the most common arguments against women in combat locate gender difference in the physically sexed body, centering primarily on female nature, sexuality, and strength. Throughout this project, I demonstrate how these arguments are persuasive because the discourse understands equality as sameness to a male norm. This equality as sameness paradigm perpetuates gender-based barriers to parity by expecting women to function just like men. Ultimately, I argue for a more inclusive conception of equality that acknowledges difference.

Military, Combat, Feminist Theory, Critical Theory, Rhetoric