Santorum worries that female soldiers can’t hack it on the front lines because of all the “emotions”

Yesterday, the Pentagon announced plans to allow women into more front-line, combat jobs. The Service Women’s Action Network expressed disappointment that women will still be barred from serving as infantry, armor, and special operations forces, but said that the new rules were a big step in the right direction. As Adam Weinstein writes, “full gender equity in the ranks is no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’”

But enough of all the forward-thinking nonsense by people who know what they’re talking about! I know you’re all dying to hear what Rick Santorum thinks about all this. Via Politico:

I do have concerns about women in frontline combat. I think that can be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. And I think that’s probably – you know, it already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat. But I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat. I think that’s probably not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.

Pro tip: If you bring up “emotions” when defending your discriminatory views, it will be an immediate red flag that you are a sexist asshat. (Seriously, the only thing worse might be talking about that weird thing where we bleed every month.) This is particularly true when you are discussing women and men who regularly face extreme mental and physical challenges you could only dream of.

Of course, this is entirely unsurprising coming from a guy who seems like he’d be more at home in the 1950s than here in the 21st century with the rest of us. Remember, Santorum misses the golden days when abortions were done by bad doctors in the shadows and states could make using birth control a crime. And the Washington Post points to a 2005 interview in which he defends his view that women should get back in the kitchen and blames “the radical feminists” for “convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.”

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23 Comments

  1. Posted February 10, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Santorum isn’t listening, because he doesn’t want to listen. Fortunately, he’s not a very strong leader and doesn’t inspire much in the way of confidence. Some of the Republican social conservative base sees him as more in tune with their beliefs than Romney.

    But at the end of the day, the GOP would be fools to nominate Santorum. He’d lose in a landslide. To me, he’s that figure in every family gathering who holds offensive beliefs and voices them loudly just to be contrary and shocking. If Santorum really came across as decisive and resolute, then I might be honestly afraid of him.

  2. Posted February 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I am sick of this guy and the [redacted] train of thoughts he has. Everything it seems boils down to ‘sex’ ‘sexuality’– the French Resistance was one of the most successful combat units in history. Mostly made of women and children–
    The fact is it is so well documented that a MALE soldier is more likely to rape a female soldier–then to be concerned about her welfare. Then of course there are the other soldiers who cover up the act.
    Just like when they eliminated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it seemed the ones worried about it were concerned about the potential for some man to be assaulted in the shower or foxhole (news flash; todays military no longer uses foxholes)–where is this same concern for women whose day to day military life is about not being in the wrong place at the wrong time (which could be anywhere/anytime)–putting women on the frontline is about a difference of pay–no matter how close to harms way they are–they are denied combat pay and may actually be with males who receive it.
    I am not a war monger and hope one day not to worry about whether a woman should be allowed to die as a combat soldier or just as a soldier. It makes me sick to listen to this guy talk about woman as if they are serving coffee to the male soldiers rather than doing the exact same job– he is the definition of a sexist pig (beyond his other Google definitions).

    • Posted February 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think it’s true that American women soldiers/Marines/airmen/sailors are denied combat pay. If you’re in Iraq or Afghanistan, you get “hazardous duty/combat zone” pay regardless of whether you are actually conducting combat missions.

      The E-4 who vacuums the general’s office in Kabul gets the same exact pay as the E-4 who gets mortared in Korengal valley. Gender, MOS, & optempo are irrelevant.

      • Posted February 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        You are right, no one is denied extra pay if you are in a war zone regardless of your job. I did 2 tours in Iraq as a Marine and was not in a combat job but I still received danger pay just like other women in my job field. I even got danger pay in the Philippines because of a terrorist group that was located somewhere in that country. We just used that as party money.

  3. Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Actually, from the bit about camaraderie, I think douchebag is saying that soldiers will become even more deeply emotionally involved with each other because of (bullshit assumptions about) heterosexual romance. He is saying that such emotional entanglements would lead to bad decision making that values fellow soldiers over the mission.

    I can’t watch the video, but that’s what I read from the quoted piece.

  4. Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    It’s not much progress to get women into frontline combat jobs. Our goal should be to get the U.S. away from a war-based society. The U.S. spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on the military. We’re still involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, funding the military in many other countries. We will never be a feminist society when war is our major activity.

  5. Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Rick Santorum is a dangerous (I dare say radicalized) theocrat.

    Just to be clear about this quote though: he isn’t talking about women’s emotions – he’s making the old reliable argument about women in combat that if a woman solider is in danger, male soldiers will act foolishly and chivalrously to defend her at all cost (including cost to mission). This has been shown not to be the case in practice, but it is a perennial bugbear in these arguments. Hence the statement “it already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat.” He means, men already sacrifice themselves for each other but that this would be worse if there were also women to “protect.”

    It remains a silly application of gender essentialism, but the point was not to call women emotional.

    • Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      It sounded like both to me.

    • Posted February 11, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      As far as I can tell, though, pretty much everyone is actually socialized to have more of an emotional reaction to women being killed, injured or kidnapped than to the same happening to men and to treat saving them as more important than saving men. Why do you think the Pentagon used Jessica Lynch for their war propaganda rather than one of the other, male, members of her unit who were also captured and whose stories more closely fitted the narrative they wanted to portray?

      Also, take a good look at the gender of all the nameless grunts who die in TV and video games sometime, as opposed to the gender of named individuals whose death we’re supposed to care about.

  6. Posted February 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Santorum obviously hasn’t done his homework. While few militaries worldwide have full equal gender access across the board, the ones that do have some really proven histories So far, doesn’t seem like Finland, Denmark or Canada have suffered any ill effects in combat.

    Frankly, if I’m going into theatre, I’d rather go with someone who can bleed for a week without dying.

  7. Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    What a [redacted]ass this man is. Let’s not let the people who want to fight do it, let’s bribe the illegal immigrants do it instead.
    Or, let’s not forget that the staggering suicide rates are occurring with male soldiers too, proving that everyone has emotions.
    Or that women in the military are more likely to get raped than die.
    Who’s the enemy again?

  8. Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    This is what I call the definition of a MCP (male chauvinist pig).

  9. Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Santorum sounds like Zapp Brannigan here, only not funny
    Gotta love the big guy behind him with the “WTF?” look
    If my Republican voting relatives vote for him or consider him or Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul a good candidate for leader of the United States, I’ll scream

    • Posted February 11, 2012 at 3:18 am | Permalink

      I heard something interesting from I think Limbaugh or another conservative media person. Republican voters are being urged to vote for Romney even if they like the other candidates because Gingrich and Santorum aren’t popular enough to beat Obama. Looking at things now I would be surprised if Romney is not nominated. For those wanting Obama to win they should want someone like Paul to run because he is unelectable. If Romney is the nominee we are possibly looking at a republican controlled Congress and white house.

  10. Posted February 11, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Its a non issue. In modern armies soldiers on the frontline are the minority, the majority of the soldiers work away from the frontline. Its even more true for women. All those countries where combat roles are open to women, have maybe a handfull in combat zones. Just look at Afghanistan. How many female soldiers died in 10 years? I think its less than 10.

    • Posted February 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Women are in convoys getting injured from IED’s as well. There was a documentary on female troops from Sweden who were deployed to Afghanistan to body search women and they were out in the open every day. Sometimes there were groups of only women on these search teams. Sweden is much more progressive than us though and most Swedish women actually walk the walk when it comes to equality. I know that from spending time in Stockholm. Our women aren’t as gung ho about such missions so even if they are allowed such roles there will be a shortage.

      • Posted February 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Wrong, by now civillian contractors are out in the open. Contractor deaths surpassed military deads in the stan. Not sure how many women are up for that, but Iam guessing they have a vastly lower percentage of women than any western military. And all militaries handle women the same, primarily in support roles. In theory women are free to be on the front in most militaries, but the handfull of women they clear are a token gesture at best. At least the us services are upfront about it.

  11. Posted February 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I’d say ‘Who is honestly listening to this [redacted] and thinks his opinions have any weight?’ except I saw him talking to the CPS (I think) conference of conservatives and claiming that ‘Global climate change is just something liberals made up to scare us’. And they were cheering. Never mind that NASA has abundant evidence to prove that it’s real, and man-caused, and if it continues, countries around the world will be affected by it (and, of all the cultures, women and children will bear the brunt of the damage. Think Bangladesh.)

    Be afraid, fellow intelligent human beings. Be very, very afraid.

  12. Posted February 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I usually support close to 100% of what I read here at feministing, but on this particular issue I’m inclined to lean more toward (I can’t bloody believe I’m about to type this.) Santorum’s stance.

    Don’t get me wrong — he’s a bigot and clearly someone who could benefit from spending more time with a Playboy/Playgirl instead of a Bible. However, though his wording is awkward & off-putting, the spirit of his argument here is not totally wrong.

    I happen to be a combat arms soldier (first trained for Army forward observer/fire support specialist, went Ranger, attached to infantry units, trained for more advanced heavy duty stuff, and then got attached to other specialized combat units in various combat theatres & deployments). In my experience, I’ve never seen a female be able to do all the tasks required of a good infantryman to the standard required of a high intensity or precision combat-ready infantry unit, to say nothing of the standards of surgical combat mission readiness. By this, I mean:

    -marching 20+ miles while equipped with a weapon, 210+ bullets, bulletproof vest + other gear, 5 quarts of water, and a 45 pound rucksack

    -moving from the backseat of a vehicle to the gunner’s hatch to arm & fire the .50 cal machine gun, plus correcting weapons malfunctions and replacing barrels

    -carrying an injured, unresponsive battle buddy (preferably with his/her weapon as well) 200 meters from a battlefield to safety & cover

    I’m sure there are many women who can reach these goals, who can perform them above the standard. It takes hard work, but it’s possible. But the question is: Are there enough women able to do these things, able to prove themselves, to the point where it is cost-effective, sensible, and beneficial to welcome them into infantry combat units?

    The last part of the equation is logistical. That is, if we let women be infantry[wo]men (Oh, by the way, many female noncommissioned officers are already granted the infantry’s 11B designation in their NCOERs when they become instructors at NCO academies and such.), will it be worth the cost of providing them separate facilities & female-specific accoutrement, preparing mental health counselors & field medical specialists for a different set of issues, and ramping up sexual harrassment awareness protocol in the field?

    Men should treat women fairly. Unfortunately, not all do. And a salty, testosterone-heavy infantry unit’s tent on an outpost (where we lounge, clean weapons, do pre-mission briefings, study maps, and change clothes in close proximity) is not a good place to insert a female.

    In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a problem. But, especially in the regular army where you’ll encounter 18-19 year old guys who barely have a GED and come from some small towns & broken families where progressive values are not instilled in each citizen, it is counterproductive and harmful to the efficiency of operations to add a female to the mix.

    To be clear, I’m specifically referring to most of the 11 & 18 series of MOSes in the Army, as well as the 13F MOS. Presumably, I would apply my warnings to the Marine Corps occupational counterparts in combat arms jobs.

    Obviously, women do great things to contribute to the mission, even in combat, even on “the front lines,” whatever that means in today’s asymmetrical battlefield. Female pilots, aviators, munitions experts, intel analysts, and air liaisons have helped me kill bad guys on several occasions.

    There are lots of female badasses kicking ass out there, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea overall to put them in the same small outpost with a group of young infantrymen.

    • Posted February 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetorical side of such a debate, while we need to thinking about both the theoretical and practical aspects of what we’re saying. My students look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them it’s important to have different opinion and to disagree, and this comment thread is a good illustration of why.

  13. Posted February 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I think a large part of keeping women out of combat positions is that in our society they are not the disposable sex. If women returned in body bags at the same rate as men, war would not be as readily an option for politicians.

  14. Posted February 12, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Santorum later tried to backpedal…or at least sidepedal into the position that he was talking about MALE emotions. Upon seeing imperiled “damsels in distress” upon the battlefield…despite the fact that half the time you can’t tell male from female on a battlefield. You know:
    My EMOTIONS

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Best comment ever. (for the link)

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