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La Repubblica, Italy

Military Women’s Challenge

By Francesca Caferri

Translated By Francesca Baldanzi

27 December 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Italy - La Repubblica - Original Article (Italian)

This past year could be described as the year of crisis, of the Italian technical government, of Obama. However, in the U.S., military women’s organizations have no doubt: 2012 has been their year.

Here are the reasons why: In the last 10 years, American women in uniform have experienced one challenge after another: They have fought them all, one after another, through sacrifice, revenge and often blood. In this past year, now more than ever, the chicks have come home to roost; you can cry “victory.” That is, the game is over or, at least, at a good point.

For the first time, four female Marine officers have decided to challenge the internal hierarchy and to file a lawsuit against the Pentagon in order to be recognized for their service in ground combat units during the last 10 years. "It has been happening for years, increasingly more since we started going to Afghanistan and Iraq, even though rules still bar women in the U.S. military from combat positions. But it actually happens and so it must be officially acknowledged. We want professional advancement and access to benefits because we served in combat,”* said one of the four, Lieutenant Colleen Farrell, when I spoke to her few weeks ago.

Then there are the numbers: Those recently published showing that sexual assaults on women in military academies rose by 23 percent in just one year, with 80 charges compared to 65 in 2011 (there were 42 in 2006, when the phenomenon started being monitored). You could consider this bad news, but according to the associations representing military women, it is excellent news because it shows that female soldiers have found the strength to speak out and report it, and that the zero-tolerance policy against harassment launched by the Pentagon in recent years is working. The problem remains, but at least something has been done.

In the same way, the U.S. Army acknowledged the complaints of thousands of women and developed a bulletproof vest specifically designed for female soldiers. If you think that the issue is secondary, it is obvious that you have never tried a standard (that is, for men) vest: Too long and too wide for 85 percent of women, it leaves the body exposed, and therefore vulnerable. Not shaped underneath the breast, it is uncomfortable to wear and painful in the long term. The new vest is more than welcome. Therefore, best New Year's wishes to those women who are fighting for their recognition, including military women.

*Editor's note: this quotation, while accurately translated, could not be verified.



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