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Defense Department Lifts Ban on Women Serving on Submarines

Women Will Now Be Able to Serve On Submarines, Including the New Virginia-Class Submarines. Via

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates notified Congress on February 19 that the Defense Department would start allowing women in the Navy to serve on submarines. Prior to this policy change, female members of the Navy could only serve on surface ships for long-term missions. They only served on submarines for short stints as technicians and other short term jobs. Critics say that the cramped quarters of submarines would make it difficult for the crew to manage working with women. However, Secretary Gates said that accommodations can be made to make the change easier.

This change in policy illustrates the continued tension between traditional gender roles and culture of the military and the increasing demand of access to the military for women. On the one hand, 15% of the Navy is made of women, many of whom have distinguished themselves in the military, such as General Ann E. Dunwoody who was promoted to a four star general last year. These women have proved they deserve access to prestigious military positions such as those on a submarine and that they can provide the Navy with talented personnel. However, the concern that women would be disruptive to submarine operations continues to linger. Practical matters such as male and female crew sleeping in the same cramped quarters and the possible disruption of efficiency of operations on submarines provide good reasons why women’s rights may not extend to submarines.

The upcoming female graduates from Navy Academy may be the first to try out this new policy and prove the critics wrong.


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