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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Maths
  • Word count: 4322

Will the female soldier always have to 'fight' to be accepted in combat roles within the British army?

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“Man should be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly” (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1883).

For my personal study I have chosen to look at the role of women in the British army, I have chosen this subject as I think it is relevant to today’s “gender conscious” society, as so many irrational attitudes are struck and enforced, by law or fist, on the proper role of the human female.  In conducting my research, I will be incorporating a great level of secondary data integrated from various sources such as newspapers, interviews, media, books and the Internet.  Using these methods for my research will enable me to give a clearer view on military, political and public opinion relating to the role (if any) of women in today’s modern British army.

It seems that for decades there has been an endless debate as to whether or not the male species is superior to the female species; better known as “the battle of the sexes”.  Further investigated, this debate can focus on the many differences found amongst men and women.  The constant competition between men and women has been continually evolving as society becomes more curious as to the relevant differences amongst men and women, especially in the armed forces.  Perhaps inevitably, inclusion remains very much on male terms.  Overtly feminine service women are dismissed as “Combat Barbie’s”, and in order to fit in, women tend to act like one of the boys.  The British army is a huge institution built on many years of strong ideas about gendered identities, but all that is being challenged.

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An army advertisement in the late 1990s showed a woman cowering in a corner of a bombed building.  The caption read, “She’s just been raped by soldiers.  The same soldiers murdered her husband.  The last thing she wants to see is another soldier.  Unless that soldier is a woman”.  The British Army is keen to add to its women personnel and to stress its role as a peacekeeper.  Now people are beginning to look at women’s importance in conflict situations.  There is logic in this, fewer than 2% of UN peacekeeping forces have been female – but in almost all current conflicts 80% of refugees are women and children.  The UN hopes for the day when women soldiers aren’t trained like men, but are given a real opportunity to use their peaceful, peace-making skills.   The United Nations has highlighted the following:

  • Women are better able to control violent tendencies
  • Women are seen as less of a threat, so are less likely to provoke violence.
  • Women seem to be more willing to look for reconciliation in disagreements, rather than use force.
  • Male soldiers are more likely to control aggression if women are present.
  • Women seem to calm stressful situations (this has been observed world-wide in police forces).


The Government is committed to promoting equality of opportunity.  The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Armed Forces continue to work closely with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and share with them the results of further work to examine the wider issues raised in the 2002 Study conducted by the MOD on Women in the Armed Forces.  A better understanding will be sought of the impact of team cohesion in the roles of man and women soldiers working together.

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Granted, many women won’t be strong enough to cope with the exhausting, physical demands of infantry combat or driving a tank.  But neither will many men, who may be equally or more queasy and disorientated in the reality of battle.


I still believe in my hypothesis given in the introduction.  While there are certainly reasons to be positive, the army still has a long way to go.  Harassment and discrimination still exist, and for those female soldiers ambitious to move to the top, female role models remain sparse.  There are no female generals yet and close to no female brigadiers.  Whilst some regiments have adopted an open-minded approach to women’s recruitment, there are others (combat units in particular) that remain stubborn bastions of testosterone-charged narrow-mindedness.  Change takes time, to date we have come a long way since the 20th Century, but we still have a long way to go too.  Younger officers and soldiers, male and female are much more open-minded than previous (old school hierarchy) service personnel serving twenty years ago this is ever present and will be an on going situation.


S Bidwell, 1977, The Women’s Royal Army Corps, Leo Cooper

CGS, 2000, Equal Opportunities Directive for the Army (Army Document).

G Forty, 1997, Women War Heroines, Arms & Armour

K Muir, 1992, Arms and the Woman, Sinclair-Stevenson

SPPOL – MOD, May 2002, Women in the Armed Forces (detailed Study)

SPPOL – MOD, May 2002, Women in the Armed Forces (Report)

C Townsend, 1997, Modern War, Oxford University Press

Woodward & Winter, 2003, Gendered Bodies/Personnel Policies/Culture Army













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