Congressman Zinke’s Sexist Stunt About Women Serving in the Military

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Last week, Congressman Ryan Zinke offered a bill that would require women to register for Selective Service after the Secretary of Defense opens all combat positions to women serving in the armed forces. By his own admission, the bill is little more than a stunt, one designed, he says, to generate “an open and honest discussion” about the issue. Montana press accounts of the proposal offered little context about the bill, not including any analysis from the Pentagon about the role of women in combat, nor a deeper look at Congressman Zinke’s troubling sexism.

While Zinke tried to praise women in the military in his remarks, his assertion that integrating women into front-line positions was “reckless and dangerous” is part of a pattern of sexist remarks that diminish the role of women and suggest they lack the strength to serve in the armed forces. Speaking to his base in the right-wing Washington Free Beacon, Zinke offered a little more context for his views, saying:

Zinke draws the line at the infantry, saying it is a different area that is unforgiving of even slight disadvantages. An overwhelming majority of special operations forces opposed the idea of integrating women into their teams, though they have long worked with women through cultural support teams, which accompany special operators on missions to gather intelligence and work with Afghan women on the ground. “They do great work and are very professional, but that doesn’t mean they should be the ones kicking in doors or clearing a room,” Zinke said. “Not everyone is going to be a lineman and that’s alright. You need wide receivers, too.”

Those arguments almost exactly parallel the claims made to keep African-Americans out of combat operations past World War 2 and the patronizing sexism that kept women out of physically and intellectually demanding jobs for centuries. And any woman who has the skills and desire to clean rooms or kick down doors has the same damn right to do it as any man.

Not mentioned in any of the Montana press accounts were Zinke’s remarks back in 2013, when he said that, even though some women have the physical strength to serve in combat, integrating units would be “nearly certain” to cost lives, before comparing women who want to serve in combat to Hollywood actresses. Not satisfied with insulting the integrity of women who want to serve in combat missions, Zinke also suggested that young men in our military simply won’t be able to control themselves in the presence of women, arguing that they will be so distracted by the presence of women that they will cause American service men and women to die.

If you want an idea about the mindset that says women can’t serve in combat operations, I’d suggest this piece from the notably macho and virile editors of the National Review, who argue that women just aren’t tough enough for the role and need to be protected by their menfolk:

Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters. Indeed, we see this reality every time there is a mass shooting. Boyfriends throw themselves over girlfriends, and even strangers and acquaintances often give themselves up to save the woman closest to them.

Rather than another legislative stunt that has no chance of passing and won’t impact the careers of men and women in our military, shouldn’t the only Navy SEAL serving in Congress work to ensure that all Americans who want to serve their country be given the freedom to pursue those roles and the respect their service deserves? Combat is undoubtedly a brutal, nasty business, even in modern warfare, but as long as we are a nation that continues to fight those wars and one that believes all people should have an equal opportunity to pursue the career they want, how can Congressman Zinke justify his sexist, patronizing views?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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Greg Strandberg
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Speaking of sexism, have you seen what national Democrats have been doing on the campaign trail? I loved the recent comment by Bill Clinton that the Sanders campaign was being sexist. Wow, Bill, sexist…comin’ from you? Wheeling out the 78-year-old Madeline Albright was probably the greatest gift that Sanders could get. Young people are really going to respond well to her saying that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Wow, talk about sexism, huh? Allowing women to have the same opportunities as men, as Zinke wants, doesn’t really bother me. I’m not worried… Read more »

Pete Talbot
Admin

I try my darndest not to take potshots at other bloggers because … who really cares? Can’t let this one slide, though. After reading Strandberg’s LTE in the Missoulian today, one has to question his credibility. Everyone in leadership positions in Missoula is incompetent, he writes. Helena has a few “nincompoops,” too. Here’s a quote on Missoula city government: “Overall, there’s just an overwhelming rot and an ungodly amount of corruption in this city.” Can you show some evidence of kickbacks or bribes or smoke-filled back room deals, Greg? Now, I’m not thrilled with all the city’s decisions and I… Read more »

Big Swede
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Big Swede

Let’s question Greg’s creditability while avoiding the pants suited elephant in the room. Hillary has taken numerous contributions from nations who treat women like dogs. Actually worse than dogs, female dogs don’t have to cover up and can been seen out in public alone.

LK
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LK

Maybe Slinky the Barking Seal can draft women for the NEXT Malodor Refuge! sniff. And Camp Bag-o-Dicks is no longer…………………….FREEEEEEEDUMB! (sumthin’ ol’ Cloven and his offspring won’t be seein’ for a long, looooooong time!) But they live on in song! And Cloven is learnin’ ALL about “the negro” from his new best friend Big Bubba! IT’S A TWOFER!

LK
Guest
LK

And seriously, we really shouldn’t make fun of dead assholes, but in this case, I’LL MAKE AN FUN EXCEPTION! What a bunch of friggin’ numb nuts! Fiddlidumb dee SERVES to be immoralized in song! Even the good Lord tol’ me that He thought this song was funny as HELLo!

LK
Guest
LK

It’s good to remember who stole our country, who committed the coup, who call themselves the KOCKH brothers! Try to remember.

LK
Guest
LK

INBREDS ON PARADE! Jesus. Don’t any of these inbreds have jobs? They’re ALL suckin’ off’n Unca Sugart tit! Pathetic.

Pogo Possum
Guest
Pogo Possum

Don – So where do you stand on the draft/Selective Service issue for women? If virtually all men are required to register with the Selective Service System when they turn 18, should all women be required to register as well?

Don Pogreba
Guest

I am conflicted. On one hand, if we had a draft, we’d probably be a lot less inclined to go to war, assuming the loopholes that protected the wealthy and connected were actually closed. As long as we do have Selective Service and the military does not discriminate against women, both men and women should probably have to register.

On the other hand, I am opposed to the idea of conscription for the sake of individuals.

I do know, though, that grandstanding via sexism is not a position I want my member of Congress to take.

James Conner
Guest

I had to register for the draft in 1965. Conscription did not deter the nation from going to war in Vietnam. It just made it easier to procure young men to send to die in the jungles and rice paddies. Richard Nixon, to counter accusations that the draft discriminated against the poor (which it did in practice), added the draft lottery — the cannon fodder sweepstakes. That made dying for one’s misguided foreign policy a more egalitarian matter. But the dying continued. But if we have a draft, should women be required to register? If that’s what women want, they’re… Read more »

Pogo Possum
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Pogo Possum

Don – so if you are “conflicted” and think women should “probably” have to register for the draft then using your logic you are only somewhat sexist and racist.

Pogo Possum
Guest
Pogo Possum

Hillary may not be your number 1 pick “for now” but you have certainly defended her against sexist remarks from the Sander’s camp :
https://themontanapost.com/2016/02/06/feel-the-bern-without-feeding-the-beast/
I am simply calling you out on your specious attacks on Zinke. If you maintain Zinke’s comments are sexist then by your own analysis you have to argue that Hillary’s comments are sexist. So is Hillary sexist.

Pogo Possum
Guest
Pogo Possum

No, I don’t believe Zinke is demeaning women or being sexist.

Now, do you believe Hillary’s statements are sexist or demeaning women? It’s a simple yes or no.

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