Moving closer and closer to the front lines of combat, women in the military was the subject of heated discussion earlier this Tuesday.

With a simple presentation and a panel of guest speakers, the Weber State Center for Diversity and Unity hosted “A Question of Strength: Women in the Military?” as their monthly Taboo Talk.

“This is not your typical dinner-table conversation,” said head of the Weber State ROTC program and guest speaker Mara Wandrey about the taboo topic, “but it is still important and needs to be addressed.”

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Guest speakers discuss the topic of women in the military during Tuesday’s Taboo Talk. From left to right: common grounds chair Cody Brown, history major Kestin Page, head of ROTC program Mara Wandrey. (Source: The Signpost/Emily Crooks)

According to Adrienne Andrews, special assistant to WSU’s president for Diversity and WSU director for the CDU, the purpose of the talk was to explore the history of women in combat and their affect on the U.S. military.

Weber State history professor Branden Little kicked off the discussion with a brief history of women in the military, touching on gender stereotypes and physical limitations women have faced throughout the years.

Afterwards, the guests speakers and students were then invited to share their views on women’s emergence into the more male-dominated arenas of the military.

“Women’s presence in the military is getting stronger,” stated Wandrey during the talk. “You’re seeing them in more areas and higher ranks, but they are still restricted from certain fields because there are different issues you have to take into consideration.”

According to Wandrey, some of these issues involve physical expectations women have to meet in order to pursue certain military jobs.

Safety issues, sexual distractions and overall standards were also current concerns. Even feminine hygiene is an issue women face on the battlefield, she said.

However, Wandrey still believed that these physical differences shouldn’t be a problem. 

“It’s not just about female versus male,” she said. “It’s about looking at the individual. If they have the mental and physical capability to be able to perform their job, then they should be given just as much support to do that.”

Growing up in a military family herself, Wandrey said these negative stigmas stem primarily from the idea that men are the “bread-winners” and women are the “care-takers.”

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Weber State history professor Branden Little talked about the history of women in the military during the Taboo Talk. (Source: The Signpost/Emily Crooks)

Little agreed and said this topic is considered taboo because some people believe women just don’t belong on the battlefield.

“I think there is this prevailing idea that women haven’t been or shouldn’t be in combat,” said Little, “but they are in combat. So I hope the discussion illuminated the ways in which women have made meaningful contributions to our nation.”

According to the common grounds chair for the CDU Cody Brown, it was ordered in 2013 that the gender-based barriers in the military be eliminated by 2016.

With less than 12 months until the deadline passes, Brown believed this topic was a relevant issue in society.

“I chose this topic because it is still a current problem,” he said. “I believe it’s important to educate our audience and show people that this is still a fight.”

Being part of the military, Brown said he’s very passionate about this issue and believed that this topic needed to be addressed as part of the Taboo Talk series.

According to him, the Taboo Talks provide a safe space for students to share their opinions on controversial topics and gain new understandings of different perspectives.

“We are not here to necessarily change your personal views but to open you up to the idea of someone else having a different view and being accepting of that other opinion,” he said.

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Panelists at the Taboo Talk on Tuesday talk about the controversial issue of women on the front lines. (Source: The Signpost/Emily Crooks)

Wandrey also hoped that students gained a new willingness to be open-minded about the idea of women on the front-lines.

Currently pursuing her own career as a woman in the military, she said that gender shouldn’t get in the way of the overall mission: protecting who you love.

“The willingness to be open will allow you to learn more about the military as a whole,” she said “and how to be supportive of both the men and the women that put themselves in harms way to protect you.”

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