Helen Benedict diffuses the women in combat debate by explaining how the restriction is purely legal despite lived realities that place women in equal harm. Instead she directs her attention towards combating a military culture that in her opinion deepens objections to women's equality in general.
She lists misogynistic cadences and high profile assault cases among other examples to illustrate an internal culture in the military that subordinates and 'others' women. Her argument is compelling and points to changes the military has made with removing Don't Ask Don't Tall and racial segregation to show hope that the military has the capacity of building a more inclusive and representative force.
Her underlying argument that deserves reiteration is that women's equality will never be achieved until they are culturally embraced as equals--and the military is no exception. Instituting legal gendered restrictions that fail to fully align with combat realities hurts the military's acceptance of women in general. Removing the legal restrictions will not solely change internal attitudes. A critical examination of the culture is in order, especially in an institution that gives members access to elite levels of public life.
Today’s debate about women would be less antediluvian if, instead of questioning whether women can do the job they’ve already been doing for years, it focused on why so many men in all-male companies still don’t want to work with women. To what sort of all-male camaraderie are they clinging, and why? ...Military culture may well be the last bastion of male protectionism in modern society, so it is no surprise that its arguments against admitting women fully are the same as those used whenever women first enter a previously all-male field—whether that is firefighting, policing, politics, sports or voting. ...Yet there’s precious little evidence that all-male cultures produce anything better than co-ed cultures, just as there is no evidence at all that the presence of women ...ruins anything other than male privilege.