Defending Your Country…and Gender—Legal Challenges and Opportunities Confronting Women in the Military

  • Amy GaudionEmail author


Women’s ability to participate fully in all aspects of US military service has, Amy Gaudion recounts, received a boost with the December 2015 commitment by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to ending combat exclusion. All combat jobs are now open to women without exception. Yet, running alongside the expansion of all levels and fields of service to women is the continuing problem of sexual violence in US military culture. Both aspects are covered by Gaudion, observing that contrary to some contentions, in the words of Army Sergeant Kayla Williams ‘the combat exclusion actually exacerbates gender tensions and problems’ Noting that women have served during wars and other military conflicts since the American Revolution, Gaudion examines structural and cultural challenges facing US military women, explaining why the current climate may be ripe for significant and substantive change. She outlines and analyses resistance to and obstacles facing women in the military, observing that combat has been a focus, with historical objections, effects on women’s career paths, issues of military justice and access to civilian courts. A culture of ‘institutional misogyny’, retaliation and military careerism lie at the heart. However, Gaudion highlights hope for significant and substantive change, including the ‘aging out’ of ‘the good ole boys’; changes in military warfare; and implications of budget cuts as well as the positive consequences of 2011 removal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ doctrine banning openly gay military service. Changes in sexual assault reporting have also improved women’s place in the military, with the gap narrowing between sexual assault prevalence and its reporting. Significant steps have been and are being taken, says Gaudion, to make prevention a target, to measure and address retaliation and to improve victim/survivor assistance and advocacy.


Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment Service Member Military Culture Sexual Assault Prevalence 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Penn State University, Dickinson School of LawCarlisleUSA

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