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Letter

Feminism shows forces that tug at everyday choices

 US Army soldiers with the 2-17 Field Artillery Regiment listened to a briefing as they prepared to leave onamission in Ramadi, Iraq, 100 kilometers west of Baghdad.

PATRICK BAZ/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/FILE 2004

US Army soldiers with the 2-17 Field Artillery Regiment listened to a briefing as they prepared to leave onamission in Ramadi, Iraq, 100 kilometers west of Baghdad.

Based upon interviews with a “dozen female soldiers and Marines,” the article “Women’s military roles slow to evolve” (Page A9, Jan. 6) suggests that women have “little interest in the toughest fighting jobs.” Setting aside that a dozen people hardly qualifies as a meaningful sample, and that, as noted, “plenty of men don’t want to be in the infantry either,” the article intimates that the goal of full integration of women into the military reflects a feminist agenda that is out of touch with women’s lived realities.

This belittles feminism’s important work. There is no nefarious plot to force women into combat positions. Rather, among other endeavors,
feminists seek to uncover the contingent nature of what often appears to be natural choices.

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For example, rather than assuming that fewer women than men “choose” to enter the so-called STEM professions — science, technology, engineering, and math — because of their innate feminine nature, feminist research exposes how individual choices are shaped by gendered considerations, such as that women who succeed in fields thought to require “masculine” characteristics may be judged more harshly by their peers and less well-liked than their male colleagues.

As feminists, we seek to unpack the gendered structures of everyday life that shape individual decisions, thus revealing that what appears “natural” is often socially constructed.

Shoshanna Ehrlich

Brookline

The writer is an associate professor in the women’s studies department at University of Massachusetts Boston.

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