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Sonya Sorich: Female opposition to women in combat?

There's a cultural "girl code" that involves something more serious than stealing ex-boyfriends.

I was reminded of it last week, when I saw a Facebook status update opposing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision to allow women to serve in combat roles.

The sentiment wasn't unusual. But it came from a woman, and that's what caught me off guard.

Amid struggles for social and political equality, shouldn't she automatically support any effort to put our gender on equal footing?

Of course not.

In conversations involving gender, some issues seem clear cut -- say, voting rights and the concept of equal pay for equal work. After all, those concepts have arguably helped drive popular choruses of "girl power."

However, some gender-based discussions leave more room for debate.

And in those situations, some women face an unspoken expectation: Root for equality, or betray your own gender.

As I contemplated the expectation, I remembered listening to a female friend advocate heightened female interest in math and science.

As she spoke, I wanted to ask her about neuroscience -- chiefly, the idea that there are innate differences between male and female brains, and those differences help explain the number of women who pursue math/science careers.

I'm not a proponent of the belief. I'm not a neuroscientist. I wasn't trying to antagonize my friend or pursue an opposing agenda. It was just a question.

But I didn't ask it, because I felt like my curiosity could be interpreted as a plan to thwart the gender equality movement.

Which brings me back to last week.

The aforementioned Facebook status wasn't the only time I heard a female oppose the women in combat decision. As in all social debates, some of those objections were rooted in facts. Others didn't make sense.

And as the debate continues, it's hard to tell what will happen to echoes of a "girl code" encouraging women to unite in favor of any measure that includes the word "equality."

The gender-equality movement was never designed to promote blind, uniform allegiance to a buzzword. Instead, it's rooted in a belief that women have the capacity to form educated opinions that should be acknowledged in the public sphere.

As women, we must remember that acknowledging those opinions sometimes means acknowledging opposition. Supporting gender equality blindly might be as bad as not supporting it at all.

It's something every woman has heard at least once: Feminism is about


And I've chosen to view my gender's wide spectrum of opinions as evidence of how far we've come, rather than how far we have to go.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at or 706-571-8516. Visit to read her columns.