The First Female Rangers | Vol. 2 / No. 44.5

The Ranger Training Course | Photo: US Army
The Ranger Training Course | Photo: US Army

For this week’s #FeministFriday post, we’re celebrating the first two female US Army Rangers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. Read on!


If you are a feminist of any variety, at some point you have probably had someone up in your face about all of the “privileges” that women have, and how that somehow disqualifies you from fighting for gender equality. (I’m pretty sure I have a specific version of my “I’m smiling so I don’t murder anyone” face just for these occasions.)

“Well you can’t worry about feminism because guys are expected to pay for dinner on a date. That’s not fair.”

“Once my state deigns to pay women more than 69% of what a man makes, I’ll go dutch, I promise.”

“Women are given priority in divorce courts.”

“Well, once it stops being socially acceptable for all of those dads on Teen Mom to abandon their kids in order to go 4-wheeling, maybe we’ll stop automatically assuming that women are the more responsible caretakers.”

“You’re never going to be drafted to fight and die for your country.”

“I have enough medical problems I would laugh in the draft office’s face if they tried. Plus I promise you I’d be one of the one-third of recruits too fat to enlist.” 

While my answer to the last encounter is flippant, it also sidesteps the bigger issue that I am usually too tired of arguing/incredibly angry to explain: plenty of women try to join the armed services, only to be turned away from the positions they want. (Or raped, but that’s a different rant, and the source of a lot of that anger.) GI Jane came out in 1997, and besides giving us the unforgettable censored line of “Suck my stick,” it gave us a badass woman training to be a Navy SEAL. She saves Aragorn. And nearly twenty years later…. There are still no women SEALs. Or women on submarines. And until a few weeks ago, there were no female Rangers.

This August, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from Ranger School. Following their success, the Army declared that they were opening Ranger School to female candidates. This comes as part of the result of a Pentagon resolution to open all military jobs to women. Military officials have until the end of this month to create “gender-neutral standards” for each military position, and until December to establish how women can apply for those positions. Special forces branches are allowed to ask for a “hardship waiver” to keep certain specialties men-only, but so far no service chiefs have asked for such waivers.

What Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Haver have achieved is monumental. As in, someday there should probably be some kind of actual monument to their achievement. Or at least a nice plaque. Friend R pointed out that their graduation feels akin to other historic firsts in women’s education, like when Catherine Brewer became the first woman to earn a Bachelor’s degree in 1840, or Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from medical school in 1849

These firsts are important not for the incredible act themselves (I can’t really fathom what Griest, Haver, Brewer, or Blackwell had to go through in order to achieve these things) but for the way that these acts serves as a sort of dam-breaking event for other women to achieve the same things. One or two women achieving something that men had previously barred them from or even declared impossible proves that it is in fact possible for women to do that thing, and hey, don’t you think it would be a good idea to stop being an obstructionist idiot and let women be college students and doctors and Rangers if they want to be?

While I can think of few things higher on my list of “things that would be my personal equivalent of Hell,” women who meet the stringent requirements of Ranger School should be allowed to attend Ranger School. Women who can successfully pass Navy SEAL training should be allowed to be Navy SEALs. In an era when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed and the ban on transgender soldiers will soon be lifted, the tired old chestnuts that have long kept LGBT individuals and women out of the army or out of certain positions (“It will hurt ‘group cohesion’!” “They’re going to be a distraction!” “They’re not going to be able to keep up with us!” “What if I see them naked and I have feelings?”) just aren’t cutting it anymore. Many female candidates may or may not be able to follow in Griest and Haver’s footsteps. But it is literally the least that the military can do to let them try.


Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not celebrating the slow creep of modern culture toward gender equality, she studies gender in popular culture.