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ED Show
updated 11/27/2012 9:46:06 PM ET 2012-11-28T02:46:06

'A single grain of rice can tip the scale,' says the Emperor in the Disney movie 'Mulan.' In real life, women in combat can make a difference, too.

Should women be allowed in combat? This question is a no-brainer if you ask my (almost) 6-year-old daughter. The issue came up while we were watching the Disney movie Mulan last week.

My daughter couldn’t understand why Mulan had to dress up like a boy in order to fight for her country. My daughter actually got very worried when Mulan’s gender was discovered and she faced possible execution for fighting like a man.

Mulan ends up saving the day and winning the heart of the handsome hero while she’s at it, but my daughter’s question remained:  Why can’t girls fight too?

Four female service members are demanding an answer in real life. The women filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat. A 1994 rule says women can’t be assigned to ground combat units.

The Marines actually launched a survey of 53,000 troops to find out if women would be a “distraction” in combat. The results of the survey haven’t been released yet. But this issue is more about women’s careers and less about their feared feminine vulnerabilities or wiles.

The women who filed suit claim that blocking them from combat cuts off career opportunities. Without combat experience, women can’t move up the career ladder the way that men can. The Pentagon says it’s opened 14,500 combat positions to women. But the ACLU says that’s not enough.

A year ago some people argued that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would create a distraction too. But that’s not how things turned out. The New York Times reported:

It has been exactly a year since “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed, and by most measures the change has been a success. Gay service members say they feel relief they no longer have to live secret lives. Pentagon officials say that recruiting, retention and overall morale have not been affected. None of the dire predictions of opponents, including warnings of a mass exodus of active duty troops, have occurred.

So what about women? My daughter thinks it’s unfair to keep a girl from fighting for her country just because she’s a girl. It will be interesting to see what U.S. District Judge Edward Chen will decide. At the end of the movie, Mulan, the Emperor of China puts it this way:

“I’ve heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father’s armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and… you have saved us all.”

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