In traditional Vietnamese Confucian culture, which was imported from China, women were considered both weak and potentially treacherous - not appropriate soldier material at all. This belief system was imposed upon older Vietnamese traditions that honored women warriors such as the Trung Sisters (c. 12-43 CE), who led a mostly-female army in rebellion against the Chinese.
One of the tenets of Communism is that a worker is a worker - regardless of gender. In both the army of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong ranks, women like Nguyen Thi Hai, shown here, played a key role.
This gender equality among the communist soldiers was an important step toward women's rights in Vietnam. However, for the Americans and more conservative South Vietnamese, the presence of female combatants further blurred the line between civilians and fighters, perhaps contributing to atrocities against female non-combatants.