I’m not going to say that men and women are “the same.” Who would? Who would want them to be? Who would want to limit any nation to the skills and talents of only half the …
As I predicted, lots of men who look like they’ve never done a pull-up in their life are up in arms over women’s fitness for combat. Nevermind the inspiring stories of women who have actually served – including where men cannot – and examples of co-ed combat from countries that don’t suck at war, such as Israel (“women often exhibit ‘superior skills’ in discipline, motivation, and shooting abilities”). Now that everyone’s sounding off about our military weakening due to women’s supposed inability to meet the standards, let’s hear out our allies in Norway:
“I have to be clear: You have to meet the physical standards, because the job is still the same. It works very well as long as women hold the standards,” added Colonel [Ingrid] Gjerde, who was the commander of Norwegian forces in Afghanistan in 2012. “It’s not a big deal because women who go into these fields know the standards, and it’s not that hard for women to train up to the standards if they really want.” (Thanks to Anna Mulrine at National Geographic.)
There are some standards that you absolutely need to perform a task – like, er, big femurs. Others serve as a proxy for overall fitness – weeding out people who aren’t so muscled-up that they can’t run (true story) as well as people who aren’t so solely focused on cardiovascular fitness that they can’t lift heavy things. But to develop specific muscles to perform specific tasks of the kind we’re all wringing our hands over, people – males AND females – have to train. There’s no SEAL or Special Forces member who was selected because of his God-given VO2max. They worked hard.
However biased some standards may be (I am still mad that one stupid pull-up got between me, 7th-grade sit-ups-per-minute champion, and the Presidential Fitness Award), I am not worried about whether women will meet them. They’ll probably have to train harder than their male colleagues, but they’ll get there. They will continue to serve faithfully until they’ve proven to the rest of the nation what they proved to Dempsey and Panetta: that women are assets, not liabilities, on the battlefield.
In fact, I think we should get those guys “My girl is stronger than you” t-shirts – fitted ones. Maybe it will inspire them to do a few pull-ups of their own.