Today’s great news: The Pentagon officially lifted its ban on women in combat. The landmark decision comes after years of advocacy and lawsuits, including one brought just this past November. It’s a big accomplishment.
However, as some initial responses indicate, we still have a long way to go in terms of combating public ignorance.
Of the nasty comments already being made about women’s capability on the battlefield, I’m only going to address three:
1) The myth of lower standards. Yes, women have more time to complete their two-mile run and get more points per push-up on the physical fitness test. But when was the last time someone had a push-up-off with a terrorist? Women are actually better suited for surviving harsh conditions, in large part because of their metabolic differences. For years, the U.S. military has struggled to recruit to standard due to rising obesity and poor public education. Embracing women not only widens the pool of recruits, it brings in other important physical skills – like flexibility, endurance, and ability to tolerate extreme heat and cold. Turns out that higher body fat comes in handy sometimes, and not just when bearing children. Who knew?
2.) The myth of the Hollywood battlefield. Nevermind that most women at my Crossfit gym can execute more push-ups in a minute than the average talking head has done all year – the modern U.S. military demands a lot of talents that go well beyond rucking. Ever heard of the “tooth-to-tail ratio”? That’s the number of boots on the ground for every pair folded under an office chair, and it’s still around 10-to-one. So, just as you can’t have a successful career while excluded from combat, nor does playing movie-star soldier merit lifetime taxpayer payroll. American women are already an important asset on the battlefield and in the thousands of desk jobs that are the bulk of the DOD’s work; this just means that they can finally be recognized for all of it.
3.) The myth of men who “can’t help themselves.” Although I appreciate the irony in saying that the same men who “can’t help but protect” women on the battlefield “can’t help but attack” them sexually later on, it simply isn’t true. There are plenty of real men in the U.S. armed forces. Those who really feel that gender segregation is necessary might consider fighting for the other side. Not only does al-Qaeda keep women in their place, I hear they’ve got an impressive stash of porn.
If, on the other hand, you consider this a landmark and believe women in the military deserve better, you can help by supporting the Service Women’s Action Network. Or, you know, watching The Hunger Games, doing Fran at Rx, and getting that overweight, opinionated he-man at the bar to attempt the splits. Some things are just better when they’re co-ed.