God bless the men who volunteer to serve our country. God bless the women who volunteer to serve our country. Your efforts are both necessary and appreciated.
I reserved this space on Friday for a weekly celebration of military service. This Friday, I’m posting an opinion piece (no, I’m not tired of standing on my soapbox yet). This Friday, it’s a celebration of service, the way it stands! I keep reading articles about putting women into combat jobs. There seems to be a particular interest in getting them into Special Operations positions (Rangers, SEALs, Special Forces etc).
I first published this on February 11, 2013
Women In Combat – Perspective From A Female Bodybuilder
Women in combat positions….it’s an idea I’ve turned around in my head many times. Before we go any farther I have to state that I’m not nor have I ever been a member of the military. I AM the daughter of a very accomplished woman with a pioneer spirit. My mother was a chemist in the days when a woman, let alone a black woman, in the hard sciences was practically unheard of. She was discouraged in her endeavors by many, including her professors. They told her directly that women didn’t belong in the discipline and some refused to help her when she had trouble with concepts in class. Nevertheless, she persevered and had a long, successful career at UCSF (University of California, San Francisco).
I say this because her spirit and her commitment to a path that went against societal norms had a strong influence on my own perspective regarding non-traditional roles for females. I am fully convinced that women can do any job men can do, equally as well…with few exceptions…one of those being service in combat.
I can practically hear the sighs of disappointment from many of you but I think what I have to say is worth a few moments of consideration.
I’m an amateur, natural bodybuilder and have been for the past 21 years. I’ve always been incredibly athletic and physically strong, however, I’ve learned from hanging out with males in the gym that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY I can compete with them on lifts. No matter what I eat or how I train, my strength is still far inferior to even a moderately fit, capable male. Sure I can embarrass some of the guys who walk in off the street and are just starting out but when going head to head with a man who has been in the gym and training for a while, it isn’t even a contest. I’ve seen it myself with repetitive regularity. Even the strongest, most athletic, motivated women can’t match strength with fit men. Women simply aren’t as strong and in combat situations brute strength IS a consideration. For their own safety and the safety of their teammates, lack of strength is a serious issue.
Women’s sports are always separated from men’s sports for a reason. Women don’t box men in competition, they don’t climb into the ring for MMA matches with male opponents, they don’t play football in the NFL, basketball in the NBA or hockey in the NHL…for goodness sake, they don’t even play competitive golf or tennis against men because of the commonly acknowledged, natural differences in strength. If we understand this in sporting contests, engaged in strictly for entertainment, why on Earth would we put women into combat situations, against men, where the stakes are so terribly high?
This same lack of equivalent strength and stamina comes into play when loading equipment, carrying equipment (rucking with 50lbs for miles on end), jumping out of airplanes and having to land with 75lbs or more on your back, carrying an injured 200 pound fellow fighter out of harms way….these are all things that would necessarily be compromised. Not only would the female likely not be able to handle the weight loads, the trust that any effective combat unit has among members would be undermined since their teammates would know in the back of their minds that there truly was a weak link in the chain. Even a shadow of doubt could cause serious disruption in the morale and effectiveness of the unit as a whole.
All that being said, I’m sure there are a few women on the planet, genetic anomalies, who could actually match strength with a man, but is it worth opening combat positions to all women because an infinitesimal minority could actually do the job? I say no. The good of the whole is more important than what a tiny but vocal group of women (and strangely misguided men) want.
The current argument in favor of women in combat says, let women try. Let them have the same opportunity to showcase their skills as the males in the military. If they can’t hack it and meet the standard, then they can’t serve in combat positions. What I know is that as soon as the possibility is opened, there will be great pressure from those who are pushing this agenda to get some women through the pipeline and on the job. Commanders will be made to understand that women MUST have a presence in the combat units and the absolute minimum standards will be compromised in order to quiet cries of sexism and quell accusations that women can’t earn their way into the positions because of the “good old boy” network.
Despite my unshakeable belief that women are as valuable as men, as intellectually capable and morally equivalent, I do believe that Mother Nature has a say in the question of whether women should serve in ground combat positions.
I should note that there are places in combat situations where women could do an excellent job even taking into account the strength differentials. Female fighter pilots come to mind. In that case, it’s mind and machine working in concert, the plane being the equalizer, however, it’s absurd to think that women can be as effective as men in traditional ground and pound, front line combat jobs and trying to put them there is a mistake.
*This is part one of my argument against putting women into combat jobs. I have other reservations besides the pure strength difference but that’s a conversation for another day.*
I never did write the second (or third) part of my argument against putting women in combat units but all the reservations I had in 2013 still stand. It’s foolhardy, reckless and destructive to use the military as a petri dish for disruptive social engineering experiments. Allowing political correctness, instead of common sense to rule policy is going to exact a terrible toll.