Tucker Carlson on Women in the Military (and some responses)

And Adam Serwer:

In the US military, a woman’s service is not recognized, professionally or financially, the same way as a man’s. Because women have not been eligible for “combat role” positions—even though they were shooting and being shot at—they were denied access to certain career opportunities. The plaintiffs in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the Department of Defense over the exclusion of women from combat roles offer great examples of this discrimination. Two of the plaintiffs in that case have received Purple Hearts, and two have received combat medals. One of the plaintiffs, Air Force Major Mary Jennings Hegar, a helicopter pilot, was shot down in Afghanistan attempting to evacuate wounded US service members. She engaged in a firefight with enemy forces and was shot before escaping. Women are already “getting their limbs blown off in war.” Panetta’s announcement will ensure they are recognized for it.

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64 Responses to Tucker Carlson on Women in the Military (and some responses)

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    The argument that this was necessary to ensure equal advancement opportunities for women rings hollow to me. The purpose of the military is to defend our country, not to provide advancement opportunities for anyone. If a change enhances the military’s mission I”m all for it. If it hinders it, I’m against it.

    Having said that, there are in fact numerous combat roles that women should be able to fill, such as helicopter pilot. So I’m fine with this, with one caveat: get rid of the sex differentials in physical fitness testing and fit the fitness criterion to the role. For example, anyone in the infantry should have to pass the same fitness test regardless of whether they are male or female. The same for Special Forces such as SEALS, etc.

    What you’ll doubtless find is that in such a case very, very few women will ever end up in the infantry, and it’s quite likely that a woman will never qualify for the SEALS. Do you think that’s acceptable?

  2. 2
    Copyleft says:

    The wingnuts who are worried about ‘sissifying our military’ are being as absurd as they always are. Remember “Don’t ask don’t tell”? Racial integration? Heck, the original inclusion of ANY women in the military, in any capacity? The right-wingers wrung their hands over each and every one of those changes, issuing dire predictions that it would hurt our combat readiness. And of course, in every case they were wrong.

    Are there going to be women who can’t pass the screening and training process for heavy-combat duty? Sure; just like there are plenty of male soldiers who already don’t pass it. Shrug. No big deal.

    The interesting question is, what effect will this have on draft registration? Will that become gender-blind too?

  3. From today’s New York Times:

    Will women be able to meet a new, single standard? Kristen Rouse, a first lieutenant in the New York Army National Guard who just returned from her third deployment to Afghanistan, said that she was confident they could.

    “In my fitness test, I always pass by the standards of a male of my equivalent age,” she said. “And I’m not an athlete. The physical demands are not insurmountable.”

    Mr. Jacob, who was a training company commander for both male and female Marine recruits, said the key would be to make women systematically train to the higher standards. When the Corps has done that — by requiring women to do more pull-ups or longer ruck marches — they consistently succeeded, he said. And at the same time, better training has reduced weight-bearing injuries to backs and hips — major concern among female troops, he said.

    And women have been serving in combat in Canada for a long time:

  4. 4
    Myca says:

    Honestly, I suspect that the fitness standard itself is less important than it once was. I’m fine with one standard for men and women, and I’m fine with that standard being what we’ve got now, but I’m fairly confident that our military’s readiness and skill would not be lessened if the standard were relaxed, either.

    —Myca

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    The fitness standard for someone manning a desk processing paperwork stateside is different than the fitness standard for an infantryman. Servicepeople I know tell me that someone who meets minimum requirements for the general physical fitness test should not go near the infantry. And this was not a “women in the military” issue, it was a general discussion of fitness in the military. I would not expect too many women to end up in the infantry if the fitness standard is set to what’s needed to do the job. I”m told that there are times when, for short periods, infantrymen are expected to carry 130 pounds of gear.

  6. 6
    Myca says:

    I would not expect too many women to end up in the infantry if the fitness standard is set to what’s needed to do the job.

    Do you have any evidence to support this expectation? The article Richard Jeffrey Newman linked includes a short bit concerning a Canadian soldier, Cpl. Katie Hodges, who served in the infantry.

    Now, of course, I don’t know how the Canadian infantry fitness test works, and whether it’s 1) less/more strict than the American test, 2) a different test than the Canadian general fitness test, or 3) a different test by gender. There are a lot of possibilities.

    In any case, there’s 1 US test now, and it’s the same test for men and women, so we’ll see.

    —Myca

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    From “5 silliest reactions to women in combat“:

    Women are biologically different than men in significant ways, and so absolute equality of outcome is neither realistic nor desirable. This is Heather MacDonald’s argument.

    As a statement, it is true, but it has no bearing on the decision made yesterday, which will take into account those differences and still restrict women from a range of roles that require the average upper body strength of a man. That such standards could have been influenced by social conditions rather than be a brute reflection of biological essentials is not part of MacDonald’s equation. The worry that standards will be relaxed for women is more appropriately expressed as a desire to make sure that the standards for the job are exacting and right; that means that some may be relaxed, and some may be tightened. Equality of condition in the military for men and women is not a goal of this policy. An end to discriminatory policies that have no rational basis while preserving military readiness — a readiness that still does incorporate a recognition of gender differences — is.

  8. 8
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    I would not expect too many women to end up in the infantry if the fitness standard is set to what’s needed to do the job. I”m told that there are times when, for short periods, infantrymen are expected to carry 130 pounds of gear.

    I pass my tactical physical, but not by wide margins. It is one standard for all officers on my team. I am a large, strong woman, and I work out regularly, but I have recently lost some conditioning through having a packed schedule and having to focus on other things, so I’m not, currently, at the height of my physical prowess. Also, I’m in my forties.

    Recently, in training, I demonstrated a simulated single-person wounded-officer carry: I used a looped nylon strap which I passed under his arms. I put my arms through the loops as though they were backpack straps. Then I stood up, which took good technique and careful attention. Once up, I was able to walk smoothly, and aim and fire a practice gun while doing it. I would not have wanted to hike a long distance that way, but I could have taken him for a lap around the building and been breathing hard at the end but able to fight. Certainly I could have moved him to a position of cover, and managed a lumbering run for 25 yards while doing it.

    My teammate in that case weighs about 230 lbs, plus a small bit for his boots and whatever he had in his pockets. This was not weight well-distributed on my hips and shoulders; it was backpack deadweight, carried on improvised inch-wide nylon straps.

    I am confident that the vast majority of young, able-bodied women can, with basic and consistent conditioning, carry 130 lbs “for short periods”.

    Grace

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    Myca:

    but I’m fairly confident that our military’s readiness and skill would not be lessened if the standard were relaxed, either.

    What is your confidence based on, Myca?

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    I’m basing my statement on the general concept that women have less overall strength and certainly less upper-body strength than men, and that a job such as being in the infantry puts rather extreme demands on the human body. “I would not expect too many women” != “I would expect no women”.

    The worry that standards will be relaxed for women is more appropriately expressed as a desire to make sure that the standards for the job are exacting and right; that means that some may be relaxed, and some may be tightened

    Well, the more appropriate outcome would be that the standards for the job are set to what is necessary to accomplish the job. But that does not mean that the worry that a desire for some notion of sex equality will corrupt that process is inappropriate to express.

  11. 11
    Myca says:

    What is your confidence based on, Myca?

    An increasingly technologically-based military, in which human physical fitness is not as much the basis of our military power as it was in, say, 1943.

    —Myca

  12. 12
    nobody.really says:

    Building on Myca’s theme — prior to this policy change, were women permitted to pilot drones? I could well imagine the military saying, “Sorry, girls, but drones fire on the enemy, and our policy clearly says that if you’re being sent to fire on the enemy….”

  13. 13
    Grace Annam says:

    Prior to this, there were some pretty risky assignments which were classified as “non-combat”. I know a Marine, a trans man, who served in Iraq before he transitioned. Because he was presenting as a woman, he could not be in the infantry … but he could be a forward observer (I don’t know his actual MOS, but in fact his job involved sneaking out ahead and reporting on enemy positions, for extended periods). Forward observers are not necessarily out of the line of fire. When battles happened, he shot the enemy like everyone else, took fire like everyone else, and now has the permanent shrapnel in his body to prove it.

    So much for “non-combat” roles.

    Grace

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Myca:

    An increasingly technologically-based military, in which human physical fitness is not as much the basis of our military power as it was in, say, 1943.

    So, it’s not based on an actual evaluation of the tasks that, say, an infantryman has to accomplish and the conditions under which he has to accomplish them?

  15. 15
    Myca says:

    I’m basing my statement on the general concept that women have less overall strength and certainly less upper-body strength than men, and that a job such as being in the infantry puts rather extreme demands on the human body.

    So, it’s not based on an actual evaluation of the tasks that, say, an infantryman has to accomplish and the conditions under which he (or she) has to accomplish them?

    I mean, look, dude, you can be a dick to me all you like, but my general point is that militaries exist on a continuum from the Spartans to Star Wars, and that we’re much closer to Star Wars than we used to be. We ought to get something for the ridiculously bloated Pentagon budget that bloodthirsty and profligate Republican sociopaths (and their cowardly Democratic enablers) cram down the throat of the American public year after year.

    Also: You brought up the separate infantry test, not me. Don’t jump down my throat for saying things I never said. My comment was about general fitness standards, and I’ve already indicated that I’m fine with one standard for men and women.

    —Myca

  16. 16
    mythago says:

    @Myca: you shouldn’t be fine with a single general fitness standard. Those standards are scaled by age as well as gender, and are meant to keep soldiers in peak physical condition. They are not intended to measure fitness for a particular MOS.

    RonF’s fussing about upper-body strength is particularly silly in that he wants to apply a median difference seen in the population as a whole to individuals who may or may not be in that median, and regardless of whether that difference is relevant to the task. If a job really requires a soldier to lift 100 pounds of gear, by all means limit that job to anyone who can’t lift that much; of course, that ought to be a real requirement, not “load on some more crap so we can keep the broads out”.

    The directive specifically directs the armed forces to detail exceptions to the policy (you’re unlikely to see female Navy SEALs anytime soon).

  17. 17
    Myca says:

    @Myca: you shouldn’t be fine with a single general fitness standard. Those standards are scaled by age as well as gender, and are meant to keep soldiers in peak physical condition. They are not intended to measure fitness for a particular MOS.

    Wow, great point, Mythago. I totally stand corrected.

    How about you, Ron? Do you disagree? Do you believe there ought to be one test regardless of age?

    If a job really requires a soldier to lift 100 pounds of gear, by all means limit that job to anyone who can’t lift that much

    Sure. That’s more what I was aiming at. I thought that the fitness test involved how able you’d be to perform the actual job duties. But you say it’s just general physical fitness? So, it’s not based on an actual evaluation of the tasks that, say, an infantryman has to accomplish and the conditions under which he has to accomplish them?

    How fucking fascinating.

    —Myca

  18. 18
    mythago says:

    Right; the general fitness standards are for everyone regardless of MOS. If an infantryman has to throw a grenade X meters or be able to carry Y pounds of gear, that’s above and beyond the fitness standard.

    You get some very strange arguments from the “I don’t want some wimpy broad in my foxhole!!!!” crowd when you ask them why they’re OK with a wimpy middle-aged dude in their foxhole.

  19. 19
    Another Alex says:

    Yes. It’s been badly reported and that confused me too. There are two standards. (1) A general fitness standard, which is gender-normed. (2) An occupational standard, which they’re declared they will work toward making ‘gender-neural’. The idea is that if you want to be a tank gunner you’ve got to prove you’re generally fit, as well as prove you’ve partiucularly types of ability oriented toward the specific tasks of the job – like lugging shells.

    It’s important to mention that occupational standards are currently gender-normed, and we don’t actually know what they mean when they say ‘gender-netural’. We certainly know saying men must do 30 pull ups and women 20, just because, isn’t gender-neutral. But there’s a gray area around general vs individualised standards – lift 5 stone vs lift 50% of your body weight. The worry is that standards could be ‘gender-neutral’ in the sense of you don’t need to know people’s gender to see if they’ve passed, but still inappropriately relative.

    So, it’s not based on an actual evaluation of the tasks that, say, an infantryman has to accomplish and the conditions under which he has to accomplish them?

    I think that’s a complete distraction. Job analysis is all very well, and we can all agree very specific requirements for very specialised tasks: 20-20 vision for pilots, a steady hand for surgeons, ability to lift particular ordinance for engineers. But if your job is the very general task of ‘close with enemy and kill them’, I’m not sure how you get from there to 8 or absolutely essential bullet-pointed minimum thresholds.

  20. 20
    Manju says:

    First Obama let the gays fight
    and I resisted because I was not a gay.

    When he made room for women
    I resisted, because I was not a woman.

    Then he asked me to serve.
    I resisted, because there was no room left in the Texas National Guard.

  21. 21
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Seems that there are a lot of reasons why modifying job requirements to accommodate for gender can cause problems.

    But why assume that would happen? The folks who run the military don’t want a lot of dead soldiers. And they haven’t exactly demonstrated an overabundance of PC w/r/t women in the military.

    So I don’t get why people think that the generals are going to drastically reduce standards just to to meet some sort of political pressure.

    Besides, even infantry isn’t filled with Spartans, as noted above. There is a place for a big tall lunk of a soldier who can carry 230 pounds in one arm at a dead run. And there is a place for a small nimble one who can fit into tight spots. And there’s a place for someone who is really smart but not a great shot; and someone who is really good at staying calm and who has a perfect sense of direction; and so on. (Sure, it’s better to have all those things. But since it’s rare to have many of them at once, the brilliant strong lethal quiet fast people end up in special forces anyway.)

    Gender simply increases diversity. And if used wisely, diversity can increase strength.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    I’m fine with fitting the fitness standard to the MOS. Can’t meet the standard, find another MOS that you can meet the standard for. But make sure the standard isn’t “adjusted” because there aren’t enough – or too many – women in that MOS to satisfy someone’s political agenda.

  23. 23
    closetpuritan says:

    I think having a single occupational standard (vs. general fitness standard) makes sense. I’m no more worried that they’ll lower the standard to make sure enough women are in the job than I am that they’ll have a higher-than-necessary standard in order to keep women out without specifically saying “no women”.

    As for expanding the draft to women, I feel that they need to clean up their rape problem first before they have a right to force women to join the military. (Not that they have to have zero military-on-military rapes, but it needs to not be worse than society in general. And there’s a rape problem with how male victims are dealt with as well, but my understanding is males are less likely to be attacked, and I suppose if there’s going to be a draft we can’t exempt everyone. Not that I want there to be a draft.)

  24. 24
    mythago says:

    There is no “draft”. There’s registration for Selective Service, which means the military has a list of names in case there is some reason it re-institutes a draft, which is highly unlikely in any event.

  25. Mythago wrote:

    There is no “draft”. There’s registration for Selective Service, which means the military has a list of names in case there is some reason it re-institutes a draft,

    This is true, but women’s names are not on that list. I turned 18 in 1980, when President Carter instituted Selective Service registration in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. At that time, a case was brought before the Supreme Court, Rostker vs. Goldberg, in which three men argued that requiring only young men to register constituted “gender-based discrimination [that] violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and [that] registration under the Act [should therefore be enjoined] .” In other words, those who brought the case did not argue that women should be required to register, but rather that, since women were not required to register, neither should men be. One of the reasons the court found that Selective Service did not violate the Fifth Amendment was the military’s ban on women in combat, which was understood at the time to be a good and necessary thing. (If my memory serves me correctly, Carter wanted to require both men and women to register; Congress said no to that after holding hearings on the question.)

    As pointed out in this article in The Washington Post, Thurgood Marshall, in his dissent, argued that the court’s decision “places its imprimatur on one of the most potent remaining public expressions of ‘ancient canards about the proper role of women.’ ” What he didn’t say is that requiring women to register with selective service would also undermine a core tenet of traditional manhood, i.e., that to be a man is to be ready, willing, and able to sacrifice oneself in defense of hearth and home. It is one thing to argue that women who choose a military career ought to have open to them any and every component of that career for which they are able to qualify, including combat. It is quite something else to argue that all women, like all men, should be required to submit themselves to the possibility of becoming canon fodder, whether they like it or not.

    I’m not trying to argue against selective service registration here, and, personally, I think that as long as we live in a world where a military is necessary for national security young women ought to be required to register as an obligation of citizenship. (This is a separate question from what I think about how our government manages our military.) I’m just trying to point out that while a policy which allows those women who qualify into combat positions recognizes that women can be the equals of men in this regard, a policy which requires women to be available for a military draft creates a very different kind of bottom-line equality between men and women, and I think this difference is worth meditating on in terms of our cultural expectations about gender.

  26. 26
    Copyleft says:

    I agree that if Selective Service registration remains mandatory, it should apply equally to males and females.

  27. 27
    closetpuritan says:

    I know that there is not currently a draft. I meant the possibility (however unlikely) of a draft in the future. And just to be clear, I would prefer that the military cleaned up its rape problem and that both men and women were eligible for the draft if it is ever reinstituted.

  28. 28
    KellyK says:

    If there were a draft now, requiring both men and women to register would be theoretically equal, but not equal in actuality, because “there’s a one in three chance you will be raped by a fellow soldier, and a 90% chance that he’ll get away with it” is a risk that women are expected to face in our current military, but men aren’t. (Something like 88% of military sexual assault victims are female, and primarily victimized by higher-ranking men. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/06/military-sexual-assault-defense-department_n_1834196.html)

    I see nothing wrong with saying that it would be wrong to require men and women to register for selective service until the military actually starts doing something about its sexual assault epidemic.

  29. 29
    mythago says:

    It is quite something else to argue that all women, like all men, should be required to submit themselves to the possibility of becoming canon fodder, whether they like it or not.

    I thought the argument was we can’t, in good conscience, say that a woman’s life is too precious to use as cannon fodder but a man’s life isn’t. Or that we want to protect women from being allowed to shoot back.

  30. 30
    Robert says:

    KellyK – the risk of rape in the military is real and appalling and I don’t want to minimize it. But it’s a pretty weak special pleading to say that because there’s a differential risk of something bad happening to you, your group ought to be privileged to not undergo service.

    If the argument “women will get raped therefore women shouldn’t be drafted” isn’t instantly dismissed as crap, then how does one rebut “women will get raped therefore women shouldn’t be in the service”, without resorting to an extremely objectionable privileged gender status?

  31. 31
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Closetpuritan & KellyK – if there were a draft now, it would radically alter the culture of the military. If women are drafted, then the majority of men serving and training with them will also be draftees, not men trained within the current military environment. Not to mention that if women are truly drafted on an equal basis, then half of all fellow draftees will be women. So I don’t think it’s valid to just assume that drafted women will face a comparable risk of rape to what enlisted women face now (which isn’t to say that it’s not going to still be a problem, of course. Just that I think it’s not as simple as saying “drafting women is drafting more fodder for the rapists”.)

  32. 32
    KellyK says:

    But it’s a pretty weak special pleading to say that because there’s a differential risk of something bad happening to you, your group ought to be privileged to not undergo service.

    I think it really depends on what the different risk is, and why it exists. “I’m more likely to get shot because I’m a bigger target than that short, skinny guy,” is a different risk, but it’s not within the military’s control. “I’m more likely to be raped ***because service members who rape their female colleagues can get away with it and women are discouraged from reporting by their commanding officers and often it’s the victims who are discharged, not the rapists,**” is a military problem that the military can fix.

  33. 33
    KellyK says:

    Eytan @ 31, that’s a valid point. It’s probably impossible to really predict what the rape statistics would look like after a draft. It would depend a lot on what effects the draft had on military culture, what percentage draftees were of the overall military population, the ratio of men to women, etc.

    (I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it would fall somewhere between the current military rate (one in three women) and the current overall rate in the US (about one in seven). But those numbers aren’t exactly comparable because they are lifetime/career statistics, which don’t account for the fact that a military career is a lot shorter than a lifetime. Overall, that makes the military situation worse by comparison, because it’s twice the risk over a shorter period. On the other hand, a significant portion of sexual assault victims are children, which doesn’t factor into the military numbers.)

  34. 34
    Robert says:

    Here’s the problem with “if they fix it then we can be equal”: what if they fix it by making it disappear, not by making it not happen?

    There are two ways (that I know of, anyway) to mitigate the *perceived* level of rape culture in an organization. One, go through the painful work of addressing expectations and misogyny, educating people, promoting justice, having difficult trials and hearings where people’s loyalties come into conflict with new group ideals, etc.

    Two, put social, promotion, economic, and hazard pressure on women to shut the fuck up about it.

    The first one is hard, won’t work well (by which I mean it can succeed but only sometimes, rather than being a widespread immediate improvement in outcomes), costs a lot, and requires huge investments of political and career capital by a lot of people.

    The second one is pretty easy, works OK, is cheap, and is something that hierarchical, power-based organizations tend to be very, very good at.

    Now, I happen to respect the military as an institution and many of the fine men and women who serve as individuals; my dad is military and I grew up near bases and in military communities. But I have no illusions about human organizations, and the rape culture in the service is going to be something that is really hard to dislodge. It should totally be done; it is totally worth doing. But for a long time, every effort to take that first path above is going to transmogrify itself into the second path the instant people’s attention waver. And people’s attention will waver.

    So, practically speaking, you’ll have a situation where thoughtful, deep analysts of the topic will have some inkling that something isn’t right, but where the ordinary Joe on the street thinks “yeah that used to be a problem but it’s cleared up now”. And so the selective service requirement will apply to both sexes and women will go in and be subject to rape – only a lot of them will be going on fully convinced that things are cool now.

    It’s best, whenever possible, to not let ideals wait on conditions. Sometimes the conditions are better for the fight, sometimes worse, but if the fight is worth fighting, then have it regardless.

    And I can think of things a lot less likely help fix the culture, than an influx of strong women aware of the problem and intent on changing things. So if there’s a draft, draft us all and silence the people arguing that women aren’t really equal. That’s a case that’s harder to make when we’re carving out an exception because they’re women.

  35. 35
    closetpuritan says:

    Good points, Robert, although I’m not sure if I’m entirely convinced… Also, I wonder how much awareness the average person on the street has now that there’s a rape problem in the military.

    Also, KellyK, I think I agree that it does make a difference whether the problem is caused by the institution. I think it at least lowers the bar for how much of a differential risk there needs to be for different groups, before we start treating the different groups differently because of it.

  36. 36
    KellyK says:

    Two, put social, promotion, economic, and hazard pressure on women to shut the fuck up about it.

    So, exactly like what’s currently going on then?

  37. 37
    RonF says:

    Here is a discussion on this topic. The main thesis is that demands for “diversity” and “fairness” that have already been implemented in the military will keep MOS fitness standards from being based on requirements and instead will be bent towards “inclusiveness” and such. It’s worth a read, in my opinion, as it touches on how the political stances in government over the last 10 or 20 years have affected our country’s military leaders. Don’t forget that promotions to General officer (as well as the allocations of the military’s budget) are subject to approval by Congress. Every General is a politician as well as a commander, and thus political correctness has infected the military at it’s highest levels.

  38. 38
    Myca says:

    Ron, the link you provided is to the Center for Military Readiness, a homophobic organization founded primarily to keep gays out of the military. Their board includes such luminaries as Frank Gaffney, David Horowitz, and Phyllis Schlafly.

    This is like linking to Stormfront in a discussion of racial diversity.

    Regardless, it’s also just not a very good article.

    It has plenty of unsourced assertions, like:

    Since the stated goal is “set women up for success,” the answer will be “No.”

    Who stated this goal? With some quick googling, I couldn’t find it stated anywhere. How do they know the answer will be no? Are they just making it up?

    It does not matter what Pentagon officials and women-in-combat activists are promising now.

    So … Pentagon officials actually promised the opposite of what the CMR is claiming?

    This phrase, usually interpreted to mean a cohort of 10-15 percent, cannot be met with a few exceptional women who “only want a chance.”

    How do they know this? Citation?

    And it goes on …

    I’m not going to fisk the whole thing right now, but I think that a lot of this goes back to what Mythago and I were discussing earlier:

    Are you okay with different standards by age? If so, and if those standards are about ensuring physical fitness rather then particular job requirements, why are you not okay with different standards by gender?

    Finally, if your argument rests on how the top ranks of the military are full of politically correct feminists, you might want to adjust your tinfoil hat. Politics pushes both ways.

    —Myca

  39. 39
    Another Alex says:

    Are you okay with different standards by age? If so, and if those standards are about ensuring physical fitness rather then particular job requirements, why are you not okay with different standards by gender?

    You must see there’s something different about age? There are age limits on joining the military, and compulsory age limits for front line combat and retirement – which I don’t see anyone complaining about. There’s a natural and (actuarially) predictable deterioration with age, so you can require that people can do 50 sit ups today, not because they need it today, but so that they’ll probably still be able to so 30 sit ups in 5 years time.

    You get some very strange arguments from the “I don’t want some wimpy broad in my foxhole!!!!” crowd when you ask them why they’re OK with a wimpy middle-aged dude in their foxhole.

    You just don’t understand what you’re talking about. You quite simply wouldn’t get any wimpy middle-aged dudes, becuase they have to beat the standards set for the very youngest fittest woman in order to pass. As I recall the maximum age for enlisting is 35 and you have an 8 year service obligation – which puts the oldest people in fox holes at 43.

    Take push ups. A 56 year old man must achieve 20 push ups in order to pass, that’s greater than the standard required for even the youngest women. 17-21 year old women only need 19. Similarly, any woman older than 32 can pass on a standard, 15 push ups, that would make even the most elderly man fail.

    Take running. A 46 year old man must beat 18:42, that’s greater than the standard required for even the youngest women. 17-21 year old women only need 18:54. Similarly, any woman older than 27 can pass on a time, greater than 20:00, that would make even the most elderly man fail.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Physical_Fitness_Test

  40. 40
    mythago says:

    You must see there’s something different about age?

    Different in what way? The physical-fitness standards are not meant to measure whether a soldier is capable of doing particular jobs. They are intended to insure that soldiers are at peak physical fitness – and just as that is adjusted by gender, it is adjusted by age. Those general fitness standards are not requirements for a given MOS. What is peak fitness for a 40-year-old man is not the same as peak fitness for an 18-year-old man.

    You just don’t understand what you’re talking about.

    What’s next – I’m cute when I’m angry?

    The argument against gender-normed fitness standards is that they will affect military readiness, because a real soldier should be able to do X pushups and Y situps and lowering those standards for girls means incompetent soldiers. Yet we lower those standards based on age, and nobody complains that they might end up in a foxhole with some guy who is only there because he got cut slack on his fitness test.

    I notice that few want to admit that part of what’s driving the change in policy is that women are already in combat. We no longer live in a world where the battlefront is a clear line and we can keep the ladies well behind it.

  41. 41
    KellyK says:

    I notice that few want to admit that part of what’s driving the change in policy is that women are already in combat. We no longer live in a world where the battlefront is a clear line and we can keep the ladies well behind it.

    This, to me, is the biggest argument in favor of it. Women are already in combat and should be both trained and given career progression opportunities accordingly. That’s not a “PC feminist” thing, but a morale thing–treating people differently for performing the same work and undergoing the same risks is not exactly a morale booster. For that matter, if I recall correctly, haven’t women been injured *because* they were taken out of a “combat zone” to someplace supposedly “safer” that wasn’t?

    We also act like all combat is infantry combat, which it isn’t. How many push-ups does a fighter pilot, or a drone operator, or a ship’s gunner need to do to perform their job?

  42. 42
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Can we please please stop confusing the two types of standards?

    One set of standards is designed to make sure that people are RELATIVELY FIT AS WOULD BE EXPECTED FOR THEIR PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS. That set of standards is, unsurprisingly, relative. It’s designed to take account of the fact that 220 pound guys like me are slower than young guys (so we get a bit of extra time) but probably still much stronger than an average 120 pound person (of either gender). that’s not because I am more fit, but because I am bigger. But the RELATIVE standards are designed to make sure that “I am fit and he is fit and she is fit,” and that’s all they are meant to do. You can think of it as the “do you look like you live in Boulder?” standard*.

    The second set of standards are designed to make sure people are OBJECTIVELY FIT TO PERFORM A PARTICULAR SET OF TASKS. Those standards are (surprise!) objective. If the job requires “run a 6 minute mile” then there’s no exception for “…unless you’re old.” If the job requires “lift a 200 pound dummy and carry it up a ladder” there’s no exception for “…unless you’re female.”

    All men and women need to pass the relative standard.

    All people who perform a job that has objective criteria need to pass the objective standard for that position.

    This really has nothing to do with women specifically. It *may* have an effect IF the current objective standards were written on an assumption that only men would apply; it’s theoretically possible that they fail to account for certain things which would be covered by the relative standards: perhaps they meant to demand that you could do at least 3 pullups, but didn’t specify it because that’s already the minimum requirement for men. The chances of that are somewhere between “hamburger” and “starfish” though.

    *I feel unfit and slow every time I go to Boulder. That town is something else.

  43. 43
    RonF says:

    Myca, it was a link I came across that someone else linked to. I have never been on the site before (or since) and knew nothing of the organization itself or it’s members. There was no intent to offend on my part and I’m sorry if you were.

    I wouldn’t say that the U.S. Military’s General Staff is full of feminists. I would say it’s full of politicians. The military being what it is, you’ll get some crusty old salts in there, but they also know that they have to keep certain Senators and Representatives – many of whom don’t know much about the military and are hostile to it – happy. And there are times when the people wearing the stars, who are in fact people, not automatons, succumb to compromising their honor in order to keep their jobs (or their budgets).

    If the concept of a physical fitness standard is to ensure that people maintain a relative level of fitness, it would make sense to have them sex and age specific. If the purpose of the standard is to ensure that people can do a particular job, then the standard should be independent of age and sex, and it should not be adjusted in order to ensure that ‘x’ number of qualify as members.

    Yes, upon reflection a good bit of the assertions in that article aren’t supported by primary sources. That’s a fair criticism. And I don’t have any at hand myself. I’ve certainly seen articles on the milblogs that would support the thesis here with more solid stuff, but I don’t have the time right now, I confess.

  44. 44
    Another Alex says:

    Yet we lower those standards based on age, and nobody complains that they might end up in a foxhole with some guy who is only there because he got cut slack on his fitness test.

    Let me try to explain why they don’t a bit more clearly. If I’m a 21 year old killing machine I’ll be able to do at least 42 push-ups. If I find myself in a foxhole with a man in his mid-40s (itself very unlikely given the enlistment and retirement structure) he’ll be able to do at least 30 push-ups and will have roughly a decade of military experience. If I find myself in a foxhole with a woman, even if she passed the most demanding tests, she would need only to do 19, and may have no experience except basic training. I’m surprised you’re so appalled when people are more worried about being in the foxhole with the woman – it strikes me as the obvious reaction.

  45. 45
    Jake Squid says:

    How many pushups would you need your foxholemate to be able to do to be comfortable with them in battle? I ask because, as a 46 year old with chronic costochondritis, the number of pushups I can do is limited. I can do hundreds of hammer lifts with 3 pound weights, though. Not being military, I’m not sure what the ratio of pushups to hammer lifts is in order to achieve the proper fitness routine necessary to vanquish the enemy.

    I have fond memories of those old war flicks where two soldiers would dive into a foxhole and begin quizzing each other on how many pushups the other could do. Remember that one where the annoying little guy said he could only do 2 pushups – with his butt way up in the air, just terrible pushup form – and John Wayne screamed in horror and ran from the foxhole only to be gunned down by the Nazis?

  46. 46
    Myca says:

    I have fond memories of those old war flicks where two soldiers would dive into a foxhole and begin quizzing each other on how many pushups the other could do.

    I think that was probably my favorite thing about Saving Private Ryan – the opening scene on Omaha Beach with all of the Allied soldiers struggling to do pushups until they got ashore, while the Germans up on the hillside just did pushup after pushup down at them.

    I know it was hard for some people to stomach … those bulging biceps, that sweat and strain … but I think it’s important that people understand what war is really like.

    — Myca

  47. 47
    Jake Squid says:

    That right there. Just above this. That is quality.

  48. 48
    Another Alex says:

    How many pushups would you need your foxholemate to be able to do to be comfortable with them in battle? I ask because, as a 46 year old with chronic costochondritis, the number of pushups I can do is limited. I can do hundreds of hammer lifts with 3 pound weights, though.

    WTF?!? Why would you even think that’s a sensible thing to say? You’re a 46 year old, who can’t perform a basic physical exercise, and who has a chronic medical condition where patients are usually advised to avoid physical activity. (And, frankly, you don’t seem to have much in the way of critical thinking skills either).

    Jake, I hate to shatter your dreams, but you’ve absolutely no chance of joining the active service military. And I don’t think the army is unfairly restricting the opportunity of middle aged invalids with physical mobility problems from the chance to take up combat roles; I just think most people would recognise that it’s not a job where they’re best placed to succeed. I mean, fucking hell guys, you can’t all be this delusional…

  49. 49
    Myca says:

    Heya Alex.

    Now is the time on our day where we explain the moderation policy to you.

    There should be a link to it at the top of your screen, but since you seem to have missed it, I’ll link it here as well.

    Things in your last comment that violate the moderation policy include:

    (And, frankly, you don’t seem to have much in the way of critical thinking skills either).

    and

    I mean fucking hell guys, you can’t all be this delusional…

    Please don’t do it again.

    More to the point, though, the point Jake, Mythago, gin-and-whiskey, and I were making is that, except as a general measure of physical fitness, # of pushups performed has nothing to do with combat ability … especially since the military has position-specific requirements along with general fitness requirements.

    —Myca

  50. 50
    Jake Squid says:

    To be honest, AA’s response was way farther out there than I had expected. I had truly expected incredulity at how I couldn’t see the connection between push ups and foxholes.

    When your argument against women in combat has devolved to number of push-ups in foxholes, your position has lost all credibility and I become unable to take you or your argument seriously.

    (I’m unspeakably happy to know that AA understands costochondritis so very well – as in “What a bizarre and completely wrong way to think of it, especially given the embedded link” and appreciate the empathetic words)

  51. 51
    Another Alex says:

    Okay, just for clarity on the moderation, I can’t directly say that people are making statements that are ridiculous, but snide misreadings and indirect mockery are within bounds?

    More to the point, though, the point Jake, Mythago, gin-and-whiskey, and I were making is that, except as a general measure of physical fitness, # of pushups performed has nothing to do with combat ability … especially since the military has position-specific requirements along with general fitness requirements.

    Thesee are all wrong. (1) # of push ups are a specific not a general measure of fitness. Even if we didn’t catch Jake on his age or his diagnosis, his failure to do them would specifically detect his costochondritis and rightly exclude him from a position he has no place being. (2) # of pushups performed does have something to do with combat ability, it measures your ability to push someone or something. Please, no jokes, just have a quiet think about circumstances where a soldier might need to do this – there are a few. (3) The military expects a general ability to fight from everyone, which is what this test is for. It does have position specific requirements, but don’t dare try to use that as an excuse. If you remember what got us here, women in the military are engaging in combat regularly – even though they’re not employed in frontline ‘combat’ positions, if you look up the thread you’ll see that horse well and truly flogged. I think it’s spectacularly unfair to now turn around and say – well, this test should really be position-specific as they’re not in a role which requires them to actually fight.

    Lastly, I’d like to follow up the hilarious WWII skits by pointing out that the actual WWII Fitness Test expected the average GI to do 27 perfect form push-ups and that no more than 1% should be able to do less than 13, again, with perfect form. These guys (yeah, guys) could do them and took it really seriously.

    http://www.ihpra.org/1946%20Army%20Physical%20Fitness%20Test%20Standards.htm

  52. 52
    Another Alex says:

    When your argument against women in combat has devolved to number of push-ups in foxholes, your position has lost all credibility and I become unable to take you or your argument seriously.

    That wasn’t my argument. My argument was the effects of gender norming is overwhelmingly greater than the effects of age norming. That people get in under gender norming who would never get in under age norming – and when combined with retirement, service and enlistment ages there’s not even any effective overlap – the very worst men meet higher standards than the very best women. So the ‘why don’t you worry about middle age men’ argument doesn’t fly.

    But you saw your chance and started the push-up specific mockery and derail – too bad you hadn’t thought it through and didn’t make sense. If you want to do this again, but with running time instead, that’s fine. (Running time’s important because soldiers have to travel short distances on foot quickly, sometimes while under fire; if you have problems with your knees, but can slowly jog for quite a way, that’s probably not going to be adequate substitute).

  53. 53
    Myca says:

    I can’t directly say that people are making statements that are ridiculous, but snide misreadings and indirect mockery are within bounds?

    Direct insults are out of bounds. Also, it’s not up for discussion, just don’t do it again.

    —Myca

  54. 54
    Charles S says:

    “and when combined with retirement, service and enlistment ages there’s not even any effective overlap – the very worst men meet higher standards than the very best women. ”

    The first part is flat-out wrong, and the last part is misleading phrasing. The very lowest minimum standards men have to meet are higher than the very highest minimum standards women have to meet, but many women exceed the minimum standards for 36 year old men, and ~20% of 26 year old women exceed the minimum standard for 18 year old men. The minimum push-up standard for young men is the “good job” standard for young women. A female soldier with the “physical fitness” badge can do more push-ups than a male soldier who merely meets the minimum requirement. Describing this as no effective overlap is simply false.

    You can not evaluate population statistics by looking purely are minimum requirements. This is a blatant error.

    Certainly, there are plenty of young women soldiers who can do less pushups than the weakest older male soldiers, but the average US female soldier in 1988 could do more pushups (30) than the average US male soldier during WWII (based on your claim of 27). So the standard that should concern us for modern women is the standard we should be proud of from WWII? Was it easier to push a wounded fellow soldier out of a foxhole in WWII than it is now?

    20% of young women soldiers in 1988 could do more push-ups than 50% of 36-41 year old male soldiers in 1988. 40% of young women soldiers could do more pushups than the bottom 20% of 36-41 y.o. male soldiers.

    And, of course, as g&w points out, we are only talking about basic fitness requirements. If there are specific positions that actually require the repeat lifting capability measured by push-ups, than there is and will be a gender neutral requirement for that capability.

  55. 55
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Considering that there actually are women in combat, there might be some way to get information about whether they’re physically strong enough to do as well as men.

  56. 56
    mythago says:

    My argument was the effects of gender norming is overwhelmingly greater than the effects of age norming.

    And, as has been pointed out again and again, that is untrue.

    “Gender norming” in terms of physical fitness is to set the minimum level at which a person is considered physically fit enough to be a soldier. That level is adjusted for age and gender, and it is an aggregate score. That score has nothing to do with the requirements for a particular job.

    The reason the argument against women seems ‘obvious’ is that it ignores the realities of how the military measures fitness vs. job requirements, and is fixated on the idea that women are weaker and getting special treatment.

  57. 57
    Another Alex says:

    Thanks for that Charles. You’re right my phrasing was clumsy, I was just trying to reiterate the earlier point that – when combined with age restrictions – the highest minimum standards for women are far lower than the lowest minimum standards for men. I don’t think the pushup comparison works. If you look at the details it’s not like for like: WWII uses # in perfect form until you’re unable to hold a rest, 1980s uses # in 2 minutes. Everywhere I’ve read says WWII is more difficult, though I appreciate you wouldn’t have got any of that from the link.

  58. 58
    mythago says:

    “Everywhere I’ve read” meaning, what, exactly? The link Charles provided is to the US Army’s Medical Research and Development Command report. Where is the information you suggest shows that comparisons between soldiers in WWII and soldiers today is inapt? And I assume you caught the statement in the Introduction that the PT test “is not an indicator of job performance but rather a simple measure of the soldier’s physical fitness”?

  59. 59
    Charles S says:

    I agree with mythago, Alex. If you want anyone to believe that the form requirements for pushups were stricter during WWII than now, or that it is harder to do pushups without a time limit, you are going to need to provide better evidence than “everywhere I’ve read…”

  60. 60
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Sigh.

    AA, I direct you to post #42 because you seem to be confusing minimum fitness standards (which are RELATIVE) with specific position qualifications (which are OBJECTIVE.)

    You might pass the minimum fitness standards but fail the specific standards to be a tank gunner. You might pass the minimum fitness standards but fail the specific standards to be infantry. You might pass the minimum fitness standards for the Air Force but have insufficiently good vision to be a pilot.

    Do you understand how that works yet?

    If not: Surely you’re aware that only a tiny fraction of service members can pass the specific standards to be a Seal.
    That doesn’t make our standards wrong. It simply reflects the fact that “qualified to serve in the armed forces” and “qualified to be a Seal” are DIFFERENT THINGS.

    If women are serving in a position which has specific standards, that is because they can meet the specific standards.

  61. 61
    Another Alex says:

    Charles, I said if you read the details. Read them: 80s is until forearms parallel to the floor, WWII is chest touching the floor. Try it! I’ve just given it a go, I can do a bunch 80s style, but can’t do 1 WWII style without breaking form. Here’s an opinion:

    http://partners.nytimes.com/library/national/science/health/062500hth-men-fitness.html

    g&w. You see that if we accept that norming is ‘correct’ then a 18 yo woman who can do 19 pushups is ‘fitter’ than a 18 yo man who can do 41. Can you appreciate why some people may have trouble with the logic? I not being deliberately dense. Normally you would think, if anything, that more bodyweight is more weight and push ups would be harder for the man.

    And you say the fitness standards are normed – they’re certainly different – but can you demonstrate they’ve been properly norming by pointing to the calculations? The alternative is that these are being tweaked for other reasons. Now minimum height standards vary by gender, and height certainly ain’t relative, so there is form there.

    AA, I direct you to post #42 because you seem to be confusing minimum fitness standards (which are RELATIVE) with specific position qualifications (which are OBJECTIVE.)

    Positional qualifications are not objective. The most you will find there – as an aspiration – is that the DoD will look toward trying to make them gender neutral at some future point. In basic training, the only specific fitness standard is the APFT. If you want to be a ‘Green Beret’ you’ll be hit with further positional fitness qualifications, but these don’t exist for all the other MOSs.

    If women are serving in a position which has specific standards, that is because they can meet the specific standards.

    And conversely, there are women serving in positions which have no specific physical standards. So what’s the message there? There’s no objective standard of physical performance, you’re only expected to be relatively fit for whatever physical condition you were gifted with? That’s very different from the traditional view that the army expects every soldier to be able to fight.

  62. 62
    Charles S says:

    Fair enough on the difference between WWII and 1980s pushups. Googling WWII pushups turned up the details.

  63. 63
    mythago says:

    Another Alex @61: Fitness is a relative measure, not an absolute one. I don’t know why this is supposedly so counterintuitive. Try it this way: is a woman who is 5’10″ tall?

    As for the “traditional view”, you do understand that there are men serving in positions which have no specific physical standards, right? Does it not upset you that the military apparently hasn’t figured out that those guys should be expected to fight?

  64. 64
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    You see that if we accept that norming is ‘correct’ then a 18 yo woman who can do 19 pushups is ‘fitter’ than a 18 yo man who can do 41.

    Yup.

    Can you appreciate why some people may have trouble with the logic? I not being deliberately dense.

    Are you sure?
    Here, let me try this:

    Imagine that my 25 year old, 6′tall male friend trains until he can run a 6 minute mile.
    Imagine that my 8 year old, 50″tall daughter also trains until she can run a 6 minute mile.

    He would properly be viewed as being reasonably fast and in decent shape.
    She would properly be viewed as being crazy fast and in amazing shape.

    It would be perfectly reasonable to conclude that she is more fit that he is.

    Now: if he beats her time by a second, does he magically become “more fit than she is?” Of course not.

    And you say the fitness standards are normed – they’re certainly different – but can you demonstrate they’ve been properly norming by pointing to the calculations?

    It doesn’t really matter how accurate they are , so long as they are above the bar. Inaccuracy is fine unless you want to propose that the bottom of the fitness standards are actually producing people who should be barred from service. And to put it mildly: if you want to suggest that all of the generals are wrong, providing that proof of inaccurate norming is your job, not mine.