The Corner

Women and ‘Appropriate’ Combat Standards

The makeover is already underway. The armed services are “now developing gender-neutral standards for all of their jobs,” reports the New York Times, replacing the less demanding physical standards for women that each branch has been using heretofore (oh, you mean you didn’t know about those lowered standards?) with a single standard for men and women. The Pentagon “has vowed” that the new gender-neutral standard will not be crafted in order to make it easier for women to join combat units. If you believe that, you probably also believe that colleges hire professors on a race- and gender-blind basis.

Here’s how you create a single gender-neutral standard: You universally apply the existing one that was developed based on a sole criterion — combat readiness. What was wrong with the standard that men had to meet? Nothing, other than the fact that an insufficient number of women can pass it.

Here, via Canada, is the new language that will be used to package the standards lowering: 

“We did not lower standards,” reports a Canadian female colonel, who consulted on the gender integration of Canada’s combat forces. “We put appropriate standards on every job in the armed forces. It had nothing to do with gender. A lot of men can’t meet the standards either.” [Emphasis added].

Repeat after me: Not “lower,” but “appropriate.”

#more#Sometimes, however, such gender-compelled standards-lowerers don’t even bother with the window-dressing language. In 2006, the president of the International Association of Firefighters announced changes to the Candidate Physical Ability Test in order to, in his words, “increase the rate at which female firefighter candidates pass the test.”

The “a lot of men can’t pass either” meme is ubiquitous at the moment, and irrelevant. The difference is: The men, by and large, don’t sue, claiming that they have been discriminated against.

Equally irrelevant are the stories of individual acts of heroism by women pilots, photographers, or MPs. Without question, women can act with bravery, foresight, and tactical intelligence. The issue is their effect on maximal combat capacity when introduced wholesale into combat units. The overwhelming reason advanced for the lifting of the combat ban is to improve women’s chances of promotion within the Pentagon, by giving them the opportunity to show combat duty on their resume. That is a feminist rationale. No one has advanced the argument that all-male fighting forces have been handicapped in their war-making abilities over the millennia because they did not include women in their ranks.

Apart from the obvious problems of sexual attraction and rivalries while on a fast-moving mission, it is absurd to think that putting women into a group of men doesn’t radically change the dynamics of that group We obsessively celebrate “the sisterhood.” Strong women together create a special vibe and special power, we are told; thus the ongoing existence of all-female schools and clubs at a time when any remaining all-male organizations are in the crosshairs. The concept of male bonding, however, once glorified in epics and drama, is now viewed as simply exclusionary, of no value to society whatsoever.

Even before the integration order, other gender-sensitive changes are already underway.

General Mark Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that obscene images, songs and stories “will not be accepted as part of our culture,” reported the Wall Street Journal. The committee was investigating a sexual-abuse scandal at a Texas base. The Pentagon believes that binge drinking and vulgar images can be conducive to sexual harassment and thus should be eliminated.

Now I am no fan of XXX-rated magazines and I am by no means making an affirmative case in their favor. It could well be that eradicating all such testosterone-driven sexual crudity from military culture will be an unmitigated benefit and I would not mourn its loss. But let us at least note that bringing women into military culture requires remaking it — quite possibly, in this case, for the better; I don’t know, and neither do those who are reengineering it. It is, at the very least, ironic that we are requiring men to behave with more respect for female sensibilities at the same time that the combat gender-integrators are insisting that women on the frontlines will be and should be given no special consideration. 

Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its initial posting.


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