Should men and women be held to the same standards in the military?
- The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program began during WW II and included hundreds of women who “helped test and ferry military aircraft around the country.” The members were officially recognized as Air Force Veterans in 1977.
- The new age and gender-neutral Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) developed in 2020 involves “six events to measure 10 fitness components: muscular strength and endurance, balance, flexibility, explosive power, agility, anaerobic endurance, coordination, speed, and reaction time.”
- Maternity uniforms were first introduced in the armed forces in the 1970s.
- According to the Department of Defense, in 2019, women comprised “20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps.”
- A Stars and Stripes/Smithsonian Magazine poll from 2019 revealed that women faced considerably more gender-based hurdles while serving in the military than men did, with “female service members and veterans...10 times more likely than their male counterparts to answer that they faced or witnessed gender discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual assault in the military.”
Requiring women to perform just like men is akin to asking men to give birth; both examples ignore the fundamental differences between each sex's bodies. Surely women can outperform men in many tasks and vice versa, so gauging abilities with one shared standard overlooks opportunities to assemble stronger teams overall.
Criterion distinction exists in medicine, as experts are aware 'men and women have different biological and physiological configuration, thereby widely differing in muscle composition and mass.' With known differences in design and development, it's no wonder gender disparity is evident in military training. Health risk factors and immune defenses vary with gender, and training styles aren't created equal for each body type. Professional sports and the Olympics acknowledge these distinctions with appropriately modified rules.
If non-binary strategies replace benchmark-based assessments, the burden ceases to fall on women to prove they have the same strengths as men. Instead, embracing variance can facilitate dynamic, complementary teams. Men show greater physical strength and speed, but women are more resistant to fatigue. Evolution primed women to excel in assessing people and environments, locating objects, and performing memory-based tasks, while men have advantages in navigation and spatial reasoning. Categorical evaluations allow for capitalizing on known areas of excellence. In football, various body types fill positions with specialties and are cultivated to form a rounded team.
It's common knowledge biological diversity is beneficial for survival. The population is undoubtedly extremely diverse, and to ignore the range of skills and specializations this can present in soldiers is negligent. As the nature of threats and warfare continues to evolve, the means of combating them should do the same.
The strength of the US Military is a direct result of its service members’ attitudes and abilities. Therefore, military requirements should apply equally to both men and women to ensure that this strength is upheld.
While some may argue that holding women to the same standards as men is wrong, this is not the time to be politically correct, as doing so could endanger fellow service members. As former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson argued, it may not be possible for a woman to “properly carry a 230-pound soldier with a rucksack and combat vest on.”
In most cases, “men are physically stronger than women,” as women generally have less “skeletal muscle mass” and overall body strength. For these reasons, women in the military may have to work harder to keep up with their male comrades, which is fine so long as all who are trained for their respective positions are adequately qualified.
Denying females because they cannot keep up with physical qualifications is not a sexist issue. There are many other reasons which could render one unable to serve, such as a disability or height and weight restrictions. These guidelines are put in place for a reason and also apply to men.
Arguably, having gender-neutral military standards can be seen as a victory for gender equality. Women have been filling combat positions since 2013, and when the Marine Corps increased its physical fitness requirements for combat positions in 2016, “both men and women” were disqualified.
Military service is undeniably challenging; however, strict requirements that prevent some from serving produce some of the strongest and bravest forces for our nation.