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Topic: Women in Combat
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Robert Hansen

Posts: 11,345
From: Florida
Registered: 6/22/09
Women in Combat
Posted: Jan 5, 2014 12:44 AM
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While the title of this post might seem out of place in a forum about math education, the article is every bit about math education, or I should say, education politics.

As you may or may not have known, the military decided a year ago to open up positions to women by Jan 1 2016.

The only obstacle that remains now is what to do about the physical requirements of combat? Early last year, when this decision was in the news, I had a conversation with a female colleague, who, how shall I put it, is a bit sensitive on the subject of equality between the sexes. Nonetheless, with great courage, I broached the subject with her and it took the two of us, with our different life experiences (me being a man, her a woman), all of about a minute to conclude unanimously and without reservation that as long as women met the standards they should be allowed in combat roles.

Those in charge of the Marines seem to have had a similar discussion last year and reached a similar conclusion, sort of. They decided that if women are going to serve in combat roles then they must meet the same physical standards as men. Actually, they decided the same "minimum standards", which isn?t the same as ?same standards" (which I will touch on later in this post). But one area where this is very difficult for women to do is upper body strength. In the physical tests that all recruits must pass, upper body strength is usually associated with pull-ups. Because of this difficulty, women have never had to do pull-ups in the past, they have only had to hang from the bar. But in the past, women were also not permitted to serve in combat roles. Now since the may soon serve in combat roles it is only reasonable that they must also now do pull-ups. Not just hang from the bar.

Let me digress for a moment with my own personal experience in the military.

I served in the Army and there were plenty of women serving. I went through basic training and the obstacle courses and what not. And then spent the majority of my time in Germany, training in the field in a unit stationed on the Czech border (never saw combat). When it came to scaling walls and climbing structures, the guys generally lifted the girls up. This was fine for basic training and what 18 year old male is going to complain about having to help women through an obstacle course. Well, unless of course you are mired in a remote forward position in the midst of a war. Unless you are one of those people that believe the movies where sexy women beat up hulking thugs with their fists, you probably already know that the difference in upper body strength between men and women, is very real and pretty significant. A self defense instructor would never advise a woman to attack a man in movie fashion because it would be like a man attacking a gorilla in movie fashion. If you!
manage to survive, you'll come away with broken hands, arms and a probably a lot of other broken stuff. It's just physics.

Is upper body strength important in combat roles? Yes, very important, but not because of hand-to-hand combat. And it isn?t like a video game where you stroll around with a futuristic weapon and an unlimited amount of ammunition. Mostly you move from place to place over rough terrain with a lot of gear. Imagine moving everything in your house to a new house, across town, every month, without husky movers to do it for you. Even the trucks break down. There is a lot of hustle and bustle, wait, and then start the process all over again. Hurry up and wait they call it. Add a war to the picture and it?s quite a hassle.

I (and everyone I have met) are fine with women in the military and I am fine with doing the heavy lifting in the rear. Aren?t pretty much all (decent) men? But I would be more than just less thrilled about carrying on that chivalry in forward positions in the middle of a war. But, if the woman is up to the physical challenges, then by all means, have at it.

Back to the article.

So the high brass decided last year that women in the marines (about 7% of the marines are female) must meet the same standards as the men. The must do at least 3 pull-ups. And let?s talk about this for a moment. 3 pull-ups is the bare minimum standard for men. To max out your PT test, something most lean towards, you need to do 20 pull-ups (if you are a man). If you are a woman you can max your PT test with 8 pull-ups. When someone says to you ?same standards", do you generally think ?minimum standards"? I suppose many might without thinking about it. But if the average male is doing 15 pull-ups and the average female is doing 3, then it really isn?t the ?same standard?, is it?. If you are a man and your PT record has a 3 of anything on it, it really isn't looking to good for you at your next review. But let?s for argument sake, say the same minimum standard is good enough. And then let?s say that 1000 men and 500 women apply for 500 openings. What should be the determining!
factor? Physical readiness or sex? Mull that over.

You may have read recently about 3 women being the first women to pass the marines' grueling infantry course. They did it all, 80 pound backpacks, arduous marches for miles, pull-ups, sit-ups, obstacle courses, you name it. A 59 day course, which is a grueling long time at this level of training. Now that is some ?same standard?. To put their accomplishment in perspective, Out of 114 female recruits, 42 passed the physical requirements, 19 of those volunteered for the course, 15 of those followed through with the course, and 3 of those succeeded. Actually, a 4th would have succeeded except for an injury right at the end. Out of 266 men that started in the same class, 221 succeeded. I believe the number of women that have so far passed this course is up to 12 now, but I don?t know how many female recruits that took to get 12.

In any event, after a year of training, 55% of the women in the marines still couldn?t do even 3 pull-ups. I am not sure why this was such a surprise to anyone. Nor why this is even an issue for the women already in the marines. When they joined they weren?t permitted in combat and thus didn?t have to do pull-ups. They should be grandfathered in, right? Or is it grand mothered? So the brass have ?delayed? the 3 pull-up requirement. They want to look how they might improve the training they put in place. I don?t know what they mean by that. Steroids? And what do they mean by ?delayed?? Do they mean they have delayed the entry of women into combat, or just delayed the physical requirements that might save their asses when they get there?

And those 12 exceptional women that actually passed the same standards? They aren?t allowed in combat roles either. I know. That is beyond understanding. I get it that the Marines are letting women take the course as a trial, to see how they do. I don?t get it why after they pass such a grueling course, they are not automatically allowed to ship off with the men that passed the course. Well, unless that wasn?t their goal.

What does all of this have to do with math education?

There are times when the topic of education and standards comes up with associates that have not looked into these things in much detail. A lot of times, these conversations result from news articles like the lack of women in science and math or minorities in college, of course with very little detail or data behind the article. My associates will often remark ?I don?t understand. Equal standards mean equal standards, for all. Are these students making the grade but being denied access? What is going on?? When it comes to equality, they think as in the case of the 12 female marines who passed the infantry test. And 20 years ago, that would have been the first thing out of my mouth as well. That is essentially the first thing out of anyone?s mouth. Equal is equal, right? Regardless of race or sex or any other factor.

What they do not understand is that the political version of equal is very different from the constitutional version. They do not realize that the issue is not those 12 female marines who did pass the course and are denied access. It?s the other 200 that didn't. Again, they respond ?So what is the issue? They didn?t meet the standard. Right?? And again, I respond, this isn?t about the constitutional version of ?equal? it is about the political version of ?equal?.

Most people think the fight for equality is a fight for the constitutional version. They do not realize that the political fight for equality is very different. The political fight for equality is not a fight for equal standards regardless of race, sex or other factors. It is a fight for unequal standards with regard to race, sex and other factors.

The military brass started with at least a very poor semblance of equal standards. A very poor semblance in that, 3 pull-ups is hardly the same standard exhibited by the male marines now serving in combat roles. But even that very poor semblance of equal standards failed. You would think ?Well, case closed. They tried, and they should go ahead and let the 12 women that passed into combat.? And they might have just done that if these 12 women had been their actual issue.

The case is not closed because their goal is not to let 12 equal women into combat, it is to let 200 unequal women into combat. And to do that, they are going to have to lower the standards, considerably. And obviously not for men, but for women. And they will go through a whole slew of redefinitions of equality in the process.

Likewise, in the beginning, the fight for education was supposedly a fight for equal access to education. The end of segregation. And that is how the public understood it. That is always how the public understands it. And that battle was finally and rightfully won, decades ago. But did that victory satisfy the political groups? Of course not. Like the marine brass above, that wasn?t their goal. Their goal was political equality, and political equality is first and foremost about numbers, not constitutional rights. If a constitutional right might help their cause, they?ll use it, if not, they?ll subvert it. The resulting numbers from just equal access to education were dismal, like the numbers emerging from the marine trials, and since then a whole series of shenanigans, subversions and ?constitutional? fights have taken place. Too many to list in this post.

But the bulk of all those shenanigans took place decades ago, before ?our time?, for most of us. By the time I really got into studying education, it was already the fraudulent mess it is.

That is why this case of women in combat is so fascinating to me.

We actually get to watch this process from start to finish.

We get to compare the difference between constitutional equality and political equality and how you can?t have both in diverse society.

By the way, I like women in the military, and I doubt any 20 year old male disagrees with me. And other than my dated sense of chivalry, I am not against them being in combat, just not the ones I had to carry or wait for.

Bob Hansen

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