The US Marines stopped a crucial part of their fitness test after more than half of female recruits failed it. Now they plan to make it easier. That’s a disgrace for every truly fit woman.
I don’t doubt that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta a year ago had the best intentions when he announced that by 2016 women shall be eligible for full combat duty.
This, equality and all, of course also included elite units like the US Marine Corps, who are notorious for their very high standards. You, after all, don’t get elite if you don’t require recruits to be the fittest and toughest.
Sensing Panetta’s decision, and trying to keep their high standard up, the USMC already in 2012 announced that by January 2014, female recruits would be required to do the same as male recruits do as part of their annual fitness test: a minimum of three pull-ups from a dead hang or you fail.
To truly drive the point home, they even put together neat videos explaining pull-ups:
I can’t argue with that. Pull-ups are among the best exercises you can do for your back.
Can I Just Hang Here?
Fast forward to January 2nd, 2014, when officers from the Marines’ Parris Island boot camp had to reveal that 55% of the women still couldn’t. More than a year to prepare, and the majority of women seeing themselves as combat-ready by 2016 still can’t do a measly three pull-ups.
So what does the USMC do? Fearing that they’ll lose the majority of their female recruits, they “indefinitely” changed the requirement. Women will only have to hold the chin above the bar for 15 seconds. For any fit woman – 45% passed the test, after all – that is a true disgrace.
“Ever Mistaken For A Man?”
In general, women are physically weaker than men. But they can be a lot stronger than those 55%, of whom I ask myself if they truly took this serious. If the USMC keeps its high standards, fewer women may be able to join, but those that do will be fully as capable as any male soldiers. It reminds me of this scene from the movie Aliens:
The tough actress is Jenette Goldstein. She did these pull-ups for real, because she prepared for playing a Marine in a movie. And I personally know enough women who put the same will into mastering the pull-up and eventually did.
“You Are Here Because You Are A Woman”
But for a real soldier, especially one in an elite unit getting into the toughest situations, upper body strength is not mere fun or show. You have to climb walls, carry heavy equipment or cover fellow soldiers. In short, your physical fitness plays a big part in you and others making it alive out of dangerous situations. Anyone who doesn’t take this serious has no room in a combat unit, no matter if it’s a man or a woman.
Worse, making it easier for women sends the wrong signal. If the standards are lowered, the women who did their utmost to be as fit as possible will be pigeonholed with those who couldn’t be bothered: oh, she is a Marine because she got it easy.
Picture courtesy of Tyler J. Bolken, U.S. Marine Corps.