American women have succeeded in their fight for equality in many areas of life, but they are still discriminated against in war. The U.S. Army follows the outdated rule that military units involved in direct combat consist only of men.
With the Army being one of the most rigid and conservative industries, it hardly comes as a surprise.
Fortunately, there is hope that this evidently unfair rule will soon be erased and American women will be given a right to kill and be killed, just as men have.
It all depends on Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who has to make up his mind in this matter by the end of the year. The majority of Army generals are in favor of the new rule and recommend that all units should be available to women, including the frontline units. This would give both genders equal chances to die for their homeland, or get injured and lose a leg, for instance, from a roadside bomb explosion.
“Eventually,” is what we should be saying. After all, we live in 21st century.
Unfortunately, there are still plenty of male chauvinists in the American army. The U.S. Marine Corps do not want women at all. In an experiment conducted by the Marines over the last few months to assess women’s capabilities in combat, they observed 300 male and 100 female soldiers during their intensive polygon training at the Twenty-nine Palms Combat Center in California, as well as Camp Lejune in North Carolina.
The experiment cost $36 million, and its report covered 978 pages after completion in September. The conclusions were so sensational and controversial that at first only a short summary of the report was published. As it turned out, women are worse soldiers than men. Male-only units were doing much better during their polygon training, in comparison to mixed gender units.
During the strict regime training, the number of female soldiers who got injured was six times higher than men. Females were also slower when fully equipped and could not fire their guns as precisely as men. When tested on M16 rifles, their level of precision was 15 percent, in comparison to 26 percent for men. Surprisingly, female soldiers were on average 14 kilograms lighter than men, but their body fat was four percent higher than that of men.
Personally, I think that spending $36 million and dragging 400 people through extremely exhausting polygon training was completely unnecessary. As a tennis fan, I was expecting this kind of conclusion, if not a more dramatic one. Last year, I covered the U.S. Open in New York for the Polish publication Gazeta Wyborcza, and had the opportunity to attend Serena Williams’ press conference. Her tough physical structure, seen live and up close, is even more intimidating and shocking than it looks on TV, especially as she chose to accentuate it by wearing a tight-fitting, leopard print outfit. I would struggle to imagine a more athletically impressive woman; she would make an impression even on a polygon exercise.
Why do I mention this? Some time ago, Serena boasted that her level of playing tennis is close to that of the male tennis players. This was questioned by a now-forgotten German tennis player, Karsten Braasch, who was ranked 203 in the ATP rankings at the time, and was also known for his fondness for cigarettes and alcohol. Serena agreed to play one set to resolve the dispute. Braasch had two beers before he played. He nearly managed to wipe Serena out, but in the end he won 6:1.
Coming back to the polygon experiment — it caused a massive argument within the Army. Rumor has it that General Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant, who has since been promoted to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended that women should not be recruited to Marine combat units, because soldiers’ lives are more important than gender equality. If female soldiers fire guns less precisely than men, the enemy has a greater chance of surviving, responding with fire and killing a Marine.
However, the Navy Department, which the Marine Corps come under, is in favor of equal rights. Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus said that mixed gender units would be more effective thanks to their versatility and claimed that even if women were a bit weaker, they made up for their weaknesses in different areas. Statistic data, according to Mabus, did not really matter, because only the best of the women would be joining combat units, and not the statistically average ones.