Should “Men Are Stronger” Bar Women From Combat Roles? From Male Matters USA

Should “Men Are Stronger” Bar Women From Combat Roles

This is a blog post from Male Matters  originally posted in 2012. This site is a men’s rights website and discusses the controversy of women in combat. While the argument is for women in combat there are a few details it ignores. Then there is the issue of feminism versus the backlash men’s rights movement. This post does point out the inequality facing women who seek combat jobs, but their cause is not for social justice. The men’s rights movement is a reactionary backlash to the women’s rights movement and feminist movement. Feminism used to be about gender equality, but third wave feminism has embraced a more extremist tone. The men’s rights movement does have a legitimate argument that their is inequality in terms of alimony, child support, divorce, and the draft. Yet,  their agenda is to revert social and political relations back to a time in which men had the much of the power. The existence of this men’s rights movement  came about when male supporters of feminism became disillusioned with the movement. The movement stated in the 1970s with the men’s liberation movement breaking into two factions : one being pro-feminist and the other being opposed to feminism. This movement has at times attracted  misogynists and extreme far-right supporters.  There should be at this period in history a sex equality movement in which men and women create a balanced and healthy society. The men’s rights movement and third wave feminism has created an atmosphere of gender antagonism. When the subject of sex is discussed in terms of  military combat it causes much disagreement. Biology and specifically sexual dimorphism is used as a justification for why women should not be allowed in combat. The writing does reveal why this is a fallacy in a logical manner. However, the reason the author argues this is not for equality, but for the idea that women some how are “privileged” by not being required to do military conscription.

       The typical conservative argument is that women are too weak for the rigors of combat. This assumes that every man is stronger than all women. This obviously is a mathematical impossibility. There are women of considerable physical strength that easily pass the physical requirements. The author mentions Jill Mills the World’S Strongest Woman Champion, Joannie Lauer (Chyna),  and Cythia L. Morrison.

Nadezhda Evstyukhina an Olympic weightlifter would probably not have difficulty performing a casualty drag. These women certainly are stronger than many men. The author then comes to the conclusion that “men are stronger than women” must be rephrased. The strongest men will be stronger than the strongest women is a more accurate assessment. Cherl Haworth would never be able to  out lift her male counterparts, but she could literally lift men over head. Many women now are no longer afraid to engage in exercise and to become strong. While it is true that there are women capable of doing combat jobs these women are above average. The typical female athlete would probably be stronger than the majority of average women. The strength and muscles they have were acquired through years of training  and diet. Jenny Arthur just did not one day become an Olympic champion with minimal effort.

Women because of their endocrinology and hormones may find it more difficult to develop strength. The muscle tissue and cellular structure of both men and women is the same. The difference in testosterone means men’s potential for muscular hypertrophy is greater. Larger bones, tendons, and ligaments gives men the advantage when marching under load. Combined with combat gear, soldiers will have to use more of their physical strength. Strength is not the only element of physical fitness. Aerobic capacity and endurance are essential is physically demanding occupations. Women have smaller hearts and lungs which means their aerobic capacity would be lower. The size of the pelvis effects running speed. Women are know to have higher rates of musculoskeletal injuries in the military. This problem is partly solved by improvements to combat gear to fit the female frame and women training before entry. Doing this will help women be successful. Increasing aerobic capacity may be more difficult than increasing muscular strength. Intense training does not increase the size of the heart or lungs in women. There is obviously overlap in the spectrum of possible recruits, however even men and women of the size height and weight, me still have more upper body strength. Broader shoulders allow for more muscle to housed  on the upper body.

Women have higher fat levels yet this does not contribute to an advantage in physical fitness. Type II muscle fibers are critical for explosive power. Even the most muscular woman will still have a higher body fat percentage than her male counterpart. This does not contribute to the physical strength of the body, rather it seems to be dead weight. Women weigh less than men, who are on average bigger. This explains the difference in weightlifting records. Men have more natural strength and when trained can gain even more. Women can benefit from strength training, but not reach male performance levels .

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What can be extrapolated is that women in certain combat occupational specialties may remain the minority. This is the case with other physically demanding occupations which include construction, firefighting, and law enforcement. The standards are not going to be lowered in order to accommodate a numbers target. The US military is looking for women with the right qualifications. Lowering standards would only create resentment in an already hostile atmosphere and be an insult to women who can perform well. The author gets that point correct that standards should not be lowered , yet does not realize the challenge of prejudice and sexism. This is the part of the men’s rights argument that lacks cogency. The writer claims that “the men are stronger” concept must be overcome just like the “men are smarter concept.” The truth is both of these sexist notions have never been overcome. Women who are in the fields of math and science constantly face prejudice. Many times women have to work extra hard to prove they are capable. This is especially true in male dominated occupations. The frailty myth associates women as biological inferiors both mentally and physically. Challenging these anti-woman convictions will take time and saying that they are either gone or do not exist is simply dishonest. Women are different not inferiors. As it has been seen there are many female athletes who could meet the physical standards.

          The fixation on strength has forgotten the important aspects of combat. One could theoretically pass the fitness test, yet not be  a great soldier. If wars were conducted by doing obstacle courses, the world would be a better place. A soldier must be brave, calm, have the ability to adjust to unpredictable situations, and finish their mission. Being skilled with your weapons is also another essential aspect of combat. Hand to hand combat is used when you are either disarmed or weapons are simply not available. Wars are not won by physical strength. Technology and tactics have been the major factor in outcomes. Tanks, aircraft, submarines, drones, and guns make physical strength almost insignificant. Depending  on the military occupational specialty a level of fitness and health is required to keep up with a fast paced environment.

 It is clear who is stronger, but having the gun negates that advantage in a combat situation.

Technology has reduced some of the burdens. There are situations that still require hand to hand combat skill and fitness. Another argument against women in combat is that if they are disarmed they are completely helpless. If they are given the same combat instruction, then this will not be an issue. Martial arts like judo allow a smaller person to overcome a larger person. There is a belief that women cannot defend themselves or fight. If one examines the athletes of mixed martial arts this belief is proven false. The military is finally understanding the need to given women the proper instruction. West Point now requires women to take boxing as part of their regular courses. This teaches cadets how to throw effective punches and react to sudden attacks. Women face women in matches with some controlled sparring with male cadets.

There are also fitness double standards that must be changed to make sure women combat soldiers are up to the proper skill level. The decision to replace the flexed arm hang was an excellent one.  If there is a disparity in upper body strength women must focus on developing it. Pull-ups, push-ups, bench pressing and bicep curl exercises should be part of the fitness regimen. This will help in hand to hand combat. A woman can effectively fight if taught the right techniques.

         The other dimension mentioned in the text is about the military conscription. women still are at the moment exempt from the draft. Obviously, this is sex discrimination that is directed at men. If there are women who are capable of meeting demands of combat why would they be exempt from the selective service?There are very few feminists proposing to change this, but they are more than vocal in other areas. The fact is there is a faction of third wave feminists who may preach equality, but they want really want some advantages. When equal treatment becomes inconvenient there is a desire for a special adjustment for accommodation. If there is going to be genuine equality then women would have to register for the selective service. If advocates oppose this, then they clearly do not believe in equal treatment.

womensoldierweb  The dated belief that men should be happy to go off and die in war must be discarded. If it is the so called duty to defend the nation then it should be the responsibility of every citizen. Also, the government has the responsibility to avoid conflicts as much as possible with nations of the world. For too long the United States has used military intervention as a form of foreign policy causing instability throughout the globe. War should be the last resort in all cases. There is no force strong enough to invade or conquer the US even though pro-nation building and pro-war  factions make this claim. The problem with putting women in the selective services comes down to numbers. Given the physiological differences every woman may not be able to get past the physical fitness training. This explains why there are still more men in physically demanding occupations. There are sociological and environment based explanations ( discrimination,  sexual  harassment, and limited efforts for recruitment).  Women may continue to to the minority in such positions given the differences in anatomy, physiology, and endocrinology.

 If the average woman was built like this, their numbers in the physically demanding occupations may be higher. However, social barriers would still keep numbers low. 

However, all men may not be eligible for draft. Health conditions, physical fitness levels, and educational attainment are factors in which determine who makes a quality soldier.The American population does not get enough exercise for optimum health. Heart disease and obesity are becoming a public health crisis which also cuts out large portions of the population from military service. Education is also important, because the military requires that one has at minimum a high school diploma. If a person does not get a quality  public education or degree of higher learning, it will be difficult to function in a world that requires critical thinking skills and to mastery of technology. Reading, writing, science, mathematics, and a strong understanding of geography are necessities. So, if women have to register for the selective service their numbers may be comparatively small. Although weight training can increase a woman’s strength, it is clear women with mesomorphic body types would have an easier time meeting physical requirements. That means that there may still be positions that women are absent from.

The woman here is in great physical condition, but can still be susceptible to injury 

The possibility of higher injury rates could also be a problem. These can be resolved through better designed training regimens. Although women’s looser joints can make them more vulnerable to ACL tears. Stress fractures and scoliosis from too much armor and gear has effected many soldiers health after service. Besides differences in anatomy and physiology  there is also the problem of a particular mindset. Women either believe doing something physical is a man’s job ( lifting boxes or luggage , shoveling snow, or even opening jars for them). The assumption is manual labor is either beneath them or improper for a woman to do. Then there is an internalized belief that women just are not physically capable of doing anything that requires strength or endurance.As the female athlete has shown this is a falsehood. So, if  the conscription of women is to happen it should be asked what is the the extent to which you can physically train the female body to handle combat demands.

          The capabilities of the female athlete are extensive, but what are they for the average woman? Seeing as the natural strength ( strength levels prior to training)  are lower it would seem more of an arduous task. Women may not be able to acquire as high a level of total muscle mass due to lower testosterone production. However, this depends on genetics, diet, and training regimen. A woman of ectomorphic body type would find it more challenging to gain strength than a woman of mesmophoric  structure. Strength can still be acquired if an exercise regimen is followed consistently. It is possible for the average woman to gain at least 40% muscular strength from several months of training. Knowing this women may need extra training to build up the upper body region. Women have less total muscle fibers in this region compared to the lower body.

Mesomorphs do not have difficulty gaining muscle and strength when training. 

women do not have stronger legs than men, they are just closer in strength levels in the lower body. Women may require more time for  the physical aspects of training and may need a high physical fitness level prior to entry. Certain women just like certain men will have more potential and strengths than others. From a physical performance perspective women with endomorphic  and ectomorphic body types are at a physical disadvantage. This does not mean they cannot be trained or get into better shape. It merely means more effort will be required. Gaining strength require for a combat position is in reach, however cardiovascular endurance poses a challenge.

lifterThe pelvic structure of a woman will not change when women do endurance training. Wider hips do not allow for an advantage in speed. When examined from the aspects of the  heart and circulatory  system. Women who follow a training system designed for males may not achieve the same results in terms ventricular hypertrophy or increased Vo2 max. Aerobic capacity is only aspect of running performance. Lactic threshold and running economy  is pivotal . The conclusion of this is that women must have a running program tailored to them specifically. Solutions could range from taking branched chained amino acids, protein consumption,  consumption of carbohydrates during exercise, and using supplements prior to periods. This can help increase running performance in women. The average woman’s physiological capacity would be lower, which means there may still be a limited number of women in combat positions. There could be a possibility that women will still be absent from numerous military occupational specialties.  This further complicates drafting women. All jobs are not combat and others do not require as much physically demanding work. The fact is women are part of the US military and have seen combat even though they have not formally been given combat jobs.

        The United States has made strategic errors in waging endless wars. The result has become long guerrilla resistance conflicts in both Iraq, Afghanistan,  and Syria. Women who are a part of the US military have engaged in combat, because there no longer is a frontline. Terrorist groups and armed insurgencies do not recognize a frontline.

Continuing to ban women from combat would be impractical given the deteriorating military situation. Simply stopping qualified soldiers who could fight would be harmful. It would not be possible for commanders to stop women who are in these lands from fighting when under attack. The removal of the ban in 2013 was a strategic one to strengthen the US military. While the US can benefit from extra numbers, this will ultimately not help it in its military objectives. Nation building projects and regime change have tarnish the American image globally. The only solution to these conflicts is either negotiation or complete withdraw. Otherwise, another Vietnam scenario could emerge. Not realizing this could have a dramatic impact on the US and world as a whole.

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Statistics from 2014 of the total women in uniform.

Destabilization and tumult from warfare threatens civilization. Disorder, violence, and hate is rapidly spreading across the globe, which is why peace should be a priority. War should be a last resort only when security is deliberately threatened. Humanitarian intervention has resulted in deaths in Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Mali. The modern era has seen more women involved in warfare serving the US military. Since 2001 women have been growing in numbers in the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines. It is not realistic to reimpose a ban due to personal prejudices or unfounded trepidation in regards to women in combat.

       Physically demanding jobs and manual labor can cause strain on the body. Men who are combat positions do suffer injuries, but women have higher levels of musculoskeletal injuries. The reason is that the male body has more skeletal and muscle mass. Over weight gear puts extra strain on soldiers. There are efforts to reduce the amount of gear soldiers have to transport, which hinders both mobility and reduces ergonomic efficiency. Carrying over 100 pounds of gear can cause health problems and medical discharges. Muscle strain which is damage to muscle fiber could occur from over stretching the muscles. More severe cases involve ruptured muscle fibers. This can be avoided by doing simple warm ups before exercise or strenuous activity. It is still unknown how long term physical stress in combat positions will effect the female body. If predictions were to be made it would appear that majority of women would have difficulty progressing far. Another scenario is that a significant portion of women do well , but the US military has not made the proper human resources adjustments for a fully sex integrated  combat unit. Besides the physical threats to health, there are mental ones. Soldiers who have seen combat tend to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Without a social safety net veterans find themselves in poor health or in poverty. At extremes homelessness becomes a problem for many US military veterans.

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For soldiers with families this becomes more complicated. If both parents are overseas and suffer health issues both mental or physical their children will be in a vulnerable position. The US government has not done enough to address the health problems of veterans and the strain on US military families. Women are at a disadvantage, because they are many times ignored by the Department of Veterans Affairs system. The department needs to be restructured to address corruption, long medical appointment waiting times, and inadequate medical care. Women who are in physically demanding jobs have to work twice as hard due to biological differences. If health considerations are taken into account serious injuries can be avoided.

         If women can prove themselves capable it is assumed they will have full acceptance in combat roles. This is a false notion. The harsh reality is that even if women show they are capable misogynistic  convictions are still present. Just like the racist and anti-immigrant beliefs, hate is encoded in the DNA of the United States. The nation was founded by invasion and the theft of Native American land, then empowered economically by the enslavement of Africans. It will be many centuries before this shameful legacy ameliorated. Most men will never accept women as combat soldiers no matter how capable they are. Most white Americans will never accept African Americans or  any person of color as equal members of society. This hate continues in a covert fashion. The military like other institutions has a tradition of giving privileges specifically to white male Christians. The US military like other institutions favors white males. Women like other discriminated groups will have to organize to counter resistance to their presence. The author fails to realize how women are at a disadvantage in the US military. Sexual harassment and sex crimes are rampant. Most cases go unpunished. Coercion and threat to possible promotions are the reasons  why women do not report crimes. Fear also is another factor, which is used to control behavior. It is too late to stop women from entering combat positions, but that does not stop others from undermining its progress. The solutions to this problem require women to be in high ranking positions, so that there can be policy changes. Women should not seek to just be in subordinate job positions, but rise up to leadership roles. That should be the ultimate long term goal in  combat integration.

       Male Matters despite its claim of wanting true equality, presents a false image. Men rights is nothing more than a male version of third wave feminism that is nostalgic for the era before second wave feminism. The argument presented here is why should men have to do something dangerous that women do not? This question is legitimate although, when  proposed by men’s rights advocates it is asked for the wrong reason. The argument is constructed in the context of there being “female privilege.” Relevant to the discussion of the draft women would have some benefit, because it is men only who are required to register for the selective service. Congress has not tackled this issue and appears as if they will not be doing so soon. If feminists truly believed in equality then they would challenge the current selective service system. Women should register for it if  everything is to be considered fair. While far-right critics claim this is a social engineering experiment created by feminists, they have not been involved in combat integration. The major feminist organizations have done little to help women in the military or contribute to the process of full integration. The voices remain silent. This faction of third wave feminists really do not support equality, but rather special privileges for a woman who use the rhetoric of social justice. Mostly white women of the upper middle class, their desire is to have a white supremacist system work better for them even though their sex would be a hindrance in the societal hierarchy. They advance themselves at the expense of non-white women and the poor. Third wave feminism has morphed into this and men’s rights is merely the reactionary response to it. What should be happening is a sex equality movement that discards both these ideologies. The first step could be to use a institution like the military to open combat  jobs to women. One of the best methods to tackle the wage gap between the sexes is to have women enter male dominated occupational fields. Women have entered law enforcement, professional sports,  firefighting, construction, but the military continues to be the last bastion of what were considered “men’s jobs.” Once this dated concept is challenged only then will there be equality in the workplace. Like it or not women will play major roles in the military in the future.

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Should “Men Are Stronger” Bar Women From Combat Roles? From Male Matters USA

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