by Sofiya Ayupova and Arianna Sarjoo
In recent years the fight for gender equality has not lost momentum, with goals of equal representation and equal pay still out of reach. The question of whether women are fit to serve in certain branches of the military is hardly new. In December of 2015, the Pentagon lifted the ban on women in combat, opening up additional front-line jobs to them that were previously exclusive to men such as positions in the infantry and artillery. This decision was highly influenced by the social movement that continues to insist that women are capable of anything men are and sees any opposition to the statement as an act of discrimination. According to U.S. General John Kelly, current and future military leaders will face immense pressure from such outside groups to lower standards in order to accommodate women. At that point, the military focus will shift from effective to fair, compromising the welfare of the force.
Are women entitled to equal employment opportunities? Absolutely, but it’s not all about qualification. Physiological differences between men and women should be taken into consideration. Despite feminists maintaining that women are equal to men, science disagrees. Men carry an average of 26 pounds more skeletal muscle mass than women, not to mention their superiority in upper and lower body strength. While there are exceptions, the best woman will be no match for the best man when faced with the task of carrying a wounded soldier, at least 100 pounds heavier than her, off the battlefield. No one seems to question the requirement for men and women to compete in separate categories in MMA fighting and sporting events such as the Olympics. Performance will vary for the same reason, muscle mass and body composition. If the level of dedication was all that mattered, there would be no need for separation of genders. Hence it is not about sexism or oppression as it used to be not long ago, but about physical capabilities.
Needless to say, physical capabilities are not the sole factor pertaining to the female ability to defend in the line of fire. The stereotypical image of a woman includes a low tolerance for emotion and frequent outbursts, while the common man disconnects himself from emotion. Although society implies men have less feelings than women, this is simply not true. In recent studies conducted by the neurologists of Mindlab, to determine responses to emotional stimuli, the use of skin conductance electrodes measured the psychological responses in men and women. Scientists compared data obtained from the skin conductance electrodes to how subjects reported they felt. Men produced stronger responses to the visual stimuli than women did, however they rated experiencing considerably less emotions. This occurs because of society’s expectation for men to hide their emotions, however sensitivity is not synonymous with infirmity. From a psychological standpoint, women do not need to be protected from the horrors of war.
The human body can be trained to manage emotions, which is a vital skill to have when in the battlefield environment. However, the body cannot avoid the natural development of emotions. The Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy states that any and all relationships are prohibited when they compromise chain of authority or impartiality. Infusing army regimes with an influx of women will increase attraction between male and female counterparts. Despite Army Regulations, attraction is an innate emotion that is difficult to ignore. The mixing of men and women in combat may develop situations in which relationships potentially jeopardize the capability of the fighter.
The world today has made substantial progress with the concept of gender equality, but the fight for egalitarianism is far from over. Women searching for occupational opportunities are faced with sexist prejudices through a multitude of employment fields, however army combat is not a field filled with such prejudices. Fighting competence is not just determined by gender, but by a collective physical and psychological capability. While women do deserve equality in representation and salary, men are simply built better for combat than women.