So When Are Women Joining the NFL?

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ISAF photo

A member of a U.S. military female engagement team in Afghanistan.

Should the National Football League allow women on the playing field? After all, they can kick and carry a ball, and professional football is one industry in which women are sorely under-represented, to say the least.

It’s not that likely to happen, is it?

The reality is Americans would be horrified to see a 220-pound strong safety drive over a female wide receiver running toward the goal line. There’s simply too great a disparity in body mass and strength between NFL players and women, and the physical demands are too great.

Amazingly, what is common sense on the football field has now been completely abandoned on the battlefield.

With the Pentagon’s recent announcement that combat positions will be open to women, we see the latest misguided effort to achieve “equality” where it cannot be achieved—and it may cost military women in the long run.

Women have long served in support of combat missions, frequently near the front lines. As a woman and a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps, I know first-hand how difficult combat field operations are.

I carried in excess of 100 pounds of gear over difficult terrain for 10-15 mile marches throughout my 20-year career. This was done only with an M-16 rifle or pistol, not with the additional ammunition or heavier weapons our ground units carry. The fatigue was extreme and it was difficult to imagine how an infantryman overcame the difficulty of field movement for weeks or months at a time.

Under current policy, women in the Marine Corps are held to a less-rigorous physical standard due to the obvious physical differences. It’s a physiological fact that women have less upper body strength compared to men—yet the physical demands of combat won’t change.

Currently, women have higher rates of discharge for medical disability that prevents them from finishing their enlistment, or re-enlistment. Stress and muscular deterioration in women comes on faster and harder due to the heavy gear and physical duress in the field environment.

Muscle atrophy, hip displacement, and arthritis in knees and joints are common ailments. Spinal compression occurs from long periods of heavy combat loads.

This is the hard reality of how extended field time and intense physical standards take their toll. Women’s bodies simply aren’t designed for the fatigue of field operations with heavy field gear and weapons on less muscular body frames. (For an example, read this eye-opening article by Captain Katie Petronio, who details the long-term physical damage she endured supporting Marine Corps infantry as a combat engineer).

Sure, a small number of women will meet the requirements and complete training. How will combat units adjust for these statistical outliers? What is reasonable accommodation when it comes to showering or relieving oneself?

Even our civilian society allows for non-compliance when an accommodation requires unreasonable demands upon the employer. (The elephant in the room in the question of sexual abuse, which is already a seriously and heavily-documented problem in the services; it’s hard to imagine how this new policy won’t exacerbate that problem.)

The bitter irony is that the long-term effect of this policy, which is intended to open up avenues for higher promotion to women, could result in fewer military opportunities for women.

If this is about promotional opportunity (and there are female generals in fields outside of combat arms, by the way), then each field should be evaluated to ensure promotional opportunity is balanced fairly for women. This is a more practical adjustment than to simply remove restrictions. Women are often promoted faster than men in the fields they are assigned.

Are we setting a woman up for failure by placing her into a field that will likely cause her body to deteriorate to a point where further service is impossible? Even if a female can get through Infantry Officers’ Course, which has a single physical standard for both men and women — and a 25% male drop-out rate — how long can her body meet the demands of the extreme training?

The odds are remote that any woman in a combat position will make it 20 years to see the opportunity to retire, let alone be considered for the rank of general officer.

Many of the advocates of this policy had support roles that never required them to sleep in mud, bathe without privacy and relieve themselves in the open.

It’s alarming that women from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, former officers who flew planes, or a few females who supported infantry for a few months as Female Engagement Teams in Iraq, have adopted a shallow “You go, girl!” mindset. These advocates, to say nothing of the media cheerleaders and others who have never served and are now celebrating this policy; have never met the rigorous requirements of the infantry themselves.

There is zero evidence this new policy will enhance combat readiness. The attitude that all military opportunities must be equal — held by those who have misconceptions about the realities of long combat operations — demonstrates how few people understand what the mission of our infantry truly requires.

Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), is a member of the Concerned Veterans for America’s organizing committee.

40 comments
catechumenlinus
catechumenlinus

So when are women joining the draft?

Thank you Jessie Jane Duff.

GloriaHiggs1
GloriaHiggs1

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DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

All of these folks here crying about women in the military and not one of them bother looking at the facts.  Man, if I were a woman, I'd be wondering what kind of sexist drug they're on!

What's the difference between a 150 LB woman and a 150 LB man in combat capability?  None.

How many nations have ever lost wars because of women in the military?  None.

How many wars have U.S. women fought in and died?  ALL OF THEM.

How many militaries have seen effectiveness and efficiency drops because of women in the combat ranks?  None.

In short, having women in combat will have no effect on the military's ability to carry out its assigned duties.

So what it boils down to is these people are saying that it's okay to send men off to fight and die but it's not okay to send women off to fight and die.  Men, therefore, are the disposable gender.  Considering almost all of the objections to women in the trenches with men come from the right-wing, one wonders if maybe they will think twice about starting unnecessary, ill-planned and badly executed wars with other countries.

UnclePhil
UnclePhil

Women in combat, giving fighter jets and tanks to Egypt as they imprison Christians, I just don't understand our military decision-making these days.  Perhaps sequestration and resulting DOD budget cuts will help.

OrpheliaEvony
OrpheliaEvony

OK, Here's the whole nut shell boiled down to one peanut.  Women have their own tees in golf.  Why is that?  Well to even out the game cause of the difference in physicality.  Women have their own competitions, like in the Olympics.  You dont see women competing with men in any track and field competitions.  Why is that?  Cause they will lose everytime.  They wouldnt ever medal.  Its not women's fault.  It's just the way nature made it.  Only one problem for women in combat.  There aren't women's tees.  End of debate.  So before yall want equal rights on the battlefield or Political correctness with bullets flying over your heads.  Elliminate the womens tees, start competing heads up with men in sports where there isnt a need for physical strength like bowling or billiards.  Even those non contact sports have women competing with their own sex.  I am 100% positive, if a woman was capable of throwing a 100MPH fastball and a 4 ft curve that broke across homeplate, she would be wearing a sports bra and pinstripes on the mound in Yankee Stadium.  So quit being stupid, no sane person wants to fight in combat and women wanting this just shows you how crazy yall have become.

USMCVet
USMCVet

The whole idea of adding young women to infantry units is ridiculous: combat is organized murder and it's hard enough to get our young men to reliably kill people (and then stop after they've begun) much less get women to do it. Combat is not like movies or video games or anything else people experience. War has not changed. Study what happened at Tarawa or Aachen, or Iwo Jima or Hue City and you'll get some idea. Adding young women will introduce the sexual dynamic as well and instead of teams of young men supporting each other in the fight, you'll have young couples worrying about each other at the expense of the team. You'll also have many more resentful men who don't have a partner. The result will be a corrosive environment for morale when things are already as bad as they can get. Warfare is not the environment for social experimentation or fantasies about how we have "evolved": it's about winning the war and getting back home. All of you who are so firmly for adding women to the battlefield do so because you are sure that these will be somebody eles's children, not your own.

gwpelham
gwpelham

When will they let white folk play in the NFL would be a more interesting question. Remember all the discussions regarding de facto discrimination back in the '60s? If my  recollections are correct, the second generation of civil rights leaders made their bones fighting de facto discrimination. It would be interesting if someone applied the same standards to the NFL. 

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

The right wing loves football analogies, which as here, make no sense.  My first thought reading of 220 lb. linebackers as similar to combat soldiers was the diminutive average Viet Cong and even the average 18-25 yr. old US grunt.  It might also be noted that the Soviet military throughout it's history had equal service by women, and that army defeated the Nazis.  Some interesting but arguable points were made, but the author lost credibility with me with the silly NFL comparison.  Marine JCS member James Amos recently also came out with the predictive right wing view against equal service for women, as he did against repeal of DADT.   The right wing is useless in analyzing any form of progress.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

WSJ - Ryan Smith: The Reality That Awaits Women in Combat

The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.

Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face.

During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.

Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.

When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323539804578260132111473150.html

RobertMcMahon
RobertMcMahon

The overarching point is that the people who think this is a good idea - even the women combat pilots - have little to no experience living and breathing ground-combat operations as a "grunt". And I will go a step further and say that whoever the civilians are who are cheer-leading this dysfunctional idea, would never let their sons, much less their daughters serve in the US military under any circumstances!

GySgt. Duff makes several excellent points that anybody with a passing knowledge of infantry and Special Ops combat would appreciate, being a Grunt is putting yourself "out there". Anybody remember those scenes from "Saving Private Ryan" that Steven Spielberg filmed so meticulously - landing on a beach is not an "Outward-Bound" self-actualization day-trip of Team-building. Jumping from a plane at 500 feet is an adventure and takes courage! Jumping from that plane at 500 feet, landing hard, getting up to kill the man running at you in the dark requires a Jesuit's belief in one's self, a caveman's tolerance for pain, and the strength of an NFL defensive-back.

Ladies anytime you feel the need to volunteer for combat, go into your back-yard and dig, with a shovel, a 5x5 hole; ask a girlfriend to help you. Do it in less than 2 hours. Fill it quarter of the way with water and then prepare to sleep in it overnight without getting out of it - yeah, you heard me; without getting out of it. Around 3 in the morning have a neighbor shoot fireworks at you and then have their 2 teenage sons "attack" your fighting-hole. Your only job will be to stay in the hole; their job will be to pull you out. See how that goes. Welcome to an infantry expectation.


SarahConfran
SarahConfran

While I agree with this article I must point out that there is a difference between saying "you must meet x requirements to serve in combat positions" where x requirements cannot be met by 99.9999% of women then saying "only men who meet x requirements can serve in combat positions". I support the lift of the ban on women in combat but don't support a woman actually going to combat, however if a woman strong enough to meet the requirements wants to so be it. 

Jangocat
Jangocat

Thank you Ms Duff and thank you for your service. This is the first common sense article I've seen on this issue. You're NFL analogy is spot on. Taking it further there isn't a single physically demanding sport then women can compete with men. All you have to do is look at the Olympics. Comparing the same sports the men are always bigger, stronger and faster. All the political correctness in the world can't change 250,000 years of evolution. Men and women are different, that's just the fact of the matter.

That being said there are plenty of roles in the military women can be valuable and excel in. But if they insist they want to be front line grunts in combat then they need to pass the exact same physical tests as the men. No more dumbed down physical tests. Of course then as you point out, their bodies will break down early. I'm not sure that's good for the woman, or the insurers and taxpayers who will have to pay for their future medical costs.

VincentLovece
VincentLovece

While political equality is important, one cannot apply absolute equality where nature itself has made people different. If there is a complaint, it would have to be with nature itself. Men and women, and for that matter, most terrestrial male and female vertebrates have evolved differently. It isn't just humans: lions, cattle, gorillas, crocodiles, and countless other species have males simply be larger and stronger than the females. When it comes to 90% + of jobs, this makes no difference, especially in a knowledge-based economy. The problem is, the military requires tremendous physical prowess, not unlike professional sports. While there will always be a place for women in the military, putting them in front line combat on the ground is not the answer, especially when there are so many other jobs they can fill: pilots, drone operators, medics, drivers, etc.

This is going to lead to a large number of injured women, horrible abuses, and all sorts of other atrocities that will happen. The military operates on a different basis than civilian society does, and captured women prisoners will be subjected to things that males would not normally be, especially considering the nature of the enemies America goes up against. The point is this: while equal opportunity is important, that by no means gives equal results. If someone is not fit for something, they should not be given that position. While there might be a few women who are qualified physically for front-line combat, other considerations will make this problematic, not the least of which is privacy, morale, and the very real and unavoidable specter of abuse from both the enemy and sadly, her fellow soldiers.


Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

Thank you Ms. Duff. Finally a breath of fresh air and truth in the fetid marsh of Political Correctness that many women have been sunk in, considering all the disadvantages to women of a rigorous male-dominated military life in units which would get along just fine without them, at least in combat units. I would certainly counsel any daughter of mine not to take such a course.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Everything evolves.  The military too.  More women would mean less of a lot of things (rapes, embarassing acts that men usually are involved in, torture perhaps).  Physicality is important, but so too are smarts, maturity, cool judgement.  And women are lighter, can fit in smaller spaces, make smaller targets!  I read last week that women are better suited to be jet pilots, I'm sure there are other places where they have advantages.  Time to move forward.  Standards do not have to be ruined, but they do have to make sense for the job.   As far as the Nfl, if there are any women who really could play I'm sure profit motivated owners will take them up on it eventually, if nothing else to sell tickets (Jets picked up Tebow it seems just to sell tickets).  I also like the absurdity of the argument that it will be bad for women to relieve themselves or bathe with men....I guess you never saw Starship Troopers to see how ridiculous that comment will be someday in the future.  The US is so hung up over nudity and sex.

Nick_F
Nick_F

this is stupid.


the NFL is private, not public. NFL can do whatever it wants. national defense is public, and any citizen should be able to volunteer to serve (or be considered for a wartime draft) in any position they're qualified for.

the pool of women who could be an infantryman is not nearly as small as the women who could play in the NFL. any CrossFit gym i've gone to has had at least one or two women who were stronger and faster than the majority of the infantrymen i've worked with over the last ten years.

just because she couldn't hang doesn't mean other women couldn't hang. and she keeps coming back to the idea that the necessary standards are going to be watered down, which CJCS (General Dempsey) has already said won't happen. if she's calling him a liar, that's fine, but otherwise she's ignoring the facts as they currently stand.

CJCS has also already said that they'll allow for noncompliance when the service can't reasonably accomodate. http://1.usa.gov/Wx1IHH and her saying it'll increase sexual assault is just her opinion -- plenty of people, including CJCS, who think it might help. http://bit.ly/Vrrv2K

>Many of the advocates of this policy had support roles that never required them to sleep in mud, bathe without privacy and relieve themselves in the open.

the two senior uniformed advocates -- CJCS and CSA (General Odierno) -- are both combat arms guys, who arguably know more about what it takes to be a combat arms guy than the author, who apparently served as a motor transport NCO and an Equal Opportunity rep. http://bit.ly/XiOyfA

DHMazur
DHMazur

Maybe the NFL comparison would be more useful if the only skill required in combat service was the ability to tackle.  But it's not.  In addition to physical strength and endurance, the job requires maturity, discipline, judgment, mental fortitude, and intelligence.  Opponents of this policy change don't seem to care if women might bring more of these qualities to the table.

Complaints about "standards" are also misleading.  Physical fitness standards now vary by sex (and age--does that mean older guys are not qualified for combat?), but there currently are no standards that actually measure what is necessary to do the job.  Until this point, the only standard in place was to be male.  Part of this policy process will be to determine what skills and strengths are necessary to do the job.

A former Air Force officer and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger" (Oxford University Press)

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

Women who can, and want, to pursue a combat role are free to do so.  Other countries apparently allow for this with success.  Are US women somehow different then women of other nationalities?  Me thinks not.  

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