Last April, the Marine Corps announced that it would begin integrating female officers into its Infantry Officer Course, a monumental step towards allowing women to serve in front-line combat that would also open up more promotions for women, some of whom have been complaining for decades that prohibiting women from the front lines hurts their chances of moving up into senior military ranks.
As one might expect, not everyone thinks this is such a fantastic idea. In the latest issue of Marine Corps Gazette, an Iraq and Afghanistan vet and "combat-experienced Marine officer" makes the case that "we are not all created equal" and that "I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females."
Does that sound like "mansplaining" to you? It shouldn't; the vet in question is Marine Captain Katie Petronio, who argues separating combatants on the basis of gender is no different than other Marine Corps standards that discriminate based on height, weight, and mental capacities. She writes that "dismantling who we are to achieve a political agenda" is a horrible idea, especially since the advocates fighting for her rights aren't combat-experienced or even female Marines:
This issue is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS). Their mission is to advise the Department of Defense (DoD) on recommendations, as well as matters of policy, pertaining to the well-being of women in the Armed Services from recruiting to employment. Members are selected based on their prior military experience or experience with women's workforce issues. I certainly applaud and appreciate DACOWITS' mission; however, as it pertains to the issue of women in the infantry, it's very surprising to see that none of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change. I say this because, at the end of the day, it's the active duty servicemember who will ultimately deal with the results of their initiatives, not those on the outside looking in.
Why doesn't Petronio think her female peers are capable of front-line combat? It's not that they don't start out qualified; she's just skeptical that women can handle the physical and physiological pressures of combat over long periods of time. She's talking about herself: when Petronio was younger, she was a high-ranking officer and hockey player who was able to squat 200 pounds at 5'3'' inches. But after spending time in Iraq and Afghanistan, she developed restless leg syndrome, muscle atrophy, and messed up her agility overall. Stress and deterioration affect men too, she says, but the toll is much harder on women:
Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven't even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.
Although the title of her piece is rather flippant — "Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal" — her argument is worth a read. How about a rebuttal from someone with similar experience?
Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal [Marine Corps Gazette]
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