With all due respect to the Marine Corps, “The Few, The Proud, The Gender-Neutral” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yet there is now a movement in the corps—even backed by some female jarheads—to require women to meet the same physical fitness standards as the men. In some respects, this is quite a laudable development, though we have to scratch our heads at how this is being reported by Marine Corps Times: “A growing chorus of critics” say that having two-tiered fitness requirements “creates a double standard and implies that female Marines are not as physically capable as men.”
What’s being implied here is a biological reality and one that’s not open to debate. With incredibly rare exceptions, women simply aren’t as physically capable as men when it comes to the most arduous tasks related to combat. But the standards aren’t just about biology, they are wrapped up in questions of what roles women should have in the Marines.
The corps had been the last holdout among the armed services, resisting political demands that women be allowed in combat infantry units. But last year the Marines finally buckled under pressure. So far, they have kept this transition from becoming a complete disaster by requiring that any women who serve in key combat positions meet the same physical fitness standards as the men.
In the year since the infantry was opened to both sexes, exactly one woman—Marine Pfc. Maria Daume—has joined the infantry via the traditional entry-level training process requiring her to pass the demanding fitness requirements, such as evacuating a 214-pound body while wearing a fighting load. (Aside from being obviously physically gifted, Pfc. Daume was born in a Siberian prison and was orphaned before being adopted. Everything about her seems exceptional.)
Despite the “growing chorus of critics,” the Marine Corps Times reports the corps has no plans to create a single physical fitness standard for all Marines just yet. Even though a lot of female Marines sincerely endorse raising standards for women, bureaucratic logic would likely dictate splitting the difference by easing the standards for men. Certainly women can make—and have made!—incredible contributions to our military, but war is dangerous business and survival often depends on the strength and speed of the soldier next to you.
So we salute Pfc. Daume, but as a general rule, female Marines will never be as physically capable as men, and the prospect of eroding standards to place women in combat situations will disproportionately endanger them. A generation ago, draft-dodging hippies asked, “How many men have to die for a lie?” We regret to say that the fact we’re now asking how many women have to die for one is not a sign of social progress.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard