This isn’t what we normally think of as an increase in justice and righteousness in society but it is indeed so – the US Army is to bias its fitness standards against women. It is going to do this by insisting that men and women be able to meet exactly the same standards. Obviously enough, in logic, demanding equal standards is not bias but that’s not the way that gender works in the current world. That fewer women pursue the top jobs and thus fewer get them is taken to be bias rather than that fewer so pursue. That there are fewer female engineers is apparently bias while the personal choices that lead to more female nurses is not.
The Army has, for some years now, been running gendered fitness tests. This is to stop and all will have to take and pass the same standards:
But change has come. The Army is developing a new, more grueling and complex fitness exam that adds dead lifts, power throws and other exercises designed to make soldiers more fit and ready for combat. “I am prepared to be utterly embarrassed,” Sampson said on a recent morning, two days before he was to take the test. Commanders have complained in recent years that the soldiers they get out of basic training aren’t fit enough. Nearly half of the commanders surveyed last year said new troops coming into their units could not meet the physical demands of combat.
So, what’s the solution?
Reaching the new fitness levels will be challenging. Unlike the old fitness test, which graded soldiers differently based on age and gender, the new one will be far more physically demanding and will not adjust the passing scores for older or female soldiers.
We’re a sexually dimorphic species, the male and female physiques differ. Of course, there are women who can pass high and strict fitness tests. But there are fewer of them than men at any particular standard. Which is why the older tests were gendered. Women had to meet a good standard for women, men for men.
So, now think of this from the viewpoint of the Army. Great societal pressure to open up all jobs to all and any gender. It might even be that’s righteous too. But that did mean that the tests for women concerning lifting and hauling had to be different. Otherwise there simply wouldn’t be enough women who could pass them to get to anything like equality.
When female roles didn’t include frontline combat then this wasn’t that much of a problem. For it’s that frontline where the specifics of military style fitness really matter. Military bakers – if those still exist – don’t need to be much fitter than civilian bakers, so too company clerks. The peeps who carry rifles into enemy firing range, they do. But now all roles are open to women, including those infantry ones carrying 60lbs for 20 mile marches and so on.
So, what to do? Politically it’s simply not possible to just insist that women must meet male standards. Not just by saying that that is. But if we rejig the entire fitness concept, make sure that we really are testing just those things that really are needed – then insist upon gender blindness. Well, then we’ve solved our problem.
Given the sexual dimorphism this is indeed, by today’s standards, a bias against women. But then this is also one of those times when such bias is necessary, excellent even. It’s entirely true that fewer women will pass them than the old but that’s part and parcel of the price of opening up all jobs to all. All must be able to meet the physical demands of the job.