Ending Discrimination Against Military Men

Scott Faith at the Havok Journal has a solid point buried several paragraphs below some ranting about how women aren't forced to register for the draft.
Men and women are held to two different physical fitness standards–VASTLY different standards— yet we all compete against each other for assignments and promotions. I don’t compete against just the other men in my career field for promotions and career-enhancing jobs, I compete against EVERYONE in my career field. With the doors to combat arms branches and units being flung wide open to admit women, those women have institutionalized, gender-based bias in their favor when it comes to physical fitness standards as they join units that highly value physical fitness. They aren’t any more fit, mind you; they just enjoy a much better score on their physical fitness evaluations.

Because of their gender, and all other things held equal, female troops have an unfair advantage over men because a number on their evaluation will be significantly higher in physical fitness tests for the exact same quantifiable performance. And because the Army is an institution that values easily-quantifiable numbers over substance when it comes to promotions, women have a distinct and unfair advantage.

As just one example, in the 17-21 year old age group, the minimum passing score for men is 42 pushups. What is the maximum score for women in that exact same age group? You guessed it, 42 pushups. So in this age bracket, 60 points for men = 100 points for women. The bare minimum score for a male Soldier is literally the max possible score for a female. This would be the academic equivalent of giving a D-minus to a male student while giving an A+ to a female for getting the exact same answers right on a test.
Promotion points are a big deal, and physical fitness tests definitely influence promotions. You could easily see the opening of the combat arms to women meaning that women are promoted ahead of much more physically fit men, which sets up a dangerous situation in the field. It's already the case that your platoon sergeants, being E-7s, are going to be much older than the young men (and, I suppose, soon women) they are commanding. They're the ones with the experience to know what to do and how to do it, and to bring these young guys back. If we set up those privates with NCOs who are physically fragile by comparison, we are setting them up for failure. Failure means death. It could mean the collapse of the unit, too, which means that the whole infantry structure will be weaker on the "for want of a nail" principle.

Now, the counterargument -- which has heretofore held the day -- is that equality means making sure that women aren't excluded from promotion. If you really held them to the male physical fitness standards, only the women who could max the female PFT would even pass the non-gendered PFT. While being able to do well on the PFT is important for promotion, not being able to pass it on multiple attempts is grounds for dismissal. Accepting genuine equality of standards thus means accepting a lot fewer women in the military.

I don't particularly care about "fairness" standards -- I think men and women are too different for any talk of "same standards" to be sensible in any case. The other examples he gives -- women can have longer hair! Can wear earrings! Are sometimes excused from uniform standards! -- don't strike me as important, and I'm completely opposed to the idea of registering women for the draft. We don't use the draft anyway, and if we ever have a big enough war that we need to, our civilization will need those young women to recover in terms of population. Men are far more disposable on that score. That's not fair either. Life isn't.

The point about a sharply increased fragility in the NCO corps on the field of war, however, is really strong. That's a serious danger: to the soldiers, to the units, to the successful execution of tactics, of strategy, of national security. It's a change with the potential to be genuinely disastrous. At least for the combat arms, maintaining standards can't be done if existing lower standards for women are employed.

UPDATE: OAF Nation weighs in. An excerpt of the argument that I think strongest:
For some odd reason, the anatomical argument receives the least traction (maybe because it’s irrefutable statistics, therefore a buzzkill to the debate). So, I will play the game and abide, and get the anatomical stuff out of the way. It is truly the tip of an ice burg called the Musculoskeletal Injuries in Military Women , but consider these stats: the astronomical difference in reported pelvic stress fractures in male and female recruits (1 per 367 females, compared to 1 per 40,000 males), ACL ruptures in athletes (females range from 2.4 to 9.7 times higher), or trainees discharged from Basic Combat Training for medical reasons (12.7% females, compared with only 5.2% for males). These are only a few of the many findings that should obviously be considered.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Do the thought experiment of the combat unit in which all the members are female. It might have great leadership, great unity, camaraderie, skill, etc.

At this point in time, there are places you could not send that unit, because it does not have enough physical strength to accomplish tasks. You cannot swap it in and out. As robotics and physical assists become more common, making sheer physical strength less important, the equivalence will be greater. But for now, it just isn't. Calling things equal or wishing that they were or squinting so that they look equal result in overall failure.

jaed said...

On the other hand, the military traditions we have, have closely explored the strengths of men and of all-male units, and developed traditions and training methods optimized for bringing men to the highest pitch of physical condition.

We haven't done that for women. And we have very little idea, comparatively, of where the strengths of groups of women might be. It's perfectly conceivable that we might someday be talking about places and times where we can't send a male unit because it wouldn't be able to accomplish the task as well as a female unit.

The more I read about this, the more I become convinced that we need to spend less time thinking about "how to get women to 50%" or about how women "will never be as good as men" at the things men excel at, and much more time determining what methods to use to make women excel to the highest degree of which they are capable - in practice, by doing it, not in theory. And I'm not just talking about physical training here.

Grim said...

I'm not convinced that at least some women can't learn to do a lot more push-ups. I am convinced that they should be competing for promotions in infantry units on equal standards if at all. We shouldn't allow vastly lower standards to weaken the NCO chain in the infantry. It's absolutely vital.

You raise a point about women that is, actually, perennial: Plato made it, Averroes made it, and John Stuart Mill made it also. I'm not sure it is as good a point today. Women have been doing a lot of things for more than a couple of generations. The CIA is at this point largely female. There's a growing literature around it. You have to read it with care because of the Althouse principle (whatever journalists report that studies have shown about women has to make the women look superior, for example here). Nevertheless, they seem to be very good spies. I have the honor of knowing one of them, the heroine of Grenada, Linda Flohr. She is responsible for securing information about enemy gun positions, the location of the students, for getting them orange paint to mark their roof for the SEALs, photographs of the airport, and other things that made the mission a success. There are still today women who work with the Tier 1 units in various ways.

The Marines fielded FETs in Afghanistan for years. They've learned a lot of lessons about what women can do in those units. That tri-service study the UK did was very intensive. And we're in the business right now of trying the limits of women at Ranger School and BUD/S. So we're seeking answers to those questions.

Ultimately, though, this isn't a game. The survival of the nation and its ability to defend the territory in which it exists, as well as the lives of the soldiers we do send into battle, is deeply concerned here. This is a critical link in the chain. I'm not suggesting that no women can do it, but I am suggesting that any women who want to be infantry platoon sergeants should be held to the same physical standard as the men. I don't care if they let her wear her hair long with earrings. I do care that we take care to send an E7 strong enough to hang with the young soldiers who need her, or him.

Tom said...

If she's a special operations platoon sergeant, long hair and earrings would be a plus, but she'll have to work on the facial hair.

Tom said...

One solution might be all-female units maximized along the lines jaed suggests. Instead of Rangers or SEALS or whatever, create new units for them. (Of course, for the Army, maybe Ranger school should still be open to them, just not Ranger units.)

However, mission has to come first. Is there a mission women perform better? Some missions require women, as Grim has pointed out. But I don't know the actual answer to this question when it comes to combat arms jobs.

One of my main objections to women serving in combat arms was also my objection to opening military service to homosexuals: I don't think love and war should get mixed up on the battlefield. Unit cohesion will suffer.

All-female combat units could mitigate some of the problems, if that were possible.

Even so, the military should not be a social experiment. The fact that admitting homosexuals into the military and women into combat arms have both been pushed hard by the left, more than anyone else, doesn't speak well for either idea. The left wants to destroy the esprit de corps of our military because it is one of the last institutions that is not under their control. For me, that's almost enough right there to oppose both ideas.

Texan99 said...

It's not a social experiment to figure out whether you're missing out on opportunities to use the special skills of people you're not currently using. You're always free to conclude, after you've given it a thoughtful try, that they have no skills worth developing and are, in fact, completely useless.

Tom said...

I never said we shouldn't try to figure that out, and in fact suggested the opposite -- all-female units that tried to maximize female performance the way jaed suggests.

But, more to the point, no, you're not free to conclude that it didn't work, no matter what the results are. That would be sexist, homophobic, bigoted and evil-fascist-piggish of you. You'll probably end your career with your sexist, evil thought that the results objectively show -- wait, you believe in objective results? I'm sure that's something-normative, you pig!

Tom said...

Or, you know, when you suggest that what we have is working and it might be a bad idea to risk soldiers' lives trying out this kind of experiment, people will snark that you think women are completely useless, despite your previously stated position that there might be combat roles that women do better than men and that certainly some roles require women.

So, again, if you disagree, or even ponder aloud that it might be a bad idea, you'll be reduced to the most objectionable straw man of your argument and burned to the ground.

It's cheerlead, shut up, or you're an evil pig.

Cassandra said...

Unless I'm missing something, I don't find the argument that less physically fit women will be promoted because of the disparate PFT requirements for men and women (which I don't support, FWIW).

I looked up promotion points, and unless I misunderstood, you get a max of 5 for marksmanship and a max of 5 for PFT. Those get added, then cut in half. So if we take the extreme of a woman who gets 0 and a man who gets a 5, the delta will be 2.5 out of....????

Doesn't seem like a large influence to me.

The long term injury/illness/pregnancy/non-deployability rates make a far more compelling argument. I covered both in great detail a while back:



Some of the highlights:

2006 study:

Women had twice the risk of an injury and 3.5 times the risk of an illness, compared with men. Compared with other branches, combat service support soldiers had higher rates of injuries and illnesses.

2007 study:

In 2010, the hospitalization rate (all causes) was more than three times higher among females than males (hospitalization rate, overall: females: 147.9 per 1,000 p-yrs; males: 45.7 per 1,000 p-yrs); however, pregnancy and childbirth accounted for 58.6 percent of all hospitalizations of females.

[Editor's note: if we exclude pregnancy-related hospitalizations, women are hospitalized at a rate of 61 per 1000 p-yrs vs. men at 45.7]

The rate of hospitalizations for conditions not related to pregnancy and childbirth was one-third (33.9%) higher among females (61.2 per 1,000 per year) than males

Older study:

during the Gulf war women were unable to deploy at rates over 3 times those of their male counterparts.

Informally, whilst we were stationed at Parris Island, stress fractures were a huge problem in 4th RTB (the women's battalion). The Spousal One was in both 1st BN and Support BN (where the guys go when injured but not dropped). So we heard a lot about injuries.

Grim said...


I read the maximum promotion points for the Army PFT at 160 for sergeants and 100 for SSGs (p. 38ff in this document). If two E-4s are looking for promotion to E-5, and one is male and the other female, and both do 42 pushups as part of an otherwise perfect PFT. The woman will get 160 promotion points, and the man will get 120. That's a delta of about ten percent of the total cutoff scores in 11B right now; roughly spotting the women a letter grade, if it were an academic score. And that's just the push up portion of the PFT -- you'd also see shifts in the other sections if you moved to the male standard as the per se standard.

Cassandra said...

Boy that is completely different from the reference I saw on the web. But I was looking at the Marines, not the Army:


Grim said...

The system in the USMC is quite different (and it's a lot harder to make sergeant, because the service is so much smaller). Currently the promotion cutting score for an 0311 (rifleman, the 11B of the USMC) to sergeant is 1718. Now, the PFT sore and the rifle qual score are added to the Combat Fitness score and averaged. What you missed is that the average is then multiplied by 100, so the ~2.5 points is really 250 points -- more than 10% of the total cutting score, actually 14.5%. So about a letter grade and a half.

Here's an article explaining how it works from Marines Magazine that's meant to be user friendly. :)

Grim said...

By the way, the Combat Fitness Test and the Physical Fitness Test both have different scores for women. In the USMC PFT, the women don't even have to do the same upper-body exercise at all -- they don't have to do a single pull up, they just have to be lifted up and then hold themselves up as long as they can. If they hold themselves up long enough, they still get scored like a male who knocked out 20 pull ups even though they may not be able to do a single one.

So there's an advantage in all three of the parts of each of the two tests. It could easily work out to two 'letter grades.'

My concern isn't that it's an unfair advantage, though: it's that what this means is that we'll be putting physically less capable people (the combat fitness test is a pretty reasonable standard) into the critical roles in the infantry platoon. I think that weakens the fighting force at the sharp end in a dangerous way.

Cassandra said...

That explains my confusion. My source didn't have either the marksmanship or PFT multiplied by anything:


Those two scores were added first, divided by 2, then a variety of other scores were added to that number. Most of those scores were multiplied by 100 but the PFT and marksmanship scores weren't.

So I was relying on bad information. You learn something new every day!

Cassandra said...

My concern isn't that it's an unfair advantage, though: it's that what this means is that we'll be putting physically less capable people (the combat fitness test is a pretty reasonable standard) into the critical roles in the infantry platoon. I think that weakens the fighting force at the sharp end in a dangerous way.

I don't see how you can have one threshold for acceptable combat fitness for men, and another for women. That just makes no sense, and I agree it's discriminatory.

I know I've told you that when I was very young (23 or so) I could pass most of the male PFT (not the pullups) and I wasn't even in particularly good shape. Could I have done it any day or every day? Nope. But the first time my husband timed me, I passed just fine.

We were actually discussing the dual standards at the time - that's how it came up in the first place :p

I don't see how one can say, "This is the minimum acceptable standard" for men, and then accept less for women.

Ymar Sakar said...

What's the point of creating female super soldiers when there are no gender segregated units for them to go into afterwards?

America is more retarded than people think, it seems. Assuming of course that this isn't intentional sabotage by the powers that be in the civilian and military corrupt bureaucracy.