The year of 2013 saw a number of advances in the area of basic rights, including gay marriage and marijuana. Another subject where things are getting better is women in the military.
That is a picture of the first woman to serve as a combat pilot in the Israeli airforce. Israel is one of several nations that already allow women to serve. The Norwegians even have had a woman command one of their submarines. Here in the United States, we’re in the beginning stages of opening combat roles to everyone.
There are concerns that opponents raise about this. The most basic one is about ability. Some worry about whether a woman will be able to go as far, carrying as much, and fight as hard as a man. The problem with this view is that man and woman aren’t discrete categories in terms of physical capacity. The strongest man may be stronger than the strongest woman with regard to upper body strength, but in the biological and social sciences, it’s known that there is more variability within a group than between groups. This means that an average man will not be as strong as a whole lot of women. This means that the average woman will be stronger than a whole lot of men.
What needs to happen here is to set one standard for what a soldier needs to be able to do. That should be a reasonable standard, based solely on what the mission requires. Anyone who can meet that standard should be accepted.
Of course, these days, many combat roles are flying an airplane or driving a tank–jobs that involve operating machinery. Still, the standard should apply to all.
But of greater concern are questions about sexual harassment and activity.
Yes, James T. Kirk is the worry. If he’s in charge of a unit with women in it, how long will it be before combat effectiveness suffers, due to a variety of problems that may, um, arise?
I can see this as a legitimate concern, but the answer is not to give in to the bad behavior of some. Businesses have had to figure these matters out, and that’s life. The military had to learn how to deal with personnel of all races and now of different orientations. Militaries run on rules, rules that often require people to do things that aren’t natural in normal times.
The key point here is one of equality. Rights come with responsibilities, and those include defending our nation. To participate equally, women need to be allowed to serve in the military, just as they are able to vote, to lead companies, and to hold political offices.