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A Gender-Neutral Army

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On May 22, 2013 @ 12:42 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 43 Comments

“Political chaos is connected with the decay of language,” George Orwell wrote. If language is meaning, then political chaos is the destruction of meaning. Political language exists to destroy meaning and to make unpopular policies seem popular by associating them with the very opposite of what they are.

Taxes are opportunities. Spending is stimulus. Amnesty is reform. The left is as good at language as it is bad at governing. It can’t change reality, but it excels at changing the description of reality. Common sense is the enemy of the left and the left defeats common sense by corrupting language so that nothing makes sense and common sense can never come into play.

The proposal to put women into combat is a transparently bad idea for reasons of common sense. Without an ongoing conflict and with deep cuts to the military, there is no shortage of manpower that requires desperate measures and compromised standards.

There is no reasonable reason for it all except the need to transform the military from a warfighting force into a beacon of liberal values. The new military does not exist to win wars, but to show up in beards and burqas and win the hearts and minds of our enemies with gay marriages and abortion clinics. Thousands or tens of thousands may die, but their deaths will be a chance to show how restrained we are in our lack of retaliation. How determined we are to lose the strategic high ground while claiming the moral high ground.

In preparation for giving the green light to female infantrymen, another term that will have to be changed, and female Army Rangers, General Martin Dempsey, who had previously cheered on the introduction of homosexuality to the military, promised “clear standards of performance for all occupations based on what it actually takes to do the job”.

These standards, General Dempsey said, will be “gender-neutral”. But what is gender neutrality exactly? No one really knows except that it will involve being neutral about gender or genders being neutral. If not for the fancifully Orwellian language that the teleprompters of the powerful spew up, it might be taken to mean that there will be the same standards for all soldiers regardless of their gender.

That would be a sensible, if doomed approach. Soldiers in Afghanistan may have to carry 127 pounds on their backs. A study in the heyday of the manpower crunch, when the Army was looking for a few good men, women or anything in between, still found that women could not meet male upper body strength ratios

Captain Katie Petronio, who led combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, wrote, “There is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside.”

The British version of gender-neutral, gender-free, replacing gender-fair policy, attempted to ignore gender in military training and resulted in a doubling of injuries for female soldiers. In gender-fair training, women only suffered four times as many injuries as male soldiers. In gender-free training, women suffered nearly ten times as many injuries as male soldiers. An absurd term like gender-free could be coined, but it couldn’t be implemented because no one can be free of their gender. Gender is not open to regulation or deregulation. It is an absolute reality.

Gender-neutral may sound like gender-free, but it’s actually more like gender-fair. Our leaders may be stupid enough to insist on female Army Rangers, but they aren’t stupid enough to insist on standards that are neutral in the objective sense. Rather they are neutral in the subjective sense.

What does that mean? The gender-neutral standard is embedded in regulations, but it isn’t interpreted to mean identical objective physical metrics, but identical subjective physical metrics within each gender. The gender-neutral standard is actually a partisan gender standard. And it is arranged so that the politicians can have their gender-neutral cake and eat it too.

As the Congressional Research Service explains, “The use of the term ‘gender-neutral physical standards’ raises questions depending on how it is defined.” How do you define gender-neutral so that it isn’t neutral?

“The Services have used this and similar terms to suggest that men and women must exert the same amount of energy in a particular task, regardless of the work that is actually accomplished by either.”

Examples include, “if a female soldier carries 70 pounds of equipment five miles and exerts the same effort as a male carrying 100 pounds of equipment the same distance, the differing standards could be viewed as ‘gender-neutral’ because both exerted the same amount of effort, with differing loads.”

Or, “The Air Force Fitness Test Scoring for males under 30 years of age requires males to run 1.5 miles in a maximum time of 13:36: the female maximum time is 16:22. A female who runs at this slower rate would actually receive a higher score than a male who runs nearly three minutes faster.”

There’s nothing gender neutral about that. But gender-neutral really means neutral to the gender. And neutral to the gender is another way of saying that there are two differing standards. The standard changes to accommodate the gender.

It’s not what most people imagine that gender neutral means and it’s not what it is supposed to mean because Congress defined gender-neutral as being “evaluated on the basis of common, relevant performance standards, without differential standards of evaluation on the basis of gender.” But by leaving “relevant” in there, the door was open for a debate on the meaning of “is”, and the clear meaning of the rule was inverted so that instead of the standards neutralizing gender, gender neutralized the standards.

“Lifting a 95-pound artillery round must be done by a Marine, either male or female,” a Marine Corps memo noted. 95-pound artillery rounds are a gender-neutral standard. Like anything else on the battlefield, they are a true standard that cannot be graded on a gender curve. Training is meant to prepare soldiers for the reality of the battlefield. And the battlefield does not discriminate.

Affirmative action has lowered standards in most professions, but there are professions where lowering standards is impossible. Colleges can accept poorer students and companies can reserve jobs based on quotas. The cost of unqualified employees in the workplace is financial, but the cost of unqualified soldiers on the battlefield is lethal.

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