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May 19, 2003

See Dick and Jane Fight

Posted by Mike on May 19, 2003 10:21 AM

A female embedded reporter discusses her time with an infantry unit in Iraq, and concludes "I'm not qualified to say that no woman could do that job, but I suspect that it would be a rare one who could."

My initial response, as I read the piece, was "that journalist bootcamp you went to doesn't exactly provide you with the on/off switch soldiering sticks somewhere between your brain and the rest of your body," but she saved the fact that she's run marathons and grew up on a farm for the last paragraph.

That doesn't diminish the fact that infantry's tough no matter who's doing it. My four years in showed me plenty of men who fell apart under the relatively light demands of life in an airborne signal unit, and it showed me a few women who flatly kicked ass. So the generalizations about sex and military service that fall around "physical capability" aren't very interesting, though they need to be looked at: so-called "gender norming," which relativizes things like physical performance tests to ones sex are bad ideas and probably ought to be weeded out. What's more interesting are the arguments about how mixed units work together.