Critics say that opening combat to women will create pressure to lower standards so that women can meet them. Backers say that equal treatment will attract more serious women athletes.
With women now allowed to serve on the front lines, are men going to be more in danger on the battlefield?
And will America’s national security be jeopardized by men leaving the infantry in droves because they no longer see it as a tough, elite calling?
These have long been frequently-cited reasons for not allowing women to serve in combat.
“I think some men will leave the infantry,” says one senior Marine Corps officer. “You’ve got to ask yourself why most young men join the Marine Corps, especially that group that wants to be infantrymen.”
The answer, in many cases, is to “shoot stuff and blow things up,” he adds. “So some percentage of those guys would be like, it wouldn’t be as much fun.”
These arguments are often closely linked to the shared physical hardships that lead to espirit de corps.
Can a woman carry her fellow soldiers out of danger, or hike long distances lugging heavy packs without falling behind and holding her fellow soldiers back?
“The answer to that is very straightforward: Create a physical fitness standard,” says Anne Coughlin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, in Charlottesville, Vir., who is spearheading a conference Feb. 1 on women in combat in Washington, D.C.