Sometimes critics of the critics of integrating women into combat roles pooh-pooh the hygiene concerns (one of but many considerations that lessen female effectiveness in the military relative to men) of integrating women into combat roles. They say it is not a concern. They say hygiene doesn’t affect the standards, and standards won’t change.
Now, we find out that it is indeed actually a concern. With the admission of women into Ranger School, we find that the Army changed the packing list to accommodate females:
The Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which runs Ranger School, even updated its packing list for students to include several items specific for female students. They include feminine wipes, sports bras, cotton underwear, pads or tampons, and a female urinary diversion device, or FUDD.
With use of a FUDD, a female soldier in the field can urinate more discreetly while standing and with minimal undressing.
This is a FUD:
There are two reactions to this. The first go-girl response is a “Hey, see, women can do extended operations too!”
The second and more realistic response is acknowledgement that this is an accommodation. This is additional equipment institutionally endorsed to overcome a circumstance or whatnot inherent in being female. This is a changed standard. Men don’t get to worry about “discreet urination.” A small one, to be sure, but… what happens if the female loses the FUD? Does she get another? Is it a sensitive item? Does she have to drop a 2 in the middle of the patrol base, like the guys, or does she get to do that discreetly, too?
When I went through the school, there was no goal of “discreet urination.” When I deployed, pissing in bottles in the humvee was standard practice on missions. If women want the same standard, have them meet the same standard.
But then, as Fearless Leader Dempsey noted,
Importantly, though, if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?
Good point. Dempsey would champion the FUD.
Secondly, the article noted that female observers were sent to Ranger School.
The Army, through a careful selection process, also tapped more than two dozen female noncommissioned officers and officers to serve as observer/advisers. These soldiers were selected to work alongside the Ranger instructors and serve as extra eyes and ears and as a sounding board for the all-male cadre. The women will not evaluate or grade Ranger School students.
Why, exactly, would female observers be needed? To make sure the RIs aren’t discriminating? To remind everyone that women better darn well get a fair shake?
Interpreted generously, the Army’s thinking seems to be that female students will need female mentorship to have a chance of passing the course. After all, males attempting the course have plenty of male role models on the staff to admire. But it is not clear why the Army believes that female students would consider the mentorship of these female “observer/advisers” essential, or even useful, considering that the prospective mentors are not themselves graduates of the course.
Perhaps the Army feels that, without the presence of women, the instructors at Ranger School will conspire to keep women from graduating. Whether this is believed by the Army’s leaders to be the case or not, the appearance of such a belief is inescapable. The presence of these observer/advisers comes off as remarkably insulting to the regular staff of the school. There seems to be an implicit rebuke to their integrity: that without the observation and advice of a relatively senior group of female pseudo-staff members, the male instructors would not offer fair and responsible training to their female students.
The least generous interpretation of the policy is, of course, that the observer/advisers are there to pressure the regular staff into being more lenient to the female students. It must be said that there is no evidence that such an outcome is anyone’s intent. But, again, appearances matter, and no one has to state such a thing explicitly. One can quite easily imagine that the all-male regular staff—many of whom will be junior in rank to those on the observer/adviser team—will have plenty of occasions to think twice about being quite as strict or demanding or harsh to the female students as they might be to the males. Everyone has a family and a career to think about, after all.
Again, it’s important to realize that this is a concession. Special treatment. Different standards. Not the same experience. However you want to phrase it, this is what changing and lowering standards looks like, presented in the guise of overcoming obstacles, instead of recognizing what the obstacles mean.
See also articles:
here: The Ranger Experiment Continues
Here: Don’t promote women in the military
Here: Get over it, we’re all different.