Being in direct combat units means being the ones who take the fight to the enemy. Deploying in itself is not combat, and neither is returning fire when getting shot at on convoy. Real combat, the kind the infantry and Special Forces wage, is bloody, vicious and offensive. When we’re talking about opening the combat units to women, we’re talking direct ground combat units who don’t have the comfort and distance of the fighter-plane cockpit. Marine Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer describes being attacked by an insurgent, fighting and killing him with his bare hands. In Baghdad they were hand-to-hand, men facing each other with knives.
I’ve fought many men over the years as I trained to earn a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and dabbled in Kapoeira and Krav Maga before the Marines, and achieved three of the five levels of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program which incorporates the best of all forms for hand-to-hand combat. This isn’t a lot in terms of learning to fight for your life. Training by fighting men before the Marines helped me to be a better fighter against women of my own weight and rank. But women are at a disadvantage fighting men, especially those that actually want to capture or kill them.
Even the toughest female fighter in the world, UFC Bantamweight champion Rhonda Rousey said as much when the issue came up of fighting Fallon Fox, formerly a man, citing “the bone structure, the muscular structure of a man [after puberty]. There’s no ‘undo’ button for that.” Tamikka Brents, a female who actually did fight Fox, said, “I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right.” To put females at the front where they are much more likely to have to engage in hand to hand combat with men is barbaric, not empowering to women. When I joined, I wanted to go to the front. Being outside the wire the reality of having to fight in close contact looms large, and the enemy we were facing then seems somewhat docile compared to ISIS today. There was a chance I would face them. In the combat roles, it’s not a chance, it’s probable, and today’s enemy uses meth. Fighting ISIS on meth hand-to-hand. It’s every girl’s dream, right?
“Shouldn’t taking that risk be a woman’s choice?” I hear this question a lot. A woman in this position is not isolated, she is not just taking a risk for herself. She’s putting everyone around her at greater risk, in no small part because her torture can be used against the men in a way it can’t with other men. Their natural instinct to protect her can distract him from the mission resulting in disaster. This is exactly what the Israelis found out in 1948 when they included women on the front lines of combat. The men dropped everything at the women’s screams, and the Israelis declared the experiment a disaster and a failure. Contrary to the myth that radical Islamists are averse to fighting women, the Israelis found that their enemy fought more viciously because the prospect of defeat by women was so abjectly humiliating.
Capture and torture is every deploying woman’s worst nightmare, and all that advocates for women in combat can say is that it’s not fair we want to protect women more than men at the front, that we’re wrong to consider a woman being tortured worse than a man being tortured. It may not be fair that women are more vulnerable than men, but we are. It may not be fair that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to brute strength, but we are. These warrant added protection, and there’s nothing feminism can do to change it. Regardless, the policy will get more of both killed. It’s not that we’re weak, shrinking violets. Rhonda Rousey sure isn’t, and neither am I. But it’s not enlightened, sophisticated or evolved to ignore our differences, differences that can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield.