Worries are beginning to escalate that separate fitness standards for men and women in the Marine Corps will inevitably fuel serious resentment in the ranks.
While the Marine Corps has moved to introduce gender neutral fitness standards for particular jobs to assuage fears of lowered combat performance, the fact remains that the annual fitness tests still allow for separate standards by gender, one for men and one for women, which is starting to upset some observers, Marine Corps Times reports.
The separate standards, once championed as a way to help women succeed and attain promotions in the service, are now being viewed in quite a different light.
“When individuals start out at the recruiting station and they see that women are held to lower standards and have a much lower fitness requirement to max out the PFT, that causes cultural reverberations down the line,” retired Lt. Col. Kate Germano, who formerly trained female recruits at Parris Island, told Marine Corps Times.
“We end up letting the institution down because we have an end product that isn’t fit, isn’t strong and can’t compete with the men — and how disappointing is that, from a national security perspective?” she added.
The differences in fitness standards are stark and obvious.
Males need to perform 20 pull ups to achieve the maximum score. Women, on the other hand, only need to perform seven pull ups.
Marine Corps officials aren’t planning a review of the annual fitness tests.
The issue of respect and resentment has surged to the forefront as of late because of the Marines United scandal, in which male Marines shared nude photos of female service members in private groups, leading to congressional outcry and criminal investigations.
And questions of fitness standards have been an ever-present issue since the Obama administration decided to open all combat roles to women without exceptions.
However, the new gender neutral standards for combat posts, distinct from the annual fitness tests, have weeded out many of the women interested in combat jobs. Out of 1,500 male Marines, only 40 failed to pass the gender neutral standards. For women, however, six out of seven of the female recruits could not pass the standards.
“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the Associated Press in 2016. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”
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