ED122297b: Serious About Football

COMMENTARY Political Process

ED122297b: Serious About Football

Dec 22nd, 1997 3 min read
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.


Edwin J. Feulner is the founder and president of The Heritage Foundation.

Did you hear that the National Football League is opening its team rosters to women? From now on, when you watch pro football, you're going to see women out there knocking heads with the likes of Reggie White and Barry Sanders. "And the tackle, by Denise `The Vacuum Cleaner' Jones," the announcer will scream, as the crowd roars.

Okay, so you don't buy it. I'm not surprised. All of us-even feminists (most of them)-understand that the chalk lines on the edges of the professional football field mark a zone where equality between the sexes is pure fantasy. Any woman unfortunate enough to doubt this only has to place herself in the killing zone on the front lines of, say, the Green Bay Packers or the Kansas City Chiefs. Hint: Make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon beforehand.

I say all this to illustrate a point about public policy. The reason we all know the idea of women playing pro football is absurd is because we're serious about football. It's a tough game, and if you allow yourself to be distracted by irrelevant issues like "sexual equity" when you should be making your team the toughest it can possibly be, you're going to get creamed.

So why are we letting feminists impose "sexual equity" on an area that makes football look like a tea party; something that is not a game, but a matter of life and death-for our nation as well as for the "players"-namely, our military?

According to a report by my colleague James Anderson, a former professor at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va., the military, by training male and female recruits together, is "dumbing down" the physical requirements so women can compete with men. In the process, men are not being molded into the hardened warriors we need to defeat an enemy. This is every bit as stupid as allowing women to play pro football and making the players play "easy" so the women won't get hurt. The reason we don't do this, as I said before, is because we're serious about football. And the reason we are doing it in the military is because we're not serious about war. The one exception, I should note, is the Marine Corps, which still separates the sexes in training.

Gender-integrated basic training is undermining rigorous standards and creating an environment in which recruits are vulnerable to sexual misconduct and abuse. At the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Ill., for example, recruits watch a video telling them that "anyone can make it through boot camp," easing recruits' fears but also making a mockery of the idea that becoming a soldier is a matter of toughness and rigor. Recruits no longer drill with rifles and are issued "blue cards" to give their training instructors when they feel "stressed." Drill instructors can't verbally chastise their recruits, removing a time-tested technique for instilling mental toughness.

A similar pattern can be found at Army and Air Force training bases. One Army recruit said he expected boot camp to "be tough, like in the movies. This is like summer camp." So many female recruits were unable to pass hand grenade tossing tests at one Army base that authorities changed the standards, setting a different requirement for male and female recruits. Yet, the inability to throw a hand grenade effectively could be a matter of life and death.

Congress could turn things around by standing up to the "gender-equity" activists. Lawmakers will get some help from a panel appointed by the Pentagon and headed by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., which looked into how well male-female integration is working. It reported that drill instructors spend more time separating men and women to prevent sexual harassment than they do molding cohesive military units.

If the emphasis on toughness that enables a U.S. soldier to outlast or outperform a capable enemy on the field of battle is systematically removed from basic training for the sake of "gender equity," America will pay the price on future battlefields.

And the "post-game analysis" will be: They weren't serious about war.

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Note: Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. is president of The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research institute.