The Ambiguity of Equal Rights

This is a sad story. The Marines have postponed applying a rule, enforced for more than 40 years, that requires marines to be able to do 3 pull ups. While the story does not indicate what will happen in the future, we know from other areas, such as police and fire departments, that the effort to increase female participation has led to the reduction in strength qualifications.

If one favors equal rights for women (or for any other group), then one wants to see both sexes subject to the same rules. One does not want the qualifications changed so that more women can pass the test. The original argument for equality was that some women could do the job as well as the men who became marines. That is a valid argument, but it does not justify reducing the qualifications. In fact, it condemns it.

Unfortunately, we now live in a world where women’s equality is seen as a justification for reducing the standards. Assuming the original standards were valid – and it is hard to see how upper body strength is not an essential attribute for marines or firefighters – reducing them will only reduce the effectiveness of the operation (and will likely force those who have the requisite strength to work harder to compensate for those who lack it).

For someone who believes in genuine equal rights, the right thing is to support applying the original rules to both sexes. If there were only a choice between relaxing the rules or discouraging women’s participation, one would have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Happily, as a matter of political positions, one does not need to make that choice. There is the clear winner of genuine equal rights. Sadly, though, in the real world, such genuine equality is rarer than it should be.