As the Marine Corps inches closer to permitting women into ground combat roles, the service is delaying its 2014 plan to require female Marines to do three pullups. The reason: Women haven't proven very good at the exercise so far.
The Corps announced the move on Twitter a few weeks back, but it's getting added attention now since the pullup program for women was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1. "So far, female Marines are not succeeding," according to NPR:
Fifty-five percent of female recruits tested at the end of boot camp were doing fewer than three pullups; only 1 percent of male recruits failed the test.
The three pullups is already the minimum required for all male Marines. Now the Marine Corps has postponed the plan, and that's raising questions about whether women have the physical strength to handle ground combat, which they'll be allowed to do beginning in 2016.
Marine officers would not talk to NPR on tape. They said they delayed the pullup requirement to avoid losing not only recruits but also current female Marines who can't pass the test.
Those test results are somewhat misleading: Male recruits have long been required to perform pullups on an "initial strength test" just to be accepted into Marine boot camp, while women aspirants are only required to do a flexed-arm hang. So men come into the strenuous 12-week recruit training program already passing the pullup test, while women have to learn a new skill—along with the rest of the skills crammed into their crania during boot camp. Likewise with current Marines: Men already had to do three pullups to pass their yearly fitness test, while women always did the arm-hang before.
Does this mean women are unfit for combat? Hardly. The first wave of female Marines continues to complete infantry training, and plenty of them could kick your ass. "Last year, I could barely do one pullup, and now I'm up to eight," says Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger, the Marine broadcaster who first reported on the Corps' delay in the video below.
"So," she adds, "I'm taking advantage of the extra time to complete my goal of 12 pullups."
What have you done with your life, fatbody?