- - Thursday, August 20, 2015


This was a big week for feminists. The first women graduated from the Army’s Ranger School, described by the Pentagon as “the Army’s premier combat leadership course, teaching Ranger students how to overcome fatigue, hunger, and stress to lead soldiers during small unit combat operations.” Among other things, the successful graduates had to complete 49 pushups, 59 situps, a 5-mile run in 40 minutes, six chin-ups, a swim test, a land navigation test, a 12-mile march in three hours, several obstacle courses, four days of military mountaineering, three parachute jumps, four air assaults on helicopters, and 27 days of mock combat patrols. In all, not a day at the spa.

The two women who made it started the course in April in a class of 381 men and 19 women. It was the first time the Army had opened the course to women, and it was said to be a trial. The Army insists the two female graduates met the same standards as the men. But the generals and admirals can’t be entirely trusted on this, because they understand that a political decision has been made at the White House, and they know to get with the program. Being too picky about how the Army got its first female graduates is a ticket to military oblivion. Some of the soldiers in the program say instructors, eager to get their own tickets punched, sometimes gave the women a little help, by looking away at discreet places in the proceedings.

That’s the only way the Army could get past the incontrovertible fact that men are bigger, stronger and have greater muscle mass than women, enabling them to run faster, jump higher, lift heavier objects, throw farther and hit harder. Women can do many things better than men, but repealing physical limitations imposed by nature is not one of them.

The successful male graduates can now apply to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite special operations force now restricted to men. Janine Davidson , a former U.S. Air Force senior pilot who follows the women-in-combat issue at the Council on Foreign Relations, says she thinks “policymakers in the Pentagon are ready to say, ‘We don’t see any reasons why women can’t be [in certain roles].’ ” We don’t, either, depending on what those certain roles are.

There was other good political news for women this week. The Food and Drug Administration approved for use a drug, flibanserin, loosely called “pink Viagra,” the first medication designed to stimulate sexual desire in women. The drug goes on the market as a prescription for diminished sexual desire disorder, or HSDD. Flibanserin will be marketed as Addy, which purports to measurably raise sexual desire by increasing the activity of the neurochemical serotonin in the brain. But nobody knows quite how it works, which is rarely. Side effects include severe lowering of blood pressure, which is among the reasons that the FDA twice declined to approve it for the market. Addy’s advocates argued that more than two-dozen drugs are on the market to treat a man’s lack of sexual desire, and none for women. So they turned the screws of political pressure. Once that was done, science dutifully complied.

There’s neither suggestion nor hint that the two feminist triumphs of the week are in any way related, but the two unrelated developments demonstrate eloquently that political pressure can prevail over common sense and even science. Is this a great country, or what?

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