Vox Memorial Day Special: Marines Have 'Toxic Masculinity' Problem

Memorial Day media coverage didn't seem to have many lowlights this year. One glaring exception: Vox.com's decision to publish Alex Ward's hit piece going after the U.S. Marine Corps and its alleged culture of "toxic masculinity" on the one day set aside every year to honor all military men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Ward's LinkedIn profile contains no references to actual military experience.

His 2011 undergrad and 2014 graduate degrees from American University are in International Studies and International Relations & Affairs, respectively. He has spent the past four years climbing the ladder at the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, whose mission is to "produce cutting-edge analyses and to develop strategies for how the United States can best work with like-minded countries to shape the future." He has been writing for Vox for just over a month.

None of this would seem to even remotely qualify Ward to comment authoritatively on military culture, but that naturally didn't stop him from doing so:

The Marine Corps has a “toxic masculinity” problem

... at the core of the women-in-infantry debate among Marine ranks: the identity crisis of a historically macho club now being forced to let in women.

Now that the Marine Corps must allow women to serve in combat roles — and is putting out recruiting commercials highlighting that fact — it tears at the social fabric of the service. That has led many to act out, some anonymously, online.

Ward acknowledged the real "core" of the debate (but not the one he thinks it is), but passive-aggressively attempted to discredit it by assigning that outlook to a spokesperson for the now-shutdown "Marines United" group which disgracefully "shared photos of naked female Marines, veterans, and other women on Facebook without their consent" (note the lack of quotations marks):

A quick recap of his views here: Sexual crimes are going to happen no matter what Marine leadership does. Integrating women further will only make things worse and the Corps less capable of winning wars. So why deal with the distraction of giving women a shot to serve on the front lines instead of focusing on the next fight?

One could argue that full integration of qualified women into combat roles should not necessarily make the Marines "less capable of winning wars." In the real world, though, that wasn't going to happen unless long-established, time-tested standards for individual combat readiness remained in place.

But they haven't.

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Two years ago, the Washington Times reported that the women in a trial group couldn't meet the existing standards:

Pressure grows on Marines to consider lowering combat standards for women

The Marine Corps just finished research to see if female officers could successfully complete its rigorous Infantry Officer Course.

A IOC diploma is a must to earn the designation of infantry officer. Of 29 women who tried, none graduated; only four made it through the first day’s combat endurance test.

Corps public affairs said it did not have the data on which tasks proved the toughest for women. But one particularly demanding upper-body strength test is climbing a 25-foot rope with a backpack full of gear. A candidate who cannot crawl to the top fails the test.

Traditionalists see the 0-29 performance as a call to arms by those inside the Pentagon who are determined to have significant numbers of women in the infantry. They are on the lookout for standards they believe are no longer relevant in today’s battlefield.

Last week, the Daily Caller reported that the standards have indeed been lowered:

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.

Lt. Col. Germano was understating the problem when she referred to the situation as "disappointing." It's far worse than that, because it's dangerous.

If the long-established standards remain relevant to battlefield preparedness, then everyone should have to meet them. Those who don't will be a drag on those who do. It wastes everybody's time to even try to argue otherwise. On the battlefield, it shouldn't be difficult to imagine how the presence of unfit unit members could and would translate to soldiers getting wounded or dying who otherwise might not have. This has nothing to do with "toxic masculinity" as such, but has everything to do with battlefield survival.

Nothing excuses the actions of the rogue members of the "Marines United" group. But the resentment of a fit soldier towards being forced to accept unfit members into a combat force is wholly justified, because it increases both the fit and unfit soldiers' chances of getting in harm's way.

Naturally, Alex Ward didn't discuss any of this. His entry's final sentence sums up his ignorance perfectly:

So as the service tries to win battles around the world, the most important fight may be the one closest to home: the battle for the soul of the Marine Corps.

If Ward's "battle for the soul of the Marine Corps" results in pervasively less prepared soldiers, it will have less success in winning "battles around the world." So the real "battle" is over whether the citizens of this country will see their government compromise its military preparedness in the name of quota-seeking political correctness.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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