February 6, 2013

In her Feb. 3 op-ed column, “Failing our troops,” Kathleen Parker suggested that Americans’ support for women in combat is “evidence of . . . misinformation.” It is a pity that she used information inappropriately to back her case.

Ms. Parker stated that while some women are more fit than some men, “most aren’t as capable of becoming as strong as most men.” To use this truism as an argument to bar women from a specific job, one must assume that no woman is capable of achieving the fitness level of any man holding that job. Where is the evidence for that? I would suggest that there is at least one woman in the military who is fitter than one or more of the men in combat roles. To deny that woman the opportunity to do that job is discrimination — pure and simple.

Ms. Parker took Gen. Martin Dempsey’s statement that “the burden is now on the service to come back and explain . . . does [the standard] have to be that high?” as evidence that standards will be inappropriately “gender-normed.” In fact, the requirement of an employer to prove that a barrier to employment is a “bona fide occupational qualification” is a long-established practice to avoid discriminating. Should the military be allowed to use spurious exclusionary standards when every other employer in the United States cannot?

Finally, Ms. Parker stated that combat situations . . . are “not the same as directly engaging an enemy.” Oh, really? If “directly engaging” the enemy means exchanging fire, then the women in Iraq and Afghanistan who have reputedly done just that while in a “combat situation” prove this a false distinction.

Women are not asking for “special treatment,” as Ms. Parker stated. They are asking for equal treatment – now that is a real distinction.

Michael H. Kostrzewa, Fairfax