On today's edition of ABC's "This Week," columnist George Will expressed some skepticism when asked about the prospect of women serving in combat.
In response to a question from moderator Martha Raddatz about the proposed change by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, which would allow women in combat provided they met the same physical fitness requirements as men, Will responded with a series of pointed comments about the dubiousness of holding women to such standards.
"That's what they always say," Will said. "Let me give you an example: 'No Child Left Behind' said, 'We're gonna have a hundred percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014, and the scary thing is we might, because the only way we'll get there is by dumbing down the standards, which is actually under way. The question is, will we change the physical fitness requirements so that we don't have a 'disparate impact?' Are we going to 'gender norm' the requirements?"
As an example of such "gender norming," Will asked the question of what would happen if a 6'4'', 240 lb male marine was injured and needed to be carried back to safety, only to have the nearest available assistance come from a 5'4, 115 lb female marine.
"It's relevant," Will said.
"I've met a lot of combat medics, who repel down, who pick up big 6'4'' marines, and take 'em to safety. I just interviewed a woman," Raddatz responded.
"That's fine," Will said. "But there are certain anatomical facts about upper body strength and stamina."