Infantrywoman. Tank commander. Aircraft door gunner. On March 1, to kick off Women’s History Month, the U.S. Marine Corps released a video depicting female Marines in serving in combat jobs, followed by photographs of female Marines from previous eras, with the tagline “For every woman who fights, there is a woman who fought for her.”
The U.S. Marine Corps is reportedly considering a new plan to allow women to attend both boot camp and combat training alongside their fellow male recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, the Associated Press reports, a move that Corps officials claimed was intended to “quash recurring problems with sexism and other bad behavior among Marines.”
A recent AP story portrayed the Marine Corps as drastically changing its recruiting strategy for women to focus on high school athletes. While this is a step in the right direction, it only represents half of the solution. For too long, the Marine Corps has turned a blind eye to female screening and preparation, resulting in extraordinarily high attrition at boot camp and the perception that female recruits are physiologically and mentally incapable of achieving more than the bare minimum. If the Marine Corps is truly committed to increasing the number of women in the service, it will need a more robust recruiting strategy centered on screening and accountability for the mental and physical preparation of these women, rather than just an increase in recruiter prospecting at female high school sports events.
The delta between men and women’s performance at recruit training is more than just an anomaly. Generations of female recruits and Marines have been expected to underperform because of gender bias, or the lowered expectations for a group because of sex. Despite ample data indicating change is necessary, the Marine Corps is determined to maintain existing recruiting practices and segregated recruit training for women. Such a stance only serves to reinforce the sexism and gender bias so prevalent in the Marine Corps today.