Wired News: Military Women Can Hack It

Wired News: Military Women Can Hack It
Female soldiers have long fought off perceptions that their bodies just aren't equipped to handle the rigors of training and warfare. But a decade's worth of research suggests that women are hardly as fragile as critics once thought.

A new study by military researchers found that many assumptions about female bodies are "astoundingly wrong." Women are just as good as men -- in some cases, perhaps even better -- at handling intense exercise and decompression sickness.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Women's Health, don't change the fact that women -- on the whole -- are smaller and less powerful than men. Still, they suggest "that human physiology is more consistent than would be suggested by the social embellishments and exaggerations" that come about when there isn't any actual research, said Col. Karl Friedl, commander of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and co-author of the report (.pdf).

Is anybody really surprised any more? Yet another myth about gender differences is put to bed. That is not to deny some basic physiological differences between the sexes (just as the report does not do) but the problem is that to determine what these are we need to be extremely careful about drawing extended and fixed policy conclusions on them because what was considered a 'basic difference' yesterday may be a debunked myth tomorrow. Also, we need to be aware (as I keep banging on) about confusing statements about 'women as a whole' and statements applying to any particular woman. Given the unreliability of 'established truths', each woman should be treated as an individual person rather than as an instance of a category woman. This is well known but hard to achieve cognitively.