Women Still Have Hurdles to Climb in Military, Including Being Too Pretty

Today three women will graduate today from Marine infantry training. They're the first women to pass the grunt test, which, at best, is described as "grueling."

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Today three women will graduate today from Marine infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina. They're the first women to pass the "grunt" test, which, at best, is described as "grueling." They took a selfie to celebrate. But Pfc. Julia Carroll, Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro and Pfc. Katie Gorz won't start fighting in combat zones just yet. The military is still reviewing whether or not women should serve in an infantry unit, and the process could take up to two years.

In the meantime, these Marine women will wait for (and hopefully encourage) more women to train and pass the test. And, as The Washington Post notes, there are more tests ahead:

Marine Corps leaders say... no woman has passed the even more challenging infantry training course for officers (10 have tried). Before making a final decision, they said, they want to see many more female Marines try to pass the courses so the results can be evaluated.

One test that's being postponed? Pull-ups. The Marine Corps announced on Facebook on Thursday that instead of requiring women do at least three pull-ups starting January 1, it will continue test their physical fitness with the "flexed arm hang," or holding their chin above the bar for at least 15 seconds. The reason is "to ensure all female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to succeed." The announcement prompted some military men to air their opinion on having women in combat.

Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer and military historian, told Time, “If you can’t pull yourself up, have the decency to pull yourself out. The military, despite all the post-modern technology, is still essentially physical.” Another Marine posted on Facebook, "If you can’t lift your own body weight, you have no business trying to lift mine." As The Wire's Elspeth Reeve has explained, it's actually pretty easy for  women to carry men, pull-ups aside

Military culture for women in general has been slow to change. Just this week, an Army officer complained about a "pretty woman" being featured in PR materials. Col. Lynette Arnhart sent an email to her colleagues criticizing a photo in Army magazine, which "shows a pretty woman, wearing makeup while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty.)" The photo was of Cpl. Kristine Tejada on duty in Iraq.

In case her colleagues didn't understand where she was coming from, Arnhart provided this explanation: "In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead."

Arnhart is one of the military leaders reviewing the hurdles women have to climb to serve in combat.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.