09
Sep
11

A wild statistical distribution appears!

So here’s another dreary example of a style of argument that sets me off:

One of Andrew’s readers pontificates about averages:

Despite the amazing progress that women have made in many fronts on equality, they are still physically smaller, slower, and weaker than men. At the very least, one can look at the world records for just about any athletic event, and see how much faster men are. While this does not matter for pilots, or intelligence analysts, or ships captains, it matters very strongly to certain combat arms, such as the infantry. Carrying an 80-pound pack for miles is something where strength does matter. […] This, I think, is the fundamental stumbling block of putting women in the Infantry, or some of the other combat arms.

Oh, okay!  Let’s look at the world records for an athletic event.  I’m going to pick… Olympic weightlifting.  The world record clean and jerk in the 69kg weight class — for men — is 195kg, set by Bulgaria’s Galabin Boevski at Sydney in 2000.  The world record C&J for 69kg women is 158kg, set by the PRC’s Liu Chunhong at Beijing in 2008.  From this we can conclude two things: First, like Andrew’s reader, we can deduce that men are (surprise, surprise) capable of greater strength and power development then women.

Second, holy fuck there are women out there who can pick up over twice their bodyweight and put it overhead!

You see what’s going on here?  Our innumerate friend has taken a true statement (“At the mean, women tend to be smaller, slower, and weaker than men”), stated it obtusely (“Women are physically smaller, slower, and weaker than men”), and used a different interpretation of the obtuse restatement to derive a false conclusion (“There are no women big, strong, and fast enough to serve in the Infantry”).  But s/h/its own source of justification — “world records for just about any athletic event” — indicates that there are a bunch of big/strong/fast enough women out there… though perhaps not as many of them as there are men.

While we’re on the subject: there are a lot of men out there who are not physically qualified to serve as light infantrymen — perhaps even a majority.  This doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

(And as with DADT, no-one seems to have bothered to check on what the Israelis are doing.  I don’t think those rifles are for show.)

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4 Responses to “A wild statistical distribution appears!”


  1. 1 ISH
    September 11, 2011 at 06:56

    While we’re on the subject: there are a lot of men *in the military* who are not qualified (physically, mentally, or some combination thereof) to serve as combat infantrymen — perhaps a majority, but certainly a sizable minority. The armed services have an ancient preactice of not making those men into combat infantry. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

  2. September 12, 2011 at 14:09

    A ways back, there was a comment thread on Crossfit.com about women in combat, which evolved into one of the strangest phenomena I’ve ever seen.

    There were people on both sides of the debate, and quite a few were active-duty military who’d been in combat in our current conflict, and who had been in combat with women. (Because, as the nature of the current conflict produces, women have been in combat for ten years whether they were officially designated as such or not.) *All* of the active-duty military said they certainly knew who had the physical chops to handle combat and who didn’t, and that some women did and others didn’t and the same went for the men. *All* of the people arguing that women are just too physically frail for combat were civilians, and they held onto this doggedly over the protestations of the actual soldiers.

    It was like something they really *needed* to believe, and I cannot for the life of me say why.

    • September 12, 2011 at 14:25

      Yeah, this one throws me as well. I’ve been around similar discussions about women firefighters, and seen the same phenomenon once or twice.

      The only remotely sensible interpretation I can find for the “women-are-too-weak” argument is that its proponents are worried that Teh Ebil Librulz are going to mandate a 50:50 sex split in the combat arms after determining that qualification tests based on physical capability are “sexist”. I’ve never seen anything to back that up, though, except maybe a “fearlessly-asking-tough-questions” puff piece from the CBC about some group agitating for separate male and female test requirements for a metro FD somewhere in western Canada. As far as I know, that never went anywhere.


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