Bad Arguments Against Women in the Infantry: “They Don’t Want It”

In an NPR segment on the three female graduates of the US Marine Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion, Staff Sergeant Billy Shinault pulls out a familiar canard:

Shinault doubts many women will even want this kind of life: sleeping in the dirt for weeks, patrolling, fighting.

“I’ve talked to [female infantry instructor] Staff Sgt. Towns and a couple others, and they’re content where they’re at in their job field,” he said. “I’ve yet to meet one [woman who] … wanted to be in the infantry.”

Towns was standing nearby. She shot him a look that said “he doesn’t speak for me.”

Normally, the prevailing logic in the military, especially in the infantry, is “get a straw and suck it up.” There is no assumption that individual whims are relevant to military policy. But as women approach eligibility for the infantry, all of a sudden the tables are turned.

In this debate, the permutations of “there is not a significant number of women who want to be in the infantry” are a common red herring and inverted form of argumentum ad numerum.* But that’s exactly how they should be understood because equal rights do not have popular threshold requirements for eligibility.

If any woman ever wants to try out for the infantry, she should have the opportunity to submit to an objective standard. That is our national obligation under the principle of equality before the law. And it’s distressingly ignorant of human diversity to believe that no woman would ever take the opportunity.

*Just for fun, check out the example given to illustrate dicto simpliciter.

Comments

  1. Since you mention common fallacies, Reductio ad Hitlerum seems to be the fallacy of choice for laypeople (hell, I’ve been guilty of it…).

  2. It’s worth taking a look at the commentary on strawman arguments available at one of the links. They make the point that some degree of judgment is necessary to distinguish between a strawman argument and a useful extrapolation of somebody’s flawed logic.

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