Men: too Emotional for Military Professionalism

Men: too Emotional for Military Professionalism

When asked by CNN's John King what he thinks about the Pentagon's recent decision to allow female troops to serve nearer the front lines of battle, Rick Santorum replied that this could be a problem because of the natural protective valor of men-folk:


I do have concerns about women in front-line combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat, and I think that's probably not in the interests of men, women, or the mission.

While it may seem at first blush Santorum is saying something here about lady feelings, he was in fact talking about dude feelings. In an interview on the Today show he clarified his earlier comment, saying:

When you have men and women together in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a woman in harm's way. I think it's natural. It's very much in our culture to be protective. That was my concern. I think that's a concern with all of the militaries.

The problem, then, is that men are too emotional. Santorum says both that "it's natural" and "It's very much in our culture" for men to be so protective. If its simply a cultural matter, then there is no reason why the culture of military professionalism cannot override our male soldiers' dangerous, mission-imperiling emotionality. But if it's natural and, as Santorum suggests in his initial response to John King, the instinct for spirited solidarity and camaraderie is inveterate in the male psyche, then perhaps men are by nature generally ill-suited for the cool professionalism required in the modern combat situation and ought to be replaced by the implacable coolness of the modern military woman.

After all, what better symbol of American supremacy and cultural confidence than an indomitable, steel-nerved, all-lady fighting force? Santorum naturally overlooks this enticing possibility, imagining pregnancy and perhaps sandwich-preparation as the natural and thus appropriate role of the twenty-something woman. But that which gives life can take it, too, with neither malice nor regret.

Seriously, though. Men and women both should be barred from military duties they can't perform at the necessary level of competence. If you can do the work, the job ought to be open to you. So good on the Pentagon, which no doubt has looked into the relevant issues of troop psychology and morale rather more deeply than the former junior Senator from Pennsylvania.

It's really is amazing how far we've come in such a short time, equality-wise. Within the span my own lifetime, it was thought that women ought to be barred from the Olympic marathon due to the inherent fragility of the female. Now we've got Haywire and an unreconstructed, full-on patriarchal, old-school Catholic, Republican office-seeker saying maybe women shouldn't go to the front-lines because men are too hopelessly emotional.

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Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
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  • A study from the University of Glasgow finds urban foxes evolved differently compared to rural foxes.
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How much can living in the city change you? If you were an urban fox, you could be evolving yourself to a whole new stage and becoming more like a dog, according to a fascinating new study.

Researchers compared skulls from rural foxes around London with foxes who lived inside the city and found important variations. Rural foxes showed adaptation for speed and hunting after quick, small prey, while urban fox skulls exhibited changes that made it easier for them to scavenge, looking through human refuse for food, rather than chasing it. Their snouts were shorter and stronger, making it easier to open packages and chew up leftovers. They also have smaller brains, not meant for hunting but for interacting with stationary food sources, reports Science magazine.

Interestingly, there was much similarity found between the male and female skulls of the urban foxes.

The observed changes correspond to what Charles Darwin called the "domestication syndrome," comprised of traits that go along with an animal's transition from being wild, to tamed, to domesticated.

The study was led by Kevin Parsons, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow.

"What's really fascinating here is that the foxes are doing this to themselves," Parsons told the BBC. "This is the result of foxes that have decided to live near people, showing these traits that make them look more like domesticated animals."

The researchers are not suggesting you should go out and get a fox as a house-pet just yet. But they are seeing the evolutionary process taking place that's moving the urban foxes along the path towards becoming more like dogs and cats, explained the study's co-author Dr. Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.

A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London

A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London on May 14, 2020.

Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP

"Some of the basic environmental aspects that may have occurred during the initial phases of domestication for our current pets, like dogs and cats, were probably similar to the conditions in which our urban foxes and other urban animals are living today," said Kitchener. "So, adapting to life around humans actually primes some animals for domestication."

The specimen came from the National Museum Scotland's collection of around 1,500 fox skulls.

You can read the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

fox sleeping beneath stadium seats

A fox at the LV County Championship, Division two match between Surrey and Derbyshire at The Brit Oval on April 9, 2010 in London, England.

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