After deciding women can serve in combat only six months ago, the Pentagon will announce on Tuesday that women can start training in special operations roles — as Army Rangers in 2015, and as Navy SEALs in 2016. (The rollout looks like it's being done order of badassedness, so expect women in the Green Berets sometime after that.) As when women were allowed in combat, expect a round of people fretting that girls can't survive the SEALs' "Hell Week," in which candidates get four hours of sleep a night and are doing physical conditioning the rest of the time. But luckily — and perhaps not coincidentally — women are being let in these roles in the Internet age. That means whenever someone says women can't do a hard physical thing, you can just go on YouTube, and find videos of not just a woman doing it, but a "sexy" woman doing it.
"First Pull-Ups, Then Combat, Marines Say," The New York Times reported in February. (You know why they always talk about pull-ups? Because military guys can be such bitches about flutter kicks.) At right is a GIF of a woman doing a bunch of pull-ups. You can also find some nifty videos of women doing pull-ups with big weights attached to their hips.
"You're 6'4", 240-pound Marine, and you're injured, and you need a Marine next to you to carry you back to safety, and the Marine next to you is a 5'4" woman who weighs 115 pounds," Washington Post columnist George Will fretted in January. Carrying people is relatively easy, and requires leg and core strength more than upper-body strength. As The Atlantic Wire has noted, there is actually a subgenre of YouTube fetish videos in which small women carry large dudes. (GIF at left.)
Turns out, this phenomenon is especially true of SEAL training, because the Navy SEAL workout has been so heavily marketed as the ultimate expression of masculine toughness.
Naturally, that means there are a ton of YouTube videos of women doing some version of this workout. Here's the University of Toledo women's basketball team doing what is described as "SEAL training." There's a multi-part video series in which a "model" "turns" "SEAL." She's filmed doing various team physical fitness tests at "EXTREME SEAL Experience" in Chesapeake, Virginia, and though the camera lingers on her exhaustion and angst, it's impossible not to notice the struggling old fat guys behind her. (Still above right.) These workouts are diluted versions of what actually happens in real SEAL training. (Our model goes through "Hell Night," not Hell Week.) But that training is as much about mental toughness as physical strength. More important, while we civilians fixate on SEALs' tough training, it's just training. It's the real job that matters, which for SEALs is insertion into a foreign country to rescue prisoners or eliminate targets — like, say, shooting Osama bin Laden in the face. That is the performance that matters most.
Defense officials tell NBC News "the strenuous physical standards required for entry into special-forces jobs and combat-infantry assignments will not be lowered for anyone." That's great. Thanks to the Internet, we know it wouldn't be necessary.