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Jessica Sieff: Lifting the ban on women in combat – it’s about time

Published 9:17am Thursday, February 21, 2013

When the Pentagon announced it would lift its age-old ban on military women in combat last month, certain branches of the military took a stern voice in letting the ladies know they’d better expect to meet the same fitness requirements as their mail comrades.
For the Marine Corps, that means women will have to perform at least three dead-hang pull ups – same as men.
I fully support the government’s decision to lift the ban on women in combat – not out of some sense of feminism because I’m far from it – but because I don’t believe in banning anything that is a choice. Women should be allowed to choose if they want to put themselves on the front lines of combat. Courage knows no race, gender, religion or creed. There are a lot of women for whom this decision gives a chance to follow their ambitions. More power to them, I say.
These ladies join the ranks of females serving on a different kind of front line: The redefinition of what it means to be a strong woman. It’s something we as a society have tried to depict in glossy pages of magazines and in special reports but this added element of physical strength may just help us redefine it once again.
I’ve learned a lot about strength in the past year and a half, after walking through the doors of CrossFit South Bend for an introductory session. A combination of gymnastics, strength conditioning, Olympic lifting and endurance training blended into classes of constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement, CrossFit is no heard-of fitness trend. It’s a bona fide movement (to learn more – go to and click on ‘What is CrossFit’).
I was by no means athletic or even really in shape. The coach walked me through the workout – 30, 20, 10 reps of pushups and dips. I scaled it, doing “girl” pushups and using resistance bands to help with the dips.
I’ve gone back five days a week ever since (sometime six. It helps that the people are awesome.)
In my time at CrossFit South Bend, I’ve gained strength in more ways I’ve ever thought possible – but more important I’ve been inspired by a league of women I’m lucky to know. They balance school and work, they’re younger than me, they’re older than me. They’re older than my mother. They’ve been at it for years, they’ve been at it for days. They throw on weighted vests and knock out 100 pull ups in a single workout. They climb ropes and throw more weight than I could imagine over their heads with grace.
Together, alongside our male counterparts, we endure grueling workouts that test our mental and physical strength.
And we don’t like limits. So we don’t allow them.
To those women ready to stand at the front – I know you can do way more than three pull ups. And I thank you for your willingness to serve. I’m only sorry it took some so long to see how strong you really are.

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