Women, Peace, and Security



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The military is not adequately preparing female Airmen for the physical rigors of combat. Low expectations for female Airmen have caused their physical fitness standards to stagnate. The Physical Fitness Assessment requires female Airmen to perform fewer repetitions and slower run times on all events compared to their male counterparts. However, despite three congressional decisions aiming at directing the establishment of gender-neutral physical fitness standards, including the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that would create gender-neutral physical fitness standards for combat arms and other non-specified positions across the military, the United States Air Force has yet to adopt such standards. This is problematic because the insistence on maintaining outdated standards for female Airmen that have been debunked by current scientific research supports the concept of "learned female weakness" that has been systematically entrenched in American society.

Hence, the purpose of this presentation is twofold: first, to make the case that female Airmen have the strength and ability to perform the same fitness assessment as their male counterparts, and they should be required to do so, and second, to offer a solution – a more fair and more equitable standards based on fitness assessment metrics commensurate with women's size and not their gender.

Publication Date

May, 2023


U.S. Naval War College


Newport, Rhode Island


WPS, gender-neutral physical fitness assessment, female Airmen, organizational standards, women in combat

The Frailty Myth: The Case for Gender-Neutral Physical Fitness assessment practices among the United States Airmen