The Biblical Case against Women in Combat?

As you probably know, the defense department has just moved to allow women in combat. This is a move that conservative evangelical leaders have been warning about for decades, and their reaction was predictable. Let’s take a look at what conservative evangelical author, pastor, and Christian Patriarchy leader Douglas Wilson had to say.

No one should be surprised at the announcement that women are now going to be serving in combat roles in the U.S. military. This has been heading toward us for a long time, and the only thing surprising about it is that so many people are surprised. Now the only thing that stands between your daughter and involuntary combat service is a determination by some president (or other) that we need to return to conscription, followed by one court decision.

Note how Wilson frames the issue in terms of what might happen to “your daughter.” Over and over again, women are spoken of in ways that depend on their position in their families, rather than as individuals who might have their own thoughts, desires, lives, and goals. Also, note that Wilson doesn’t seem to have a problem with conscription—i.e. the draft—in theory, but rather simply with its application to, well, his daughters.

Wilson starts about by making the Biblical case against women in combat.

First the Scripture:

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Dt. 22:5).

This verse is a prohibition for cross-dressing when it comes to men. But the restriction placed on women here is not simply the reverse of that. When a man is getting kinky in the way described here, it is a straightforward transvesite problem. But going the other way, we should notice a different problem. Notice the odd construction — “that which pertains to a man.” The Hebrew underneath is keli geber, and should be read as the “gear of a warrior.” Whether we are talking about a man in fishnet stockings, or a woman decked out in full battle regalia, we need to recognize that God finds it loathsome. So should we.

Another scriptural argument that should be noted is this. “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk” (Dt. 14:21b). Just as Paul noted that the law about not muzzling oxen was not simply about oxen, so this passage is not just about baby goats. The principle latent in this law is that we must not take that which was intended for the giving of life and transform it into an instrument of death. The milk was intended by God for sustenance, and so it should not be turned into death. Women were created and exquisitely fashioned by God to be life-imparters, and so they must not be transformed into death-dealers.

You know how Christians like Wilson claim that they’re just taking the Bible straight forwardly? Yeah…

I mean, is this really the best Wilson can do? Honestly, if these are his go-to verses with regard to women in combat, I think we can pretty safely conclude that the Bible nowhere comes right out and condemns women in combat. In fact, the Bible is apparently ambiguous on this issue to the extent that Wilson feels the need to take time to explain away Biblical examples of women in combat:

Having said this, we should remember that Scripture gives us the law, and Scripture gives us the parameters of any exceptions. It is not unlawful for a woman to take life under any and all circumstances. The woman on the tower was apparently a decent shot (Judg. 9:53), and Jael the wife of Heber knew she was supposed to do (Judg. 5:24). She didn’t cook a baby goat in milk, but she did serve it up to Sisera. But these blows to the head were given to us as a type, and pointed toward the fundamental way that the woman would have her revenge on the serpent and his seed. Her child would finally crush the serpent’s head, and would be bruised himself in the process.

You need some background to understand what Wilson is suggesting here. After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, God gave them each a curse, and gave the serpent who had tempted them a curse as well. Part of the serpent’s curse went thusly: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Evangelicals like Wilson interpret this passage to be speaking of Jesus, who would be born through a woman, Mary, and would crush the serpent Satan.


So what Wilson is saying here is that when individual women in the Old Testament stepped into battle and dealt blows to the military enemies of Israel, they were not serving as examples that modern women should follow but rather simply foreshadowing of Mary’s role in striking at Satan by birthing Jesus. They were simply “types” (see the first definition listed here), and thus did not invalidate the (supposed) Biblical prohibition on women in combat.

In other words, the verses about women who actually were engaged in combat were just, I don’t know, symbolic. How Wilson can make claims like this while also inveighing against other Christians for “twisting scripture” and reading their own ideas into the text, I am at a loss to explain.

Secondly, in our memorial on terrorism, the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches has declared the following:

“It is not lawful for women to be mustered for combat service, for our Lord has declared it an abomination for women to don the martial attire of a man (Dt. 22:5). Christian fathers must protect their daughters from being seduced or coerced into such a circumstance, and the Church must support them as they do so.”

It is therefore the formal position of the CREC that this egalitarian move, putting women into combat roles as standard operating procedure, is an abomination. We believe further that Christian fathers have a moral and biblical obligation to prevent their daughters from being seduced, such that they sign up for such a thing voluntarily, or coerced, such that they have no option. Both her family and her communion must stand against this terrible thing.

This is what is so maddening about people like Wilson. They completely and entirely remove women’s humanity and free will. Women can only be seduced or coerced into the military. Actually having all the facts and making their own decision to join the military with their eyes open? Nope. It’s like women don’t have agency for Wilson. The idea that the only reasons my daughter Sally might grow up to join the military are seduction or coercion? Sorry, but no. I have a heck of a lot more respect for Sally than that.

And also, again with the fathers and daughters bit. Do Christian mothers have the obligation to keep their daughters from being “seduced” or “coerced”? No. Only Christian fathers. Because, patriarchy. The extent to which supporters of Christian patriarchy see daughters as possessions of their fathers is rage inducing, and it hits especially hard for me in particular, because I was one of those daughters, having to stand face to face with my father and having to insist that no, as an adult I was no longer under any obligation to obey him, regardless of my gender. So, yeah. Been there, done that.

And last, let me make one quick appeal to the light of nature. The egalitarians who are pushing for this are not true egalitarians — they want the same access to the same positions for men and women, but they don’t want the same qualifying requirements. A true egalitarian would insist that all positions should be open to both sexes, provided they both were able to meet the same standards. But this whole (very rigged) joke depends on running two entirely different sets of standards simultaneously, and shouting down anybody who notices. So then, o ye treat-everybody-the-samers! When do you think you will start doing that? It’s your religion. Why won’t you practice it? It’s your temple. Why won’t you go in? Is your god scary?

If we eliminated the double-standard here, we would still have the theoretical problem, but we sure wouldn’t have a practical problem at all.

I don’t even.

I don’t know what the government’s physical requirements for serving in a combat position are, and I don’t know whether the government is going to fashion separate standards for women than for men, but I do know that the idea that there are no women who meet the current male standards for serving in combat is complete bullshit. I mean, is Wilson aware that the top-ranked weightlifter in the country is female? Somehow I think not. I’m all for requiring that people who take combat positions be able to carry out all of the tasks those positions require, but unlike Wilson I am quite confident that there are plenty of women who are completely capable of doing just that.

So, in conclusion: First, it appears that the Biblical argument against women serving in combat is not very good; Second, Wilson reaffirms that he thinks women incapable of exercising agency; and third, if Wilson really thinks there aren’t any women physically capable of doing what is called for in a combat situation, he needs to get out more.

Gamergate Comes Home
On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
My Kindergartener Knows What It Means to Be Transgender (and the Sky Hasn't Fallen)
A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Nicola

    I looked up the US army’s general fitness requirements and, yes, men’s fitness requirements are higher. HOWEVER, these requirements are also divided into four-year age groups, so if it is a double-standard based on sex it is also one based on age. Rather than being lower standards for women (or older men), I think it’s more likely that these requirements differ because fewer push-ups for women, who generally possess more fat and less upper-body strength, represent the same comparative level of physical fitness as a larger number do for men. For instance, women in my age group are required to do 17 push-ups, and men 40. Most young men I know who are relatively active can manage 20 push-ups no problem; on a good day I can do five, tops.

    I would imagine that where a certain baseline level of strength is required it would be the same across both sexes and all age groups. If you need to be able to carry your body armour, weaponry, and various gear into combat, then you need to be able to carry that, regardless of your sex or age.

    • Lisa

      I personally still bother with different requirements. Yes, women typically have a different body – so what? If we want equality, that should not be a factor. The requirements should be equal for men and women. It’s not like the standards are unattainable for females, and I suppose if you really want to serve, training before hand should not be an issue. I’m all for women’s rights but I think the different standards issue is a discrimination both ways – the women, who are being patronized in a sense that “we know you can’t do as much as a man” and likewise the men, who have to perform higher than women in order to end up in the same position. Isn’t that last point exactly what women are facing in the business world, where they typically have to perform better than men to get a somewhat good position?
      I think body structure is generally a very bad basis for an argument. I might as well go ahead and argue that big men should be able to do more sit ups than smaller men. That taller men should be able to jump higher than shorter men, etc. No, it doesn’t work that way. I think the concept of gender in general must be abandoned in this sense that requirements are set, and if they are met, you’re in.

      • phantomreader42

        The different requirements are written on the assumption that women will not be allowed in combat roles.

      • Nicola

        I get what you’re saying, though I was more addressing the argument that women are getting a special privilege that men aren’t, and given that the requirements differ by age as well as sex I concluded that it’s an attempt to assess general fitness levels fairly (whether or not it actually is fair). That said, my opinion on that’s changed somewhat after phantomreader42′s post, because of course it’s separate fitness requirements for separate roles, at least from a gender perspective. Speaking of which, phantomreader42, does that mean that men over a certain age are also not allowed in combat roles, given that their physical requirements are also lower than young men’s?

        On whether or not maintaining these standards when women are allowed in combat roles would be the right choice, I’m not sure where I stand. You make good arguments, and I’ve always thought we should have more co-ed professional sports (it bothers me to no end that men’s soccer is this big thing here, with players earning millions of pounds, yet no one I know could even NAME a women’s soccer team); when I practiced karate I know it was weight and skill more than gender that figured into whether or not someone had an advantage in sparring. That being said, if the requirements were the same across gender and age lines, then that could unfairly privilege the average young man over the average older man or average woman, then again like you said the current system can be seen to be privileging women over men. Besides, to be deemed fit for individual positions everyone has to meet the same requirements anyway.

    • Sam

      The PULHES Factor requirements, which actually determine which jobs you are fit for, are the same for men and women, and all ages. The physical fitness requirements….are kind of dumb… a combat position, am I really going to be doing pushups? I think their purpose is just to ensure a base level of physical fitness off which to build other relevant skills.

    • phantomreader42

      Also note that those requirements are written for a force that currently excludes women from combat roles.

  • Marie the Bookwyrm

    Didn’t Deborah (in Judges, I think) lead an army? Or am I misremembering?

    • Ahab

      Judith beheaded an enemy general too. Or did Wilson forget?

  • centauri

    John Piper on women in combat is just as bad:
    (from 2007, I initially thought this was from a few weeks ago)

    “My whole position assumes that competencies and character are not the criteria for who fights the enemy. Women may be more courageous than men in any given situation. They may have nobler vision. They may be smarter. That is not the issue. What God has written on our hearts and designed for our survival and our joy is the issue.”
    from here:

    • Karen

      Remember that the next time you hear one of these goons discuss affirmative action for racial minorities in education and hiring. They are all about pure merit except when they’re not.

  • Anonymouse

    Interesting, because the Israel the fundagelicals all worship uses women in combat and has for decades.

    • Ahab

      I always found that amusing. Israel’s military has much more progressive policies on women and gays, and certain doom has not befallen them. Somehow, the American Religious Right ignores this.

    • Steve

      The Israeli military isn’t as egalitarian as many people think. While women are conscripted, they used to mainly serve as instructors for combat positions. So you while you may have had women in tanks, it was only in training units. It wasn’t until around 2000 that formal restrictions were lifted.

    • saraquill

      Israel’s army is not so progressive. In addition to what Steve said, fundamentalist Jews are exempt from service, so they can spend more time studying the Torah without being inconvenienced. Considering their tendency to have piles of children, this was a bad long term idea and I’m glad it was dropped a year or so ago.

  • AnotherOne

    So cooking a baby goat in its mother’s milk is an argument that women shouldn’t be in combat, but ass-kicking wonder women Jael and Deborah are just symbolic and have no bearing on the position of women in the military?

    I don’t really have a dog in the biblical interpretation fight, but geez louise that’s some fucked up hermeneutics.

  • Jayn

    I can’t help but notice that the bit on cross-dressing is very vague, and rests on us knowing the very subjective designation of what is or isn’t ‘women’s’ clothing. If we decided that pants were women’s clothing, would men then be relegated to skirts?

  • Nightshade

    Let’s see if I’ve got this straight: This guy’s first argument concerns what women will be wearing??! Female body obsession much?

  • Karen

    Here is another awful piece on this issue.

  • Red

    “They completely and entirely remove women’s humanity and free will. Women can only be seduced or coerced into the military. Actually having all the facts and making their own decision to join the military with their eyes open? Nope. It’s like women don’t have agency for Wilson.”

    I think there’s two things going on here. First, yes, Wilson does see women more as being “property” than men are. Yikes. But secondly, it is the habit of this group to assume that ANYONE who does ANYTHING they don’t agree with has been seduced by evil. I’m sure they would say that about guys who become democrats and decide to work in liberal politics.

    That being said, Wilson’s views on women are ridiculous, and there’s pretty much no way of redeeming that unless he were to just 100% change his stance on everything.

  • Red

    Also, women can’t make babies by themselves. Guys have to be involved. That makes guys an agent of bringing life. Therefore, no military can ever exist. And no guy can ever defend his family with lethal force. The end.

    • Monika

      Can I just say that while that is obviously impractical I could have some respect for a religion that argued this should be the case. That wars and violence are to be always avoided. That the military should not exist.

  • Fina

    First, to cite from a web-forum:
    “Also who gives a fuck if females are a minority of the force or if smaller body frames make it harder for them? If they have the will and ability to actually do the job its irrelevant if they have to work harder. Just because only a minority of woman might be cut out for a role doesn’t mean they should be excluded. By your logic Americans as a whole shouldn’t be soldiers because only a minority could meet the requirements. Just look at the percentage of overweight and obese Americans! Clearly US citizens are wholly unfit for war and all should be barred from the armed forces!”

    Also, i wonder why there is no actual restriction to women fighting in war in the Bible. Probably because it was already common practice not to have women do so, so there was no reason to put up a rule about it – which would again illustrate that the bible is not written or even inspired by a omniscient god, because such a deity would have forseen the possibility for a societal change that the human writers of the Bible clearly didn’t.

  • Bob Jase

    Anyone who’s read the OT knows that a woman’s place is not in combat but rather as a spoil of war to be raped and enslaved by the victorious side.

    • AnotherOne

      Prize for best comment.

  • Emily Joy

    Many of my male “complementarian” friends have said the same thing: “Sure I believe women can serve in combat–if they can meet the physical requirements! HA HA!” As if that is their trump card and their little joke because there are no women who can actually meet them. Foolishness.

    • phantomreader42

      It’s telling that the idiots whose only remaining argument is “women iz weak hahha!!!11″ display neither the physical qualifications for the elite military units they claim women are too weak for, nor the mental and emotional maturity necessary to graduate kindergarten.

  • pagansister

    Silliness—-women can’t handle combat? Boudica, queen of the British Iceni tribe led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. There is no reason a woman can’t “fight”. There are many, many women who are now serving in combat situations—-and are being mortally wounded or coming back with life long disabilities. The military in this country is voluntary—not draft. If women do not want a military life, they won’t sign up. The Bible is certainly NOT a primer for what to do or not to do regarding women in general (or anyone for that matter).

    • Karen

      I’m glad you mentioned Boudicca. I ahe a necklace made from a silver Iceni coin minted at the time of her uprising. I wear to trials.

      • pagansister

        That is totally “cool” Karen. She is one of my “Heroines”. :-) I have great admiration for her. May I ask where you got the coin?

  • timberwraith

    As plenty of people have pointed out in other places, women have been on the front lines of battle for ages. In the past, women simply cross-dressed as men and fought incognito.

    I think conservative folk are upset for tertiary reasons, and religious texts are simply adapted on the fly to serve as justification for their misogynist ideas. The desired conservative family structure is plainly stated by these people, ad nauseum: families are composed of heterosexual pairings with men in charge and women living in submission to men’s needs. In other words, “Christian” families are built upon domestic, sexual slavery.

    You’d hardly want your domestic slaves learning how to fight, would you? In time, a person who once assumed they were naturally destined to be domestic chattel would come to realize that they are more powerful than they had ever realized. A woman who can kick the shit out of the average civilian man is far less likely to buy the notion that women are naturally subservient creatures who exist to submit to men’s whims. That serves to destabilize a social system built upon the notion that men are strong, women are weak, and thus, god has commanded men to lord over women.

    Women were created and exquisitely fashioned by God to be life-imparters, and so they must not be transformed into death-dealers.


    We think god created women to serve solely as sperm receptacles who churn out and raise children for the greater glory of Christian supremacy. Men do everything else, as they are left free to fight outside heathen influences while women manufacture more church goers.

    I can imagine that a lot of misogynist fundamentalist dudes are pissing their pants at the thought of battle hardened women returning home and refusing to put up with their slave-master bullshit.

    (Sadly, I suspect that if US war technology weren’t so advanced that it depended upon fewer soldiers, the government and society would still be expecting women to stay home to create the next generation of warm bodies to fulfill US imperialist goals. It’s difficult to fight wars that generate lots of corpses unless there’s a large poor and working class source of young to push into battle. Hence, women are conscripted into baby-making machines for the sake of militarism’s hungry maw. I suspect that fundamentalist Christianity’s notions of gender roles exist, in part, as vestiges of militarism’s requirements from the not so distant past.)

  • Jay

    It’s cute how people think that you can go to a warzone and not risk combat. Women in the army of the United States have seen combat. They have seen combat because while they are Techs or Drivers or Medics they are doing so in a hostile area where people are likely going to try to kill them. No one in a war doesn’t have a risk of seeing combat. What the people (men, women, or otherwise) in non-combat positions DO get is typically less pay.

    • timberwraith

      And I’m guessing, “non-combatant” female soldiers also have less opportunity for advancing in rank because they officially haven’t served in combat, in spite of having unofficially been in combat.

      • Karen

        Exactly. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth lost both her legs in Iraq as a helicopter pilot but isn’t officially a combat veteran.

    • Sheena

      This is very true; my job in the military was payroll. The men who were actively and recognizably in combat roles would get an additional “combat pay”, in addition to exemption from taxes while in the combat zone and, often, a “hazardous duty pay” (which just dealt with particularly dangerous jobs). Most women would be eligible for the tax exemption, and occasionally (depending on the job) “hazardous duty pay”. And, well, women are discouraged from pursuing jobs that would make them eligible for combat or hazardous duty pay. Lady Military Police were more common, but there weren’t many in EOD (bomb squad), and they were kept from more dangerous intelligence assignments or trained to fly “safer” aircraft. Also (just as a point of interest; chaplains are non-combatants), there are very few Lady Chaplains. Most likely because, well, the more progressive/mainline denominations (that would have Lady Pastors) don’t tend to have as many military members as conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist denominations.

  • Karen

    I read the following comment at the links posted earlier. Tony Esolen thoroughly despises women and takes every chance to insult and demean us. Please note that he thinks that supporting this new rule is inconsistent with supporting the Violence Against Women Act, because trained combat soldiers are exactly the same as women routinely beaten by their husbands:

    This is a very nice article by Bernadette O’Brien, but I would like to re-emphasize the obvious. It isn’t just “e not upper body” strength. Men are stronger in the lower body, too. They weigh more. Much more of their weight is in muscle. They are primed by nature for fighting. They are fleeter of foot. We are not talking about a couch potato, against a woman training at the gym all year. Men in war will be at the peak of their physical condition, and thus there will be a complete separation of the men from the women. I find it bitterly ironic that the same people who push for a Violence Against Women Act — since women cannot counter the violence of a brawling boyfriend — believe that by magic these same women will stand against the violence of enemies in top condition, armed to the teeth, and primed to fight, kill, plunder, and rape. It is also bitterly ironic that women who require special cordoned-off sports teams, just to have a chance to play at all — exactly as seniors require their special golf tours — will magically be just the same as their brothers, just because we put khaki pajamas on them.

    The other thing I’d like to emphasize is that the heart of an army is the male-male bonding within small groups like the platoon. You have to trust that your blood brother would do — and COULD do — anything to save you, and you would do the same for him. That bonding does not occur in a co-ed environment, wherein the men, if they are good, will seek to shield the women, and if they’re not good, will leave them behind for meat, or will force them to trade ….
    A challenge: if these idiots championing this policy had their own homes and families and lives on the line — if nothing but one platoon, or, hell, one football squad, stood between them and destruction, they sure as hell would not want any petites on the squad. Hypocrites and morons.

    One more: nobody gives a damn about the life and the limbs of the guy who has to have that wide-hipped narrow-shouldered thin-wristed fat-padded soldier next to him, on the battlefield. Heck, he’s probably a redneck anyhow, and who the hell cares if HE dies?

    • Steve

      There are plenty of men in the military who struggle with the physical requirements and either barely pass or get kicked over them (though some services also have ridiculous and unrealistic standards about body measurements vs weight)

    • M

      Um, you do realize Canada’s military is fully gender-integrated and has been for years, right? Same requirements for male and female soldiers, same units, etc. Canadian men are not known for being tiny, nor are Canadian women. And it works out quite well for them- they’ve been extremely effective in Afghanistan.

      No one would want me to be the soldier next to them- I’m 5’3″, weigh 115 lbs, and am not very fit. But then again, I don’t want to serve in the infantry and I know I can’t. My 5’10″ female cousin, on the other hand? If she wanted to be an infantry soldier, she’d be awesome at it. Women, like men, are individuals. Some are physically strong, some weak, some tall, some short, some very fit, some couch potatoes. There are women who can be infantry soldiers and want to be- what the hell is wrong with letting them?

    • timberwraith

      Oh. I didn’t realize that male soldiers, guns, bullets, tanks, artillery, and all manner of military related items stopped functioning when girl cooties are near by. That’s quite a vulnerability. Should we task the bio-warfare folks to design a virus that changes enemy combatants’ sex?

      It’s amazing how much this guy makes the military sound like a weaponized annex to middle school.

    • pagansister

      A question, Karen, if you happen to know. You mentioned Tammy Duckworth and her having lost both legs in Iraq. I know of her but didn’t realize she isn’t considered officially as a combat veteran. How can that be?? Amazing. Is she denied Veteran’s services etc? I would most certainly hope not. Any woman who has sacrificed as she has certainly deserves ALL the help they can receive, at no cost, by this government just like the men.

      • M

        I believe, but am not sure, that she still gains veteran’s services. I’m pretty sure that all veterans, not just combat veterans, are eligible for VA benefits.

      • pagansister

        Thank you, M for that information. I most certainly thought she should receive veterans benefits, but the way it was worded by Karen, that she wasn’t officially a “combat veteran” could have impacted that. I most certainly thought that the government would include her in those benefits—even without the word “combat” included in her service.

      • Steve

        It’s not *that* bad. Anyone has access to VA services, whether they were in combat or not. But having been in combat could and can complicate a PTSD diagnosis for example. For years people had problems with having their triggers recognized. They were told things like “You weren’t in combat, so you couldn’t be traumatized”. Or women weren’t believed when they told what they did. Never mind that you can get PTSD from sitting on a base that is shot with mortars and rockets all the time. Things have improved in that are however.

  • Christine

    And now I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favourite Science Fiction series. The military forces of a backwater planet which has just been re-acquainted with the fact that the rest of the galaxy exists are having a hard time adjusting to the idea that machismo no longer wins wars.

    “A man disarmed in a techonological war might as well be a woman, useless!… Miles wondered sourly if the general would agree that a woman armed in a technological war might as well be a man.”

    • M

      Oh how we love Bujold! I haven’t read her fantasy series yet, but I’m looking forward to more from the Vorkosiverse.

      • Pauline

        Oh, you’ve got to read the fantasy series, especially The Curse of Chalion, it’s incredible. She’s amazing at creating strong female characters who are accurate within their historical context. (It sounds weird to reference historical context in fantasy, but Chalion is based on medieval Spain–closely–and it shows.)

      • Christine

        Yes, Curse of Chalion is amazing. Granted, I love it from a very Christian perspective – my pastor FIL rants and raves about how amazing the theology in it is. The Sharing Knife series is also really good. I was re-reading them recently (just got them this past Christmas) and was just amazed by the quality of some of her wry observations.

    • Karen


  • picklefactory

    First off, Sarah Robles is a hugely strong and determined person and a total badass..

    Some background info on what qualifies her as the strongest woman in the US:

    – Olympic weightlifting is a highly technical sport consisting of two lifts (the snatch and the clean and jerk) which involve flinging a tremendous weight overhead and keeping it there. Unlike powerlifting, it is not a matter of strength only, but also flexibility, technique, fearlessness, and power output.
    – Olympic weightlifting is not a sport that the US competes very seriously in (when compared to, say, Russia, China, or Bulgaria). There just aren’t enough interested athletes, not enough money, not enough weightlifting clubs in the US to field a really competitive team.
    – The olympic weightlifting weight classes are broken up by men vs. women and are kind of dumb.
    Men: 56, 62, 69, 77, 85, 94, 105, 105+ Kg
    Women: 48, 53, 58, 63, 69, 75, 75+ Kg
    You can see how the women’s weight classes hit the ceiling 65+ lbs lower than men’s!
    – The ranking of a weightlifter is not based on how much weight they can lift, but the Sinclair Coefficient, which involves both the total weight lifted and the athlete’s bodymass. (Male and female athletes have different coefficients.)
    – In terms of weight lifted overhead, a world-class male athlete who is 75-85 Kg will outlift a world-class female athlete like Robles who competes at ~105 Kg.

    The whole thing leads to weird and sometimes counterintuitive results when you rank male vs. female athletes! But occasionally I hear things like “the strongest female weightlifter in the US is stronger than the strongest male weightlifter”. Seen in the light of weight classes and Sinclair total — the way that weightlifters rank themselves — this is definitely true. But it often seems to me like people think this is a measure of absolute strength, and it isn’t quite that.

  • IsaacSapphire

    Considering that my sister used to do the US military workout on guy-intensity for her age and then keep going, there are definitely women who can meet the physical requirements.