In Ranger School, women are allowed, but unexpected. They undertake the same tasks as men, humping a 75 lb. rucksack, a 17 lb. machine gun, 2.1 lb. boots on their feet, and hair “cut a tad longer”. The hair. It makes a difference; a hair longer, a hair lighter, a hair’s breadth, a hair split.
Somewhere near 4,000 people enlist in the Ranger course every year and about forty percent actually make it through, making the graduate total around 1,600. Nineteen of those were women this year making them only 0.01% of those enrolled. Two women made it past the point when most drop out, making their success rate so far 0.1%. It’s that particular hairs breadth between 0.1% and none that really counts.
You see I wanted to do the math. I wanted for things to add up. I wanted the percentage to point to some larger truth, some feminist goal. I wanted to do the math! I found my incursion into numbers hampered by my desire to make them say something, to write the meaning on the wall for me. The numbers didn’t add up and I couldn’t lift a meaning from the base equations. So my foray failed.
So what? I still gained ground, reaching the point that these small numbers make no sense at large. For only two have made it thus far, not backwards and in high heels, but in boots and straightway through. Still it is no small measure. Numbers cannot calculate that strength and drive, that persistence.
The lumps of women protrude in the flat history of aggression. Joan of Arc, Grace Murray Hopper, Mulan, Queen Artemisia, Bodicia, Martha “Calamity” Jane Canary, Juana Azurduy, the “Night Witches” of Russia, Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver, women assaulting the military world’s statistics with their curves, bumps in the graph. More than half the world’s population, but less than one tenth of a percent breaches the Army Ranger academy. They take on equal weight, equal time, equal assessment of their skills, and it should lead to equal value. And it does.
My combative nature builds in rhetorical aggression until… The government announces that women will join men in active duty. My righteous anger relieved but marred by a fretful hand-wringing thought.
I hope I never get drafted.