For years, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has required its male cadets to box in their first year. But women weren’t allowed to join them. Now West Point has changed its rule: Plebe women, too, must box.
As long as boxing is a requirement for cadet men, that is what equality requires.
Whether boxing should remain a requirement at all has been called into question. It’s a question best left to the experts at the Military Academy. But it is certainly plausible that boxing, which requires its participants to confront physical threats up close and fight them, is valuable preparation for military officers.
In any event, it is only appropriate to mandate it for cadet men if, in the judgment of West Point’s authorities, it is sufficiently valuable. And if it is valuable enough to mandate it for men, it is valuable enough to mandate it for women.
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Some may argue that the risk of concussion outweighs the benefits. According to a New York Times story last year, nearly 1 in 5 West Point concussions came from boxing. But West Point’s students, women as well as men, have chosen to enter a dangerous profession. Exempting women cadets was coddling, not a word anyone would expect in the same sentence as “West Point.”
The U.S. Armed Forces have opened all combat roles to women, and five women from this year’s West Point graduating class chose to pursue the responsibilities of infantry officers. In the U.S. Military Academy, too, women deserve to be treated equally. This boxing requirement is part of that equality.