Right Hooks

Feminists Condemn Webb for 40-Year-Old Article

Writing about the different roles of men and women ain't ok.

Charles Paige · Apr. 5, 2017

Jim Webb is a Navy Cross recipient, best-selling author, Reagan-era secretary of the Navy, former senator (and a Democrat, no less), presidential candidate, and Naval Academy alum — in other words, he’s exceptionally accomplished. Yet he was recently forced to decline the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Academy by a small but vocal group of feminists, largely because of an article he wrote in 1979. The article — “Women Can’t Fight” — was well within the mainstream when written and was based on Webb’s first-hand (and award-winning) experience as a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam.

His critics — none of whom have even a remotely equivalent perspective or experience base to draw on — are broadcasting a confusing, but dangerous message, with today’s Academy midshipmen watching the spectacle from the front row. Never mind that Webb has disavowed the article, stating that his language reflected his immaturity and apologizing for any harm it caused. The fact that Webb directed implementation of some of the most female-friendly policies in the history of the Department while serving as secretary of the Navy doesn’t seem to matter either. He said some things that may have been acceptable then, but that the New Enlightened folks consider very mean and that hurt their feelings very badly now. This tolerant thinking goes something like this: “If you don’t punish him by revoking the award, we will punish the rest of you (and the other award recipients) by screaming obscenities during the ceremony.”

His opponents’ reasoning is, at best, inconsistent. On the one hand they denounce Webb’s thesis (that females’ are ill-suited for the rigors of ground combat), while on the other they argue a few hundred words in a relatively obscure magazine created an “unsafe environment” that caused — and continues to cause, 40 years later — great harm to fragile females in the military. They effectively turn the old “sticks and stones” adage inside out: bayonets and bullets, no problem; adjectives and verbs, big problem.

It’s also ironic, and moderately amusing, that their protest has introduced an article they find so threatening to a much broader audience. Demonstrating the intellectual and moral emptiness of their argument, one opponent said she thought it would actually be okay for Webb to receive the award … but only if a female was similarly recognized first. If only there were a female Navy Cross-winning, former SecNav, former senator available for them to nominate. Or an Academy alumna that could claim even one of those accomplishments.

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