by Maxwell Paddington
May 21, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rallying democratic support, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY introduced a bill to the House that would abolish the U.S. military’s physical fitness requirements and height-weight standards. The bill aims to solve a problem the military has wrestled with for the last decade. According to a 2018 RAND report, the U.S. Army accounts for the highest percentage of overweight troops, with 69.4 percent of soldiers falling under this category. This is followed by the Coast Guard (67.8 percent), Navy (64.6 percent), Air Force (63.1 percent) and Marine Corps (60.9 percent).
“This is a great step forward, especially for women… and especially women of color,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “It’s past time to end the military’s racist, institutionalized fat-shaming and discriminatory fit shaming.” Women make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army, and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps. In 2016, approximately 10.3% of women and 7.4% of men serving in the military were overweight.
“People often make fat jokes, but shaming of obesity is no joke. People who experience weight discrimination have more daily stressors, physical symptoms and negative emotions,” said Ocasio-Cortez, referring to a 2016 study published in Obesity.
“Research consistently shows the pressure to maintain a particular physique is stronger for women,” said Article 107 News consultant Joy Butterworth, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Brownell, an expert in weight bias, says women are valued more for their appearance, and there is less acceptance of a variation in body shape and size.
Reaction from military leaders is mixed. “The bill would certainly grow the size and shape of the U.S. military,” said General P.T. Barnum, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Military recruiters turn away 31% of potential warfighters due to obesity, but there are still unknowns. Removing these standards could potentially impact combat readiness.”
Analysts predict less than 1% of morbidly obese soldiers will complete a 4-year enlistment but project a 2,975% increase in VA disability claims. The proposed Anti-Shame bill also replaces the medical term “morbidly obese” with “enthusiastically obese.”
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