As the issue of sending female soldiers to the front lines heats up, it’s time to remember some of the ways in which GI Jane differs from GI Joe.

Let’s start with the obvious: our bodies, our selves. We’re different from men.

Women have served with honor–and some with dishonor, if you recall Abu Ghraib–in the war in Iraq. But that simply does not change one key reality about women in combat–women have less chance of survival than men.

One of the best sources of information is a Q & A on the website of the Center for Military Readiness, an organization that has vocally opposed sending women to the front lines. Here is what the CMR says about a female soldier’s capacity to survive:

“[B]ody armor alone weighs 25 pounds. This weight is proportionately more difficult to carry by female soldiers who are, on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance. Even in current non-combat training, women suffer debilitating bone stress fractures and other injuries at rates double those of men.

“To summarize an enormous body of well-documented evidence produced by physiologists in the U.S. and Britain, in close combat women do not have an ’equal opportunity’ to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive.”

The saga of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was captured and rescued in Iraq, was hailed by feminists as an argument in favor of putting women in combat. If you include the parts of Lynch’s story that feminists and the news media chose not to dwell upon, is an argument for exactly the opposite.

From the CMR Q & A:

Q: Why are you so concerned about Pfc. Jessica Lynch? Didn’t Iraqi doctors deny that she had been abused in captivity?

A: According to American doctors who examined Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch after her rescue by Special Operations forces, she was brutally raped and sodomized by Iraqi thugs during the three to four hours after the ambush, when she was unconscious. The violence reportedly occurred at a fedayeen headquarters that also included a medical facility and torture devices such as a metal bed, car battery, and electrodes. According to NBC and other news reports, this was the same building where Al Jazeera TV broadcast five prisoners of war and the bodies of several dead American soldiers.

On December 30, 2003, NBC News showed excerpts of a disturbing video taken by Iraqis of Jessica Lynch and her friend Pfc. Lori Piestewa, who was near death and did not survive. The gruesome video showed Lynch’s deathly pale face, cut and surrounded by loose bandages. She was unconscious, but Pfc. Piestewa, a Hopi Indian and single mother of two, was still alive and grimacing in pain when an Iraqi man roughly turned her severely bruised, cut and swollen face to the camera. The barely-alive Lynch was taken to a civilian hospital, where she received compassionate treatment for her severe injuries prior to her rescue by Special Forces.

For more ammunition: A 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces studied the issue of women serving in combat units with men. A majority of the commissioners voted against putting women in combat. You can link to the commission’s executive summary to find some of the reasons for their objections.