Face of equal­ity, or an en­counter with bruis­ing re­al­ity?

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Amy Oliver

THE DE­CI­SION to al­low women into all parts of the mil­i­tary was widely hailed as a vic­tory for fe­male equal­ity.

But TV view­ers are likely to be shocked tonight when they see a woman be­ing badly beaten by a male con­tes­tant on Chan­nel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins.

The in­ci­dent will raise fur­ther ques­tions about how ap­pro­pri­ate it is to re­cruit women along­side men as front­line sol­diers. Mid­wife Louise Gab­bitas, 29, is one of the first women to ap­pear on the C4 show, which puts con­tes­tants through SAS-style train­ing. She de­lib­er­ately chooses to fight 27-year-old stu­dent Nathaniel rather than take on an­other woman in the ring.

While the pair, wear­ing pro­tec­tive head­gear, square up to each other, the chief in­struc­tor on the show, for­mer Spe­cial Forces sniper Ant Mid­dle­ton, tells them: ‘The best form of de­fence is at­tack. Is that un­der­stood?’

Nathaniel does not hold back, smash­ing Miss Gab­bitas in the face sev­eral times be­fore land­ing hard blows to her head un­til she falls down.

The episode leaves her di­shev­elled, bruised and teary, prompt­ing Mid­dle­ton to tell the re­cruits: ‘The en­emy doesn’t care what gen­der, race or re­li­gion you are.’

Later, he told The Mail on Sun­day: ‘ The fact is, in gen­eral, men are stronger than fe­males. It doesn’t mean bet­ter, we are just bet­ter at cer­tain jobs and women are bet­ter at jobs than cer­tain males. If na­tional se­cu­rity and real lives are put at risk, then that is dan­ger­ous.’

It is Nathaniel who ap­pears to be the more emo­tional af­ter the box­ing con­test. ‘I was try­ing to not go too ag­gres­sive,’ he tells Miss Gab­bitas. ‘It was the hard­est thing to do. It’s a head f***.’ Miss Gab­bitas re­as­sures him, say­ing: ‘I’m not cry­ing be­cause you hurt me. I’m fine.’

This is the first time women have been al­lowed to com­pete in the show’s four-year his­tory, a change prompted by the Min­istry of De­fence de­ci­sion to al­low women to be­come front­line troops and even join the SAS.

The re­cruits were treated equally through­out their time at a tough twoweek mil­i­tary train­ing camp based in the An­des, Chile, dur­ing win­ter.

‘ We slept to­gether, ate to­gether, went to the toi­let to­gether, car­ried the same weight and did ex­actly the same tasks as one an­other,’ Miss Gab­bitas said. She ad­mits she found the process ‘ab­so­lutely bru­tal’.

Mid­dle­ton has been out­spo­ken about women join­ing the SAS in the past. He pre­vi­ously told the MoS: ‘It’s not about the [SAS] course it­self, but the bru­tal, vi­o­lent and ag­gres­sive re­al­i­ties of war.

‘I be­lieve that level – it’s be­yond the front line, it’ s hu­mans hunt­ing hu­mans – is not a place for women.’

BEAT­ING: Louise Gab­bitas on tonight’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, and right, be­fore the box­ing con­test dur­ing train­ing in the An­des

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