Skip to main content

Lots of talk about reforms in the military that need to happen, or that sometimes are attempted with regards to integrating women into the forces. I can tell you some things about that, but I have to offer some caveats. My direct experiences in the uniform were about 20 years ago.

Women weren't regularly on ships back then, and we weren't really officially in combat back then. If you requested jobs like that, you were turned down. There were some test cases going on if memory services, but it wasn't until 1995 that they officially started putting females on Air Craft Carriers. Before that, it was all Hospital Tenders and things like that.

The military had big problems with the presence of women. So some aspects of military experience I am talking about are very different than how things are now. But some things haven't changed that much at all. How the military deals with rape, and sexual harassment, stalking, etc., If the stories that are still coming out from women in the service now are any indicator, then in many ways the military is still spinning it's wheels with that one.

Now I cannot speak for anyone else in the ranks, during my time in or other times. I can only tell you that because I tend to prefer masculine pursuits, and I tend to like a rough and tough crowd, and I like to be outside, that the military appealed to me.

There is nothing wrong with being a soft, feminine, nurturing woman who wears dresses and make-up--however that person is not me and never was.

I like to curse, and spit, and get my hands dirty. It's not that I cannot be more refined when I need to, but it's not really who I am, especially at this time, during my late teenage years. Granted I have mellowed out over the years, but I felt compelled to do that while raising my kids. Back to the story!

Perhaps it's because I grew up, with people who worked in garages and warehouses, and built things, I never much thought of the girly posters from NAPPA, or the vintage nose art that these men hung up in their establishments, as sexism. During that time, these were normalized. Women didn't hang out in places like that if given the choice. These were almost exclusively male venues.  Of course these weren't hard core porn, so that might have had something to do with it too.

But that experience gave me part of my unrealistic expectations, when I joined the military. I thought it was going to be just like being in those greasy garages. No one messed with me in those places, because I was someone's daughter. At the time I assumed no one messed with me, because it would just be wrong. But when I think back to that time, it was because of my youth and the fact that my no-neck dad worked in there too and would probably cram wrenches down anyone's neck who looked at me sideways.

I went into the military thinking it would be like the garage. Only I never made the connections before to the lack of harassment in other venues. When I went into the military, I was considered an adult female. I had no mutant father figure to quietly threaten from dark corners with his glaring, silon mono-brow.

I was right there, and he and other male protectors were very far away. Are you sitting down?

The main method of finding a "male protector" was to find someone to sleep with. Gasping for air yet? Think back ladies, of being in college, or some other place where you were considered a catch or a target. At least that is how I see it now, looking back with some perspective.

Our culture has a very serious problem with women and sexual availability.

The notion of Open Season on women, that some people romanticize isn't really romantic at all. There is being pursued and then there is being mauled or stalked. The kind of attention that females receive upon entering the military is overwhelming, or at least it was for me.

And I don't mean that in a good way. We are a numerical minority, and that is exacerbated whenever we show up somewhere new which makes us also temporarily exotic.

You have choices: You can lock yourself in your room. You might live at the chapel, or you try to have something of a normal life. None of these answers are perfect or even close, because there was no way to address the total lack of rules. It was the wild west back then and by the documentaries coming out now, it appears that it still is.

I thought it was cool at first--wow guys like me? But I am practically a guy--who knew? That got old quick. This didn't just last for a week or two. It was nonstop. And I know for a fact that I wasn't the only one and I certainly didn't have the worst of it.

What I observed was that if you have a relationship with someone that lasts a while, then you will be fine, for a while.

If you have a sexual encounter with someone that you do not have a relationship then you will be labeled and pursued more.

Or worse, if people believe that the second scenario is true, even if in reality it isn't, then you will still be labeled and pursued more.

And don't be thinking that a wedding ring or an engagement ring is going to save you the trouble, because it won't. Your protector is far away. The person perceived as your owner is far away. Face it relationships make women into individual territories. It does this to men too, but the rules are sometimes different for them.

In fact, back then girls with rings were often suspected of being gay. Now it's not so big of a deal or so I hear, but back then, it was a big deal and a potential career ending issue.

People want to blame this on pornography, and cursing, and unlady-like behavior, on sluts, and how the boys will be boys, but none of those things are the driving factor here.

It's cultural. Even though we have dropped this legal notion that women are the chattel to be transferred from father to husband, unofficially this mentality still reigns, even if in a watered down form.

Basically you choose who owns you by sleeping with them OR you choose to be community property.

And honestly, neither of those choices suited me.

The military and our culture have consistently failed to have genuinely honest discussions about female sexuality and male sexual privilege.

No one asks why males, even young ones with no other power in the world, but their maleness, also have the power to declare any female a slut.
We should start asking that question. What gives them the right? And then take that power away from them. It is not an appropriate power to have or to distribute.

The ways that the military tries to handle this matter? Like a person who is covering their eyes, mostly, trying not to see what is actually happening, reluctantly making decrees that don't even serve as a stop gap in many situations.

The higher ups are prudes. They represent a mighty generation gap that forces 1950s mentalities on women in a 21st century military. In their world the worst insult would be if one called them a woman. And now they have to work with us. We are no camp followers or girls dancing for their amusement. We are their equals and for some this is just unacceptable, and embarrassing. They are embarrassed also about sex, especially when women pursue it. So they don't deal with it, or they punish us or both.

Treating the ranks like naughty children will not solve this problem.

What the military needs are honest, frank, rules of engagement regarding how to properly pursue consensual sex with another consenting adult. Our culture does too.

What the military needs to do is partner with civilian agencies off the base to provide third party assistance for rape counseling and reporting. That would take some pressure off of the commands, and give some oversight.

We also need to have very frank discussions about what rape is. No more beating around the proverbial bush on this one. We need to talk about it. For example: If someone is drunk and cannot consent, then you should not have sexual contact with that person.

You can blame women who are out partying, but the truth is, they are doing what their male compatriots are doing. If she can't trust them under those circumstances, when why should she ever trust them at her back with a gun?

And if he waits til a woman is inebriated before he propositions her, or worse waits til she is passed out, then he already knows the answer is no and is being a predator.

Just because she said yes to your buddy, doesn't mean she has to say yes to you.

Ladies who work in exotic dance establishments get more protection than our women in uniform. There are bouncers there that will throw over eager patrons out. No one is there for our women in uniform.

I remember watching sexual harassment training films that tried to show through visual metaphor what happens when you harass a female. I got it. Most of the guys didn't get it or didn't care. Because the higher ups that gave the training made a stink at the beginning of the film:

"The old military is dead. We now have a new New Age military, all touchy-feeley, mamby-pamby, and they are making me give this training." Grumble, snort. "So everyone do their duty and watch this crap so we can get the hell out of here and get back to work."

What message would you get from that? The one I got, was don't take this too seriously. We are just going to follow the letter of the law, but otherwise ignore the "training."
We should not mince words. Either the Military is going to truly embrace across the board equality for all members, or the Chain of Command needs to come clean about it's actual agenda. Any command figure that gives training with that caveat needs to be reported.

Basically the only way a woman could safely bring a complaint in my time, was if the offense were just incredibly obvious with multiple witnesses. And even then, that would be no guarantee.

Men and women need to really see each other as equals. That ownership is not implied through sexual contact. That no one can own another person period. That a woman desiring sex or having consensual sex is not a shameful act, and more importantly, that sexual activity, is not a chink in her social armor that allows other men to exploit her for coercive sex. Or otherwise destroy her career through sexual labeling as if sexual activity at all is an indicator of some professional lack, when the same is rarely true of her male counterparts.  

Women need to be allowed to have the same freedoms as men. No more sexual double standards.

No more curfews for women only on the post.

What happens in the base club or on the weekend should not affect performance when one goes back to the job.

If a male or female says no to sex, that should not be grounds for any kind of retribution, professional or social, even if they say yes to someone else.

The worst moments I remember in uniform, were things that happened while I was literally in Uniform.

Being mildly harassed in civilian clothes sucked. But being whistled or yelled at, or propositioned while I was wearing my Uniform was the worst. It told me that I wasn't part of the team, that some people just saw me as a piece of ass, disguising myself as a military member. It would just embarrass me to no end and really piss me right off.

If you see a good looking person in uniform, keep it to yourself. You can tell a person they look sharp, but don't go ruining it by making sexually charged comments. That is really disrespectful and unprofessional. Anyone who did that never had a chance with me ever, because it was obvious that they didn't respect the uniform or themselves. Believe me it's not a compliment. It undermines my authority, because that is objectification, more than any picture or bad joke.

I will say that military members from other countries notice this, and sometimes they were sympathetic, and other times they took it as a thumbs up to be just as bad. Other people are watching and taking note. We tell other people, how to treat our American women in the Uniform.

So if you tell them or show them that we are sluts who need to be punished, then that's what we deal with. If you show/tell  them that we are independent women, professionals and patriots, then that will help a lot, even in cultures that are not as open minded about female equality. If you show that we are accepted, and respected, then our differences are seen as cultural.

Otherwise, we are perceived as naughty girls whose fathers or owners are far away, and we know what that means.

Decide now. Are we on your team or just barely tolerated? Because that makes a big difference in how a career goes.

We need to teach our people in uniform how to be sexually mature adults. There is a way to do that without creating social scapegoats of women or anyone else.

I would start by dropping the notion that morality can be determined by the absence of pre-marital sex.

I would get rid of the notion of sexual purity altogether.

Because when those two paradigms are used, what that means is any female who falls short of them is deemed other. She does not receive the protections of society from sexual offenders, because she is impure and immoral and therefore gets what she deserves.

I would instead replace religious morality with social ethics.

An ethical person has encounters only with consenting adults.

And ethical person doesn't use the work space to find dates.

An ethical person doesn't use their rank or authority to coerce dates or sex from other members.

An ethical person, respects the privacy of other members.

An ethical person doesn't attempt to have sex with an unconscious or semiconscious person.

An ethical person realizes that all adults have the power and the right to say yes or no to an encounter without fear of retaliation.  

An ethical person doesn't pursue encounters with people in committed relationships.

Etc and so on.

This would make the military's decrees more congruent with it's actions.

Throwing porn out, and forbidding cursing might look good on paper, but until the root of the issue is addressed, it isn't going to make the big differences.

The military needs to explore the axiom of the alternative sexual community:

Safe, Sane, and Consensual.

And when members are taught how to be ethical about sex, then I would offer that forcing pornographic images or thoughts on others will also go away. It would not fit into the notion of consent.

Two people who look at pornography together in private because that's what turns them on is one thing.

Forcing someone to look at it especially in the work place, in order to aggressively mark your territory and offer nonverbal offense or even threats, well that's not going to go over very well in a military that teaches sexual ethics and what consent means.

Outlawing all porn across the board, because it's considered dirty pictures, means you are also calling the females dirty and the sex dirty and that carries religious connotations that are not helpful to adult females who have to navigate this illogical, sea of mixed messages about sex. Organized religions have not historically been friends of women, especially not with free women or openly sexual women.

Sex is not dirty.
Women having sex are not dirty.
Women enjoying sex are not dirty.

We don't have these issues with men wanting or having sex. So we need to take the gender out of the discussion and put humans in there, so that the rules apply to everyone.

Forcing someone though--that is reprehensible.
Harassing someone is reprehensible.
Hurting a fellow military member is an act of betrayal, after all you are both in the same uniform. How is raping a fellow member, or harassing them until they are non-functional, not the same as fragging?

I use fragging as an example, because this is the kind of violence that men have committed against each other, when they felt no other recourse to remove a fellow military member. It is an act of betrayal, that often ends in death or maiming. Sexual assault and harassment are also a similarly, highly destructive acts of betrayal, that also can end in death and maiming. The end result is longer in the making, but no less devastating to the career of the target, their personal lives, their psychological health and over the long run, their physical health. It is simply a slower death in worst case scenarios, and in the very least a catastrophic event for people who manage to find their way after the fact.

Any changes implemented on the military, will not happen over night. It is natural for people to resist new rules, and persist in pushing back towards old paradigms. That is human behavior. But if we were to start teaching sexual ethics early on in a career, and make that continuing education through regular training, it would make a big difference.

It gives people rules, basic-rules that they can go by, when dealing with the complexities of sex and sexuality. These rules need to be based on humanity, and not on religion. Religious comportment should concern only the religious. That shouldn't be forced on people outside of that group, especially not the when consequences of noncompliance might end in sexual harassment or violation, or assault.

Because I believe it is obvious, and has been for years, that young men and women are not being given an adequate education with regards to sexual comportment.

I am not going to say that my suggestions will solve all the problems in the military. I will just say that I think a paradigm shift might help foster a stronger, integrated force of men and women.

It doesn't have to be all New Agey and Touchy Feeley either. If you portray women as unquestionable, irreplaceable members of the military force, if you train your new recruits to look out for each other because of their common bond as military members, that is not conditional upon gender, or perceived purity,  then you can teach our military members to be better to each other and to be more cohesive. Their commitment to each other as soldiers will be based on more stable criterion. And if you make it clear that placing conditions that rely on gender or perceived purity is the sign of a dirtbag, you will make a difference in the mentality that drives this awful hostility against female members.

I could sit here and piss everyone off by telling the stories of the things that happened to me. I could upset myself til I am nonfunctional with the remembering. But I would rather take what I observed and use that to further a discussion that might produce real results.

Maybe you have other thoughts on the matter. You should speak up too.

Sat Dec 08, 2012 at  8:19 AM PT: It has occurred to me that some might not get the reference to sexual purity, so I thought I would add a little something to that.

When a woman is assaulted, raped, or harassed, often the first things that come up, are with regards to her part she played in this encounter. Was she dressed provocatively, was she drunk, was she "leading someone one," ad nauseum. All of these things go towards society's perception of sexual purity.

Someone who is virginal or is otherwise perceived as such, is gifted with the power to say no to sexual propositions or encounters without question. They are expected to.

But a woman who is perceived as sexually [read religiously] impure has no right to say no. That's why there is implied consent from society that it is okay to assault an impure woman, or shame her or harass her.

I feel it is very important to drop that notion entirely and make this about humanity and human rights. All human beings have an innate right to maintain their bodily integrity which means they always have the right, regardless of circumstance to say no to sex, even if they are a sex worker.

If we make rape and harassment about consent and human rights, and drop notions of sexual [read religious] [im] purity, then that changes everything. It changes the entire basis of the discussion and of the concept of violation.

All human beings, male or female,  gay or straight, religious or not, because of their innate humanity have the right to say no with impunity at any time.

Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 7:54 AM PT: I get so caught up in trying to explain things that I forget the most important stuff.  These occurrences of rape and harassment are the desire to correct the behavior of females who are seen as professional or social threats, or who are not displaying someone's notion of sufficiently feminine behavior. I have written about this before. The problem is, that even though these incidents can be traced back to a criminal element, I suppose what I am trying to find here, is a way to deprive that element of society's unconscious support or collusion. See this other diary for an explanation:  Corrective Rape.

Once again, this is a group of very awkward topics, so I understand if there are people out there who vehemently disagree or have their own ideas. It helps if we just keep discussing the matter.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Used to be that men didn't have to worry... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mannie, zesty grapher

    about their wives/significant others being hit on while they were deployed.  

    Nowadays it's so bad with regards to the advances that you could practically start a betting pool for "Who's gonna get hit by Jody next?"

    I'm not saying we should go back to the dark ages of women as property, but the idea that a male "Protector" has to be RIGHT THERE in order to still be considered a valid reason not to hit on a woman needs to go bye bye.

    The new sexual paradigm in this culture, that every woman is "available" as long as her SO isn't right there, just causes more people not to trust.  And since trust is the most important thing in a relationship... there we go.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 09:11:29 AM PST

    •  It still happened back in the day. (4+ / 0-)

      It just wasn't broadcast unless the lovers were caught.

      Women had to be fearful of their reputations, because even being seen talking with a man who wasn't her significant other, was enough to start the rumor mill, and then came the people who try to act on that rumor.

      Sex is sometimes complicated and mess, just like people, but we can find a way to be more human to each other, mortal flaws withstanding.

      •  Oops--Messy. Lost a y in there. (0+ / 0-)
      •  True, and I personally... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Think that our current obsession with monogamy and women as "Taken" needs to stop.

        However, the last thing somebody deployed needs is to be worrying about things he or she can't control when they're separated from their SO.

        That was my point.  Honestly, I think it shouldn't be a big issue provided no diseases, pregnancies or lost long term relationships are involved.  

        Of course, that's just my opinion and no disrespect meant on your points.

        I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

        by detroitmechworks on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 09:31:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Understood. (3+ / 0-)

          I guess what I am saying is that the perception needs to change.

          Hypothetically, if I were to join now, I would want potential suiters to leave me be, because they respect the fact that I am in a committed relationship.

          I don't want them acting out of fear that my old man will kick their ass. Because then it tells them, "Don't Get Caught".

          If I am property, then their behavior isn't based on respect towards me and my commitment, but instead on fear of male retaliation. If they think that is a non-issue then it's a green light--even when its not.

    •  Wait a second (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      What was the old joke? "How do you know which unit is in the field? By who's wives are at the bar." And we didn't mean just for drinks. Let's not gloss over marriage infidelity as if its just the soldiers hitting on poor defenseless wives.

      "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

      by just another vet on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:18:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No one is perfect I will give you that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        just another vet, reconnected

        But a wife at the bar with her friends isn't an automatic invitation.

        A female or male in uniform in a long distance relationship isn't an automatic invitation.

        That's why I said, lets take gender out of the equation and replace that with humans, that way we can respect the boundaries for all people.

        I don't want a role reversal, where you replace one bad system with another. I want something that is much better and more fair.

        •  Oh I agree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          But a wife at the bar trolling herself happens quite regularly.

          Taking all that aside, I have been running this through my head and one thing that i am finding hard to figure out: what role does the military play in all this? i mean yes, they absolutely need to make it such that everyone is welcomed and should never feel like they are under threat. But just how much can they do? A person who is a n asshole coming in generally stays an asshole while in. And if you threw all of them out there wouldn't be that many folks left in. Yes that is a harsh criticism. But its based on personal observation.  

          "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

          by just another vet on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:45:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I disagree. It's training and it's how higher ups (3+ / 0-)

            set the example.

            If the higher ups don't enforce the rules and don't set a good example then no amount of training is going to help fix the broader issue, because unofficially the message has been sent.

            That has been one major stumbling block in past attempts to fix some of these issues.

            And the military doesn't spell it out. They are rather prudish about it, and apparently dancing around these issues and trying to scare people straight isn't enough.

            They need to address the behaviors directly, by creating some new ground rules.

            Infidelity is a two way street. Males and females do this. It isn't just the wives back home, there is an old saying that Vegas adapted from the military:

            What happens on Deployment Stays on Deployment.

            So if we can at least change the rules to mitigate rape and sexual harassment, I would willingly do that, even if there is no easier way to stop infidelity in the ranks.

            Better marriage counselors would help though for that one. You know a lot of those base counselors are religious counselors that preach various flavors of Dominionism. That doesn't help when dealing with an interfaith force, especially when it doesn't address the dynamics of any given marriage, because it tends to favor blaming the wife for not submitting enough to the husband. But that's just my two cents on that issue.

            •  See this is what I like (3+ / 0-)

              about this site. I am learning a lot of things I didn't know about. Seriously, I never knew female soldiers while in and don't know a lot about marriage other than what I saw as it relates to service.

              I do get what you are saying about higher ups. Now that I think about it they did have a lot of influence on us young ones when it came to what was 'acceptable' behavior. I have heard a lot about religion in the military but never experienced much myself. And I was openly pagan at the time.

              Hmm, you really go me thinking about a lot of bad assumptions I was making and I thank you for that.

              As to the rest, well, as I said either here or in that other post, I have some hope that generational change will help. I see it at work. For instance, the young folks coming in the door would never even consider saying things that the old ones going out seem perfectly comfortable saying.

              Maybe I'm just being overly optimistic but I really do hope that things change for the better for everyone. Of course change over time can drive us crazy because we want it now, but its something dammit.

              "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

              by just another vet on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:55:59 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  As ex-military myself, I am impressed by your (4+ / 0-)

    clarity on the issue. There is a range of behavior and styles in both sexes. Vary too much from the delineated norms and one is attacked... Those attacks are often based on religious ideas conflated with power issues. I think that not attacking each other but rather looking at another way of relating to each other is far more effective then continuing down the road of labeling, judging and excluding the OTHER in some fearful rendition of myths and tradition.

    What you are talking about is what children are taught by the media, thier parents, those who influence on them such as teachers, neighbors, other relatives... It can be the defining part of who we are since few stray from  that coding... It would be crazy to do so if one believes that ones very survival depends on following those rules. But it is in fact, insane to continue behaviors that will self-fulfill beliefs of the apocolypse...  Some cling to tradition like it is  a life raft when it can be a chain that stretches back thousands of years subjecting us to misery and perhaps missing what could be the most joyous and growth promoting part of life... An open discussion that seeks to better ourselves and our world so that short of a huge meteor we can survive our behaviors. Rigid expectations and judgment is what destroys many relationships with the poison of intolerance and a need to control others. Look at any toddler and those characterisitcs are there.. We need to teach children a better way. We need to continue to spend our lives trying to  find better ways no matter if we believe the way we like is the best.  Can we teach adults... I agree we can if it is done right with enough authority to get compliance. If the leaders are too attached to thier perogatives then it will probably continue to fail.

    AS for terrible stories of treatment I had in the military all I can say is I was physically and verbally not a dainty flower... And no officier  ever complained when I tended to a problem by myself.  I learned that life lesson before I ever left home. Don't get soft when they are pushing you around because you will be designated prey. The only time I ever found roadblocks was when I became pregnant and they did thier best to stop me from staying in but I understand that has changed now.

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 09:25:50 AM PST

    •  Thank you for this compliment. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      just another vet

      I spent years trying to push the poison out of my system and it didn't work. It was only when I embraced it as an experience and examined it that I found some kind of peace.

      Even then this still eats on me from time to time. Mostly because of disappointment that we haven't grown beyond this emotionally immature method of dealing with things like gender, gender roles and sex.

  •  Well written diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Much to think about. Thank you for writing it.

    "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

    by just another vet on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 09:42:02 AM PST

    •  Thank you for stopping by and reading it and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      just another vet, zesty grapher

      considering it. I hope that other vets or members decide to bounce their own ideas about this around. It would make for an interesting discussion.

      •  You offer (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenMother, zesty grapher

        a perspective that I have never really heard before. And while I feel everyone has a right to comment on this issue I do think that its difficult for people who have never served, or lived in the culture, to understand what it's really like in the military.

        That said I look forward to the discussion.

        "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

        by just another vet on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:03:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this very interesting diary. (2+ / 0-)

    And for your service. I came very close to enlisting in the Navy in the 70's. I am a female. I have often regretted that I did not enlist. I now think that perhaps I made the right decision.

    You are correct that we are still just a short path away from being considered property, or chattel. I certainly encountered lots of sexist comments, behaviors and attitudes in the corporate world of the 70's and 80's. It was the prevailing attitude, and women were expected to 'take it' if they wanted to be part of a man's world.

    When Anita Hill came forward during the Clarence Thomas hearings and cited some the comments he made, and his behavior--I couldn't believe that people acted shocked. I, and every women I knew had encountered similar behavior. Not that it was okay. But it certainly was no surprise to us.

    I even had similar experiences when videos about harrassment were shown in the 90's---

    The old military is dead. We now have a new New Age military, all touchy-feeley, mamby-pamby, and they are making me give this training." Grumble, snort. "So everyone do their duty and watch this crap so we can get the hell out of here and get back to work."
    Just replace the word 'military' with 'business world'.

    What I find horrifying is the realization that I, a female civilian, had more rights and protections than you, a female serving her country. I certainly have read about the stories of rape and repression and treating women as second class citizens. I had comforted myself into believing that things were better for women today. Even when some stories came out about female soldiers ill-treated in Iraq--I somehow thought that was more the exception, and probably had something to do with the extenuating circumstances of multiple tours and high stress in Iraq. Not that I thought it was okay at all. Just didn't think it was still a pervasive part of the military culture.

    I am so incredibly saddened by this. I had thought the advances of women in the military were leading the way for all women in society. Now I feel like it is just frosting on a bad situation. Undoubtedly the women still have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to advance. But to think they still have to fight off neanderthal male attitudes at the same time.  

    I am sorry you went through this, I am sorry for all women. I have to say that I came of age in the 70's. In those heady days of Roe vs. Wade, equal pay for equal work and women finally having access to managerial roles---I never would have believed that we would be in this place in our society over forty years later. I feel like nothing has really changed.

    "Religion is the smile on a dog." Edie Brickell

    by zesty grapher on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 08:51:35 AM PST

    •  I also gave serious consideration to joining the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, zesty grapher

      military after high school. One of my main reasons for not doing so was that I was afraid of intense sexism. Women had only been allowed into West Point for a handful of years at the point. At the time, I didn't even think of sexual assault or even severe sexual harassment. I was far too naïve to even know how often it happened. Then a couple of years later, the "Tailgate" incident occurred and I was really glad that I didn't take that route.

      I bet the military loses a lot of people because of this.

    •  Wasn't it Susan Faludi who wrote about the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      backlash against the Women's Lib movement in the 60s and 70s?

      I don't think that people wanted to believe her.

      In some ways during the 80s, it seemed like the beginning of a Renaissance for women. What many of us didn't understand was that the same old hatreds were there, they were just more subtle, but still there and just barely under the surface.

      Things have changed a lot. Women have a lot more wiggle room in the states than they used to. But Wiggle Room isn't the same as absolute freedom.

      Like the larger Democratic Party, we need to stop letting our detractors frame the debate.

      Thank you and other women who were in the generations just before mine, for all that you did. All of us together form a weave and a weft that when we remember to look at them all together still form an amazing tapestry of accomplishments.

      We can't give up now.

  •  I think your conceptualization about how women (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are seen as the property of their fathers until they become the property of their husbands, and any woman who doesn't belong to a man is therefore available to anyone, is very accurate in my experience. The main difference between civilian life to military life may be primarily the ratio of men to women which translates to less harassment per woman in civilian life. Also, I suspect it's easier to separate your work and social life in a civilian environment so if your supervisor is bothering you at work you probably only see him in that context.

    I didn't know that "safe, sane and consensual" was an axiom of the alternative community. I thought is was pretty mainstream. It probably just goes to show how idealistic I am in that regard. Though I've met a lot of other people who are as well.

    •  There are a couple other aspects to this. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      1. You cannot quit the military. If things get really bad as a civilian then you can quit. You can leave, and no one is going to throw your ass in jail. But with the military you are contractually obligated to the government to be there, or be considered UA [Unauthorized Absence] or AWOL [Absent WithOut Leave]. The second category being the worst in my understanding.

      2. Being harassed by someone else in the Uniform is like being violated by a police officer or a fireman, or a doctor. All Rapes are terrible, all harassment is terrible, but there is this issue with a Military Person being in a position of Public Trust.

      You really do not imagine, even after hearing the stories that the stalwart people in the military would do this to another citizen, much less to each other. You have to trust these people, they literally hold your life in their hands. This is especially true if you work in a very dangerous job, such as those in or near combat zones, or on flight lines etc., So being harassed or raped in that context takes it to a new level of violation, one in which you loose the ability to believe in any institution, in any social construct or group of people ever again. It always changes everything, but that is just one more brick in the proverbial wall.

    •  Sorry to double post, but ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      I think your conceptualization about how women are seen as the property of their fathers until they become the property of their husbands, and any woman who doesn't belong to a man is therefore available to anyone, is very accurate in my experience.
      It took me a while to see it for what it was.

      So often we use that concept to describe old world concepts of marriage and property inheritance. I don't believe that any woman wakes up really feeling that way now.

      And it's there, but it's a faded copy of what it used to be. I think that the fact that the military is this bastion of masculinity that is ruled by mostly older, males left over from generations where that might have been more true, allows this to be like a social-genetic defect.

      An old "gene" that is still there, but needs multiple copies to become the disease. And I think it's totally curable.

      I don't believe we will ever be wholly without crimes like rape or stalking etc., there will always be a criminal element who will commit such crimes.

      But we can change the military so that it no longer protects this criminal element within it's ranks, and makes excuses for it.

      •  The military and it's current incarnation of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        hypermasculinity, concentrates that faded representation of women as property.

        I think it's time for me to have coffee. My brain is running out of go-juice.  :)

      •  Earlier today I was looking up some information (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        about marriage equality in France and one article noted that the matrimony comes from the Latin word for mother and many of our laws, or their laws in this case, involves regulating responsibility for any children that might result. In a similar vein, there was an AlterNet article a while ago that postulated that our norms regarding sexual conduct haven't caught up to the fact of widespread use of birth control.

        As far as betrayal goes, I once had a high school teacher give me a lower grade than I deserved for refusing his advances, so I haven't had much trust for institutions since a very young age.

        Once I tried to discuss these things with a therapist and he asked, "What do you think you've done to bring on so much abuse." I talked to my sister afterward and I said that it was weird because I didn't really think that I had suffered "so much" abuse. Unfortunately, much of this is par for the course for most women. The only thing that I think is different about me is that I refuse to talk about it in hushed tones. I also refuse to let it change how I behave.

        The fact that whenever something bad happens people always want to grill you on what you could have done "wrong" has always struck me as ironic because, in my experience, the most dangerous thing is to look "sweet", "innocent" and "nice." It's actually not looking sexual that's a problem; it's looking vulnerable. Often, the actions people believe you should take, or not take, to prevent attacks is entirely irrelevant. At nineteen, I moved to New York City and I spent a lot of time in bars and nightclubs mostly in the East Village and frequently drunk. Nothing bad ever happened to me in those situations. Working alone late at night on the set crew in high school, check. In a high school classroom, check. Crossing the street in the middle of the day, check. Going to the apartment of a friend of a friend whom I'd known for seven years because he offered to show me a computer he was building, check. Sleeping with my live in boyfriend who had been bugging me to marry him, check again. And that doesn't count all the times men just get pushy to the point of driving you away from a place you want to be.

        I know this diary was primarily about behavior in the military, so I'm sorry if this is slightly off topic. But as Boophus said, it's coding that people bring with them before they get to the military.

        •  I agree, it is coding that people bring with them. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Our culture has a very serious problem with women and sexual availability.
          I could have probably just simplified it as " Our Culture has a serious problem with women." And probably most people would have gotten it too.

          I look at what went wrong in a situation. I look for the dynamic.

          This isn't necessarily to cast blame, but more over to understand the processes that drove a situation that "went wrong."

          "Looking vulnerable," would be one of those processes.

          Unfortunately for us, as females, we deal with a rather varied population of males who have different criterion for denoting vulnerability, and a lot of other things.

          Women live in a world, where society tells us there are set lines in the sand for various behaviors, but in reality, those lines change with each new acquaintance we make, sometimes it's determined by individuals, sometimes it's determined by groups of people, but rarely is it determined by us as individuals. We might fight for a more favored interpretation, but it's still just another fight.  

          And I imagine that these movable lines, and these hidden processes drive lots of dynamics that similarly frustrate other groups of people as well.

        •  Double posting again. YES! these ideas, and (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          experiences or observations can be applicable outside of the military.

          The military is small, insular, and it concentrates or magnifies the qualities of our society by it's very nature.

          The higher level of stressors on the job, the isolation, and the forced comradery and close quarters takes any minor irritation and makes it a major one, and makes major issues into down right catastrophes.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site