Discrimination In The Military

Discrimination in the Military
Yes, the military does have sexual harassment and
discrimination against women in the nineties. Firestone and
co-researcher Richard J. Hurns analyzed a 1988 DOD Survey of men and
women in the military and found that 51.8 % of men and 74.6% of women
reported either experiencing or knowing of sexual harassment. Amoung
the women surveyed, 70.1% had experienced sexual talk or behavior at
the work place that created an offensive, hostile or intimidating
environment. Amoung the men, 36.9% gave the same answer.(1) The
percent of women being sexually harassed is much higher than the
percent of men being harassed. Even though it is not tolerated, it
still happens regardless of the consequences, even in the nineties.
While some women’s experiences have been similar to those of black
men, their integration into the military has also differed in several
ways. Because of our society’s fundamental belief that protecting the
home and going to war are a man’s work, men from minority groups have
often been accepted more readily in the military than the women. Women
have been viewed as outsiders in a male environment. Discrimination
and harassment occurs for women because we are entering an all male
dominated area. Some areas are still restricted because of it. For
example: serving in direct combat capacities such as armor, infantry,
and special forces-branches from which much of the senior leadership
is drawn. In 1994, the annual Navywide Personnel Survey included
questions on women’s role for the first time. Some 65 percent of
officers and almost 50 percent of enlisted respondents said they did
not think women were fully accepted in combat roles. While
approximately 80 percent said harassment was not tolerated at their
command, almost half of all respondents disagreed that everyone is
treated equally in promotions and advancements.(2) Some of this is
bases on the presumed physical and psychological characteristics of
women which may interfere with their performances of some military
jobs. For example: the physical strength of women. People believe that
women are not strong enough to lift and carry heavy equipment or
wounded fellow soldiers and that we lack endurance to perform these
tasks over a lengthened period of time. Also, there is the idea that
women can not perform strenuous tasks quickly, like loading heavy
shells into a weapon. And combat is not for the weak and slow.
Although allowing women in combat remains a top priority, women are
now serving in virtually every other occupational capacity in all four
branches of the military. A large number of previously restricted
areas to women have been opened in the Army and Marine Corps, and the
Air Force has women training now for all previously closed career
fields. Even the Navy is improving, which is a shock on its own. Even
with increasing sexual harassment cases, the rising number of women
being recruited is not due to any idealistic vision of the right of
women to serve their country in uniform. One might say this trend is
driven by the need to recruit an increasingly intelligent,
well-educated, and fit military in the face of data that reflects the
shrinking amount of qualified male candidates. By current estimates,
there are 191,399 women on active duty in all four branches of the US
Armed Forces, accounting for approximately 12.7 % of all active duty
Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Personnel. As of September 1995,
women accounted for 13.2 % of all officers and 12.6% of all enlisted
personnel. Approximately 16 percent of all active duty Air Force
Personnel (officers and enlisted) are women, followed by 13 percent of
the Army, 12 percent of the Navy, and about 4.6 percent of the
Marines.(3) Sexual harassment is believed to be increasing, but one
must remember a lot of sexual harassment goes unreported. It is a
shame women are afraid to report cases for fear of being thrown out of
their job, or just plain lack of knowledge on where to go or what to
do. Women can get the feeling of not trusting anyone in the military
command easier than women for two reasons. One, 99 percent of
commanding ranks are taken by men, and two, men are more likely to
help men than women. A woman can not get help from a commanding
officer that’s a woman, because the commanding officer is probably in
a rut of her own. Women should join forces and overthrow the men in
charge. The US would see a dramatic difference in sexual harassment
cases reported. A Pentagon Survey of 90,000 service members showed
that, overall, sexual harassment in the military is declining, but
still common, involving over half the women in the military. The
number of women reporting any type of sexual harassment in the
previous twelve months dropped from 64 percent in a 1988 survey of all
the services to 55 percent, according to the report. The unreleased
documents indicated that amoung the individual services, the Navy
improved the most over that period. For 1995, that number had dropped
to 53 percent. The Air Force, as in 1988, continued to show the lowest
overall percentage of harassment amoung women surveyed, dropping from
57 percent to 49 percent.(4) The Navy has made a strong and
thoughtful effort towards the declining of sexual harassment since the
Tailhook scandal. In fact, all the services have. Beginning this year,
equal opportunity training is to be received by everyone. Everyone
should strive for not tolerating discrimination or sexual harassment.
Each person is valuable to the military, and what happens to one
affects many others. Here are some key task force recommendations:
Evaluate each service member’s commitment to equal opportunity and
document deviations in performance reports. Train leaders on their
roles and responsibilities for equal opportunity programs. Ensure the
chain of command remains an integral part of the processing and
resolution of complaints. Strongly encourage commanders to conduct
periodic equal opportunity assessments. Insist senior officials and
commanders post statements declaring their commitment to equal
opportunity. This shows that even though harassment and discrimination
still occur, it does not go unchallenged. People are waking up and
saying Enough is enough. After a certain amount of complaining,
anyone would say Enough is enough. What is ment by that is that it
takes a lot of cases and re-occurring problems for it to finally get
the notice it needs. Basis trainees are learning that at all levels,
the word is getting out that discrimination and harassment have no
place in the military profession and will not be tolerated, Air Force
officials said. The recent focus on sexual harassment in other
military services has also raised attention in this area as well. The
Air Force can not isolate itself from these social trends, states the
pamphlet. Despite commanders’ involvement and education programs,
people will occasionally behave inappropriately. It takes a strong
continuing commitment by everyone to minimize these behaviors and
their effects.(5) Once men can get over their male ego-trips, they
will start to see the women in a new light. Men could actually
accomplish more working with women instead of against them. What an
amazing concept! Too bad men have not recognized it yet. Even with the
good news that sexual harassment is declining in the Navy, it still
happens by the thousands. Radios are constantly broadcasting that the
Pentagon had to stiffen regulations because so many women said they
were the victims of reprisals for filing complaints. There’s this
story that many believe is the cause of sexual harassment in the
military, especially the Navy. Sailors have always been known for
their bawdiness, but the officers were at least gentlemen. Then
Vietnam came. Being in south-east Asia and increasingly frustrated by
a losing war, a whole generation of naval officers began carousing in
the sleazy bars of Bangkok and the Philippines. The Vietnam vets-and
the exploitative sexual attitudes they developed in Asia-arrived home
in the 70’s just as women were beginning to move into the ranks. This
resulted in a declining of manner and morals with the arrival of
female sailors and officers. For the men, this has ment careers
wrecked by lewd indiscretions. And the Navy’s women have been forced
to learn how both to go along and to fight back-with very mixed
success. One has to wonder if we could go back in time, and erase
Vietnam, would this still have happened anyway.


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