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When comparing men’s ability to women’s ability, is there really a big difference? Many people

believe that

differences do take place, but how? Both men and women have hopes, dreams, strengths,

weaknesses, and goals.

Even though these similarities exist, women are still sometimes thought to be lower than

their male peers. There

have been many cases in which women felt they were being treated differently than the

males around them. But,

did you ever think there would be the problem of inequality between men and women in

America’s defense

system? Both men and women have the right to serve in the military; but, many times women

face discrimination

and the problem of being unaccepted, possibly affecting women’s ability to serve their

country. The military was

fully integrated in the mid-1970s (Moskos 107). Yet, twenty-some years later, women are

still trying to gain full

equality. In those past twenty years, there have been many courageous women who have been

fighting their way

into record-breaking positions so their male peers would accept them. Two of these women

are Shannon Faulkner

and Shannon Workman. Faulkner was the first woman to become a cadet at the Citadel as she

walked through the

gates on August 12, 1995. Faulkner entered the 152-year-old military school located in

South Carolina as a “knob,”

or a first year cadet. Upon her arrival, the military made exceptions to certain rules for

her, one being that older

male cadets could not go through her drawers looking for underwear that was not folded

properly. A private

bathroom with surveillance cameras was also constructed for Faulkner to prevent any foul

play (Sack 6). The

second of these two women was Shannon Workman. In 1994, she became the first woman to

qualify as a female

pilot who was combat ready in the Navy (Schmitt 15). Although the military and the public

recognize women like

Faulkner and Workman, many women who work to reach their goals go unrecognized. Women have

been a part of

the Marine Corps since 1943; but today (after over fifty years) women make up a mere five-

percent of the Corps

population. In the Navy, women were invited onto hospital ships in 1977. Today they too

make up a small portion of

the system with only ten- percent. The Air Force and the Army have the greatest percentage

of women. The

Army has eleven- percent and the Air Force has fourteen- percent (Moskos 108). Although

women have been

partially accepted in America’s defense system, inequality is still found in combat areas.

Legally, women are not

permitted to serve in any units that have missions in ground or front-line combat. In the

army, women are not

allowed to serve in infantry, armor-force and cannon artillery force units as well as

combat engineers units (Moskos

107). Considering the fact that most army positions are combat-related, what jobs would

that leave to women?

Well, women are generally left with positions such as truck drivers, medics, helicopter

pilots, and cafeteria staff. Do

you think that women enroll in the army to drive trucks? Or do they want to defend their

country in combat?

Although women have more possibilities in the Air Force, they are also prohibited from

being flyer fighters and

bomber plane pilots (Moskos 108). Last, in the Navy women are still prohibited from being

stationed on submarines

and minesweepers. They also cannot hold the position of a Navy SEAL. A Navy SEAL is the

most elite military

force known to man, and they specialize in SEa, Air and Land, which is where they receive

their name. The fact

that women are not allowed to be Navy SEALS was the basis of a movie entitled “G.I. Jane.”

In this movie you can

see that because a women would like to be a Navy SEAL she must pose as a man. This means

that in order for a

woman to be something that she would truly like to be she must in a way mask her true

identity. Women do not

only face a struggle in combat; they are also striving to be seen among military ranking

officers as well. Statistics

show that only twenty percent of jobs in the Marine Corps are open to women. The Army

follows with fifty-one

percent. The Navy has a total of fifty-nine percent of jobs open to women; and, the Air

Force has an astonishing

ninety-seven percent (Sagawa 1). “Despite inequality among ranks in the military, women

attain similar

achievements in academics, athletics, and military achievement,” (Barringer 7). If it is

true that women are

attaining, “similar achievements” with men, why is it that women hold very few positions

as higher-ranking officers?

In the Army, only five percent of its executives are women and the Marine Corps has only

one woman that holds

an executive position (McGonigle and Timms 1). The reason as to why women might not hold

as many executive

positions was stated in a book, “Sound Off! American Military Women Speak Out.” This

statement said that,”+

women must waste the energy that men can save for their jobs or their pleasures in proving

herself in smashing

stereotypes and overcoming prejudice,” (Moskos 107). What this statement means is that

because women are

discriminated against, most of their time and effort goes into trying to prove these

stereotypes wrong. Maybe if the

stereotypes didn’t exist women would have a greater chance of gaining their equality in

combat and among ranks.

In another report from the Naval Academy it was stated that, “The negative attitudes are

rooted in the fact that

because women aren’t allowed to hold combatant assignments, their contributions are

limited. This fuels persistent

belief that women do not belong in the Academy,” (Barringer 7). One major problem is that

being unaccepted is not

an isolated case; women feel unaccepted throughout all the areas of the military. In a

survey, forty-five percent of

men in their first year at the Naval Academy said that women did not belong there. The

poll was taken again when

those men were in their senior year and thirty-eight percent still said they felt that

women did not belong at the

Academy (Francake 174). Another survey given in the military showed that only eleven to

thirty-seven percent of

women felt accepted compared to the forty-eight to seventy-one percent of men who felt

they were accepted. Part

of the reason that these women might feel like they do not belong is verbal abuse. The

Citadel’s spokesman

described basic training as, “Hell with a purpose, knob year is a physically and

psychologically grueling continuum of

five-mile runs, push-ups and subordination to upperclassmen,” (Sack 7). During these

so-called “five-mile runs,”

training leaders will tell their men that they, “+ run like a bunch of women.” Or, how

about when drill sergeants

refer to tired men as “women” and “pussies” (Francake 162)? This is supposed to be a

motivational tool towards

men, but at the same time it is also a put down for the women that are present. Since

acceptance of women has

gotten worse every year, twice as many women resigned from the Naval Academy in 1987 then

in 1976 (Barringer

7). One of the biggest problems that is currently growing in the military is sexual

harassment. Like the problem of

being unaccepted sexual harassment is not an isolated case, because it too is found in all

branches of the military.

Captain Hartman stated, “If sexual harassment goes the way racism in the Navy and Marine

Corps, you can expect

to have it around for a long time.” In 1989 a study at the Pentagon showed that sixty-four

percent of women said

they were sexually harassed, that percent was only at forty-two two years earlier in 1987

(McGonigle and Timms

1). Then in 1990, it was labeled that sexual harassment was an “epidemic” because in a

survey given to twenty

thousand women, two out of three said they at one time or another had unwanted advances

made at them

(Francake 157). Forty-seven percent of investigated women said they had experienced this

“unwanted sexual

attention.” Fifteen percent said they experienced sexual coercion, and seven- percent had

experienced sexual

assault (Shenon 7). These statistics are backed up when Cadet Adelle Belisle stated, “We

came her na and

trusting, thinking that we’d be protected by the people around us. It was shocking. We all

know cases of sexual

harassment here,” (Schmitt 13). In the Navy, it was found that fifty percent of its women

midshipmen experienced

harassment at least twice a month at the Naval Academy (Francake 173). Two examples of

talked about sexual

harassment cases are founded in the Navy. One of which in 1989, Gwen Dreyer was physically

removed from her

room, and brought to the men’s bathroom. There she was handcuffed to a urinal and taunted

by male peers who at

the same time proceeded to take photographs of her (Sagawa 1). A more recent case was the

Tailhook Scandal in

1992. The Tailhook was the name given to the case where twenty-six women were “mistreated”

at a party in male

dorms. The Naval Academy admitted that, “Despite official policy to the contrary a climate

free of sexual

harassment does not exist at the Naval Academy.” Sexual harassment has been in the

military for a long time; and

finally by 1981, all branches of the military issued their own definition of sexual

harassment ranging from “unwanted

sexual advances” to “requests for sexual favors,” (Francake 157). Although many areas of

the military have

different ways of controlling sexual harassment, there are one or two things that are the

same throughout the

military. In order to try to cut down on sexual harassment, no dating or sexual

relationships are permitted (Schmitt

8). Men are also required to be accompanied by female escorts when they enter women’s

sleeping quarter’s after

hours (as with women in men’s quarters). Once they have entered the sleeping quarter men

must knock, announce

themselves and then wait five seconds before entering the room (Schmitt 15). The last

thing is that the military

would like to separate men and women into separate housing buildings and during basic

training. But, as of now,

men and women are still functioning together in co-educational units. The Navy has been

trying to recover from the

recent Tailhook scandal by changing the conditions that men and women are in together. The

Navy has spent one

point three million dollars on constructing private sleeping quarters for women. Also

constructed was an

examination room on the sick bay, which contains stocks of feminine products and cosmetics

(Schmitt 15). Captain

Gemmill of the Navy explains that,” We probably can’t stop sexual harassment, but we can

decrease the most

obvious and obnoxious kind, the foul language, leering, or touching,” (Schmitt 13). To

fight against this harassment,

the Navy has started what they are calling the “bumper sticker” approach. This approach

contains a green zone

(go), and yellow zone (slow down) and a red zone (stop). The “bumper sticker” approach

works as follows: your

offense is classified into a zone and from there your punishment will depend on the degree

of your offense (Dowd

11). Although the Navy believes this to be a great idea, the Army is skeptical and an army

official expresses his

feelings by saying, “Oh gosh. I didn’t know saying ‘Good Morning,’ to someone is a green

zone, and I am really glad

to know that rape is a red zone,” (Dowd 11). After the Army conducted the largest

investigation of sexual

harassment, they stated in a report that, “+ sexual harassment exists, throughout the

Army+ and the leadership is

responsible.” After this investigation, drill sergeants who came in contact with women

recruits were required to

have more difficult screening. Also, three-star generals would serve as “watch-dogs” over

basic training leaders at

the training centers. The Air Force, as well, has been making a conscious effort to

prevent sexual harassment.

General Bradey C. Hosmer gathered five hundred and eighteen women in an auditorium and had

all of the men

removed except himself. He then proceeded to tell the women he wanted to “ground-truth on

sexual harassment.”

For four hours women poured out with their concerns on sexual harassment and over fifty

percent of the women

said they had known of cases of sexual harassment (Schmitt 15). Despite all of the changes

in the different areas

of the military, Secretary West still admittes, “Sexual harassment however continues to be

a problem,” (Shenon 7).

The military has been trying to get women to come forth and report any cases of sexual

harassment. Some women

do, but many women do not. They do not come forward for a few reasons, one being that they

are scared.

Investigators reported that women do not report sexual harassment out of fear that they

would be punished instead

of their tormentors. “The Army’s actions make it clear that there is no room for sexual

abuse, harassment, or

discrimination in today’s military,” (Shenon 7). If this is so, why do percents show that

in the Army alone forty-one

percent of its discharges were women (Francake 181)? Most of these discharges were found

to be after the

reporting of sexual harassment. This also happened in the Air Force, when Pat Gavin lost

her eight- year career by

reporting sexual misbehavior. Women were also investigated for being homosexuals after

reporting sexual

harassment. When one hundred women complained they were mistreated they went through

psychiatric exams,

and they too were investigated about possibly being homosexuals. Investigation of

homosexuality was also found in

the Navy. In one instance one woman reported being harassed by one of her male peers. As a

result her and six

other women were discharged for being homosexuals (McGonigle and Timms 1). When the

military did this, it

confused women. They tell women to come forward with sexual harassment charges, but when

women do they are

the ones who suffer by being investigated for homosexuality, having to undergo psychiatric

testing, or even worse,

being discharged. Overall, women have been a part of the military for a long time. And,

for a long time they have

been unaccepted, harassed, and thought to be unequal. Inside women are the same as men,

and if they want to be

in the military they should be able to. They should also be able to have equal rights, and

be permitted to hold the

same jobs and ranks. There have been and there still are people that are fighting for

equal rights for women. But,

as of now it still remains a problem. One must realize that there is not a difference

between men and women

besides what the human eye can see.


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