What a day for military women!
Yesterday was a day where that ugly topic, women in the infantry, reared its head again and for some reason was all over the place. It’s one of my favorite subjects because it is about so much more than just women in the infantry. It’s an exhausting, emotional topic and I’ve been happy not having to write about it for awhile.
But here we are again.
As it has been reported, the four women pictured above will likely be the first four women to complete the United States Marine Corps infantry course. A milestone day, and more on the picture in a bit.
On the same day that this photo and story emerges, I also read an article in the Washington Times titled “The feminist campaign to make weaklings of America’s warriors,” an article in Politico that suggests that as the Army moves closer to integrating combat arms, it would “behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy,” and a blog written on Ranger Up’s Rhino Den asking “Where is the Army I Joined” in which the author rants about the impending implosion of the Army, mostly because of women.
What all of this says to me is that on a day where four women have done it – they’ve proven that they can do it, the running line is still that they are here to make us weaker, destroy our Army, and it would be in everyones best interest if they weren’t attractive.
As I’ve written about extensively, women in the infantry is a topic that I am conflicted about. But that conflict doesn’t stop me from responding to false narratives, bad ideas, or poor arguments.
Now as I learned the last time I responded to a piece in the Washington Times, they often retain a strong bias when it comes to military issues. This article was no different. In a nutshell, it argues that the military can’t have it both ways, as in, it can’t say that it wants to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the military (making women victims) while also trying to push women into combat arms (making women warriors). The hidden claim is that there is some mystical male sexual power that is a necessary thing for combat, and that by letting women into the show, that power will be diminished or destroyed(!). I wrote about sex in the infantry, and it made a lot more sense when I wrote it.
Most of the article is complete nonsense, a stringing together of old tropes and anti-feminist fears. I’m not even going to do it the favor of fisking it. I will say this, though. His central claim, that there is this hidden feminist cabal that has an agenda and in their crosshairs is the infantry as an object of hate, is a theory I have heard quietly whispered in hallways before. I have no idea where this is coming from, but there are people out there that believe it is a real thing, and if they were reading this paragraph right now, would scoff at me and say I am being naive.
The Politico piece which reports on an email shared with them recommends we showcase “average looking women” in strategic communications because pictures featuring pretty women often undermine the message. As friend of the blog Kayla Williams said on her book’s Facebook page: “Army guidance on pics of women inarticulate but not misguided – more images with mud/camo instead of mascara = good.” As in, we all know what was said in the email is true, but it feels bad hearing it. When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature. The email looks bad but the message is correct. What’s sad, is that we’re still at a point where we have to say these things – pick ugly women so they’ll be taken seriously. We’re still cavemen: There Are No Girls With Good Personalities.
Now the Rhino Den piece. Ugh. I like Ranger Up, but I feel like that as their brand matures, I expect more from them. For every great Rhino Den article, there are three or four that ride the line of racist or misogynist. I’ve always enjoyed the “barracks” level stuff that comes out of there, but to keep this in military terms, the Rhino Den isn’t a Private anymore. It’s a First Sergeant now, and First Sergeants can’t get in front of the formation and say some of this shit (or at least, they shouldn’t).
The piece is a mostly rage-fueled anecdotal trek into why one soldier believes his Army is falling apart, and it has mostly to do with women and his belief that the top generals are only interested in pleasing their political masters who have grand schemes for reshaping the military. It’s a sad article, and I am sad that it’s on the Rhino Den, where I imagine thousands of people will read it.
I could go line by line and show what’s wrong with the article, but that would be tedious and boring. I’ll just leave this here to give you a taste. You can click the link if you actually want to read the whole thing:
I wish that was a stand-alone incident, but the more time I’ve spent in the Army has taught me that this actually happens to be the norm. The vast majority of female soldiers I have encountered think it’s some sort of game and view the Army as a playground for them. Despite what anybody says, the Army is very much still male-dominated, and rather than aspire to show they can do what the males do, the average Army female adopts that playground mentality and engage in a variety of unprofessional conduct, the most common being flirting and sometimes sleeping with upper ranks. A female E-4 I encountered during in-processing to my first duty station had told me stories of sleeping with lieutenants and captains and her philosophy was that rank only applied on duty.
With that out of the way, I can go back to the good news story of the day, the four women in the picture.
What I love about that picture is that I feel like I can see what they’re feeling. Knowing that they are finishing up their infantry course and are near graduation, I can see the relief and exhaustion in their faces – that feeling of completing something hard. They are clean for the first time in probably over a week. They watched the dirt flow into the drain and felt that simple satisfaction of stepping out of a hot shower for the first time in a while and smelling good. Their smiles show the happiness of achieving something great, and I know their minds are fantasizing about the things they are going to eat that they couldn’t while they trained and the things they will buy with the money saved up while in the field.
It is a picture I’ve seen hundreds of times of young infantrymen near graduation day, happy and ready for the big adventure. They are the greatest pictures and they make me happy. #nofilter
What a day for the military!