As published at Stream.org April 18, 2017.
In early March Thomas J. Brenner broke the story: “Hundreds of Marines investigated for sharing photos of naked colleagues.” In a force of more 181,000 Marines, the number of participants is miniscule: .0046%. Yet feminists are pushing a damaging false narrative: that this crass behavior is typical of male Marines. In fact, such disgraceful actions run contrary to standards of conduct and leadership that we Marines learn from boot camp on.
There’s more. It turns out that this scandal includes every military branch. But only the Marines are being singled out in the media. Why? Maybe because the other services didn’t protest integrating women into their combat units. We did.
Outraged feminists don’t care so much about victimized women as they do about compliance. Sign on to their “gender-free” vision or pay the price. Now they’re using the scandal as a battering ram. The prize? Their long-standing goal of integrating boot camp and tripling the number of women in the ranks of the Marines.
First, the obvious. Sharing other people’s private photos and posting ugly commentary is shameful. Participants should be penalized. But 99.9954 percent of Marines, most of them male, did not and would not behave this way. They are the rule. The offenders are the exception.
The photos have various sources. In one of the worst cases, a female Marine’s photo was taken (fully clothed in uniform) without her consent. Then someone shared it, along with her personal info, and obscene commentary. The male responsible had already been kicked out of the Corps by the time this scandal even went public.
By contrast, most of the other photos in this case were uploaded and shared by women themselves on social media. Then a few men copied and re-shared them. In other cases women shared private photos by phone with boyfriends who later exploited them. “Sexting” is now prevalent from the halls of Congress (thank you Anthony Weiner) to our college campuses. So are “sexy selfies.” Leftists have pushed for the military to look just like society. Congratulations. Now it does. The scandal is a gross symptom of our highly sexualized society in the digital age. It’s not a reflection of accepted Marine behavior. Maybe it’s also a distorted reaction to our modern culture’s lie: that the sexes are the same, so women are interchangeable with men.
Codes of Conduct
The military long had the latitude to punish abuses like the photo scandal under the category of conduct unbecoming. Or at least it used to. Standards of conduct are long gone now. Social engineers want the military is to be just as sexually liberated and expressive as the rest of society. As the Center for Military Readiness points out:
Section 654, Title 10, the 1993 law that the Senate repealed in the 2010 lame duck session, used to recognize that the military is a “specialized society” with unique requirements that are: “characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions, including numerous restrictions on personal behavior, which would not be acceptable in civilian society.”
In other words we stopped holding our military to more stringent standards than civilians. So where is “the line” now? We’ve torn down the old, higher standards of conduct — which once protected women. Yesterday this case would have been open and shut. Today it is not. The military is no longer allowed to be a “specialized society” requiring higher ethics of its members. Military women now must shower with transgender men-in-transition. They must share tents with men in the field. That is not an invasion of privacy. But posting a photo your ex-girlfriend shared with you is? The new “standard” is arbitrary.
While sharing private photos was certainly conduct unbecoming, here’s a newsflash: so is taking nude or pornographic photos of yourself and sharing them. But we’re recruiting from Generation Sexy Selfie. Women are degrading themselves energetically without any help from men. The Russians now have a trove of the racy photos, but they didn’t have to hack to get them. They can go to sites like Instagram’s “Curves ‘n Combat Boots.” There military ladies post shots of themselves in side-by-sides in uniform and out, clothing optional.
3rd-Wave Feminism Manifest
For several decades now, feminists have encouraged women to be open and free with their sexuality. We have sexy selfies, annual “slut week” on college campuses and vagina costumes to show for it. (And more unplanned pregnancy than ever.) But such behavior doesn’t empower women. It just encourages them to degrade themselves. Then when that doesn’t make them happy either, they learn to blame it on men. Feminist dogma doesn’t protect or empower young women. It just gives them a megaphone after they’ve been victimized.
Feminists forbid the tools of self-protection that could prevent abuses. Modesty, self-respect and collective social mores used to protect young women from men who are exploitative. But now we’re not allowed to give out obvious advice, like: Sexy selfies can’t be misused if you don’t take them and share them. And: If you don’t want to be considered a sexual object, first don’t objectify yourself. Advising abstinence is totally out of the question. That’s retrograde and sexually repressive. Such life advice is being skewered as “accepting the masculinist culture.”
In 2014, Miss USA Nia Sanchez was asked what young women could do to fight sexual assault. Her answer (as a fourth degree black belt) was that they should learn martial arts to better protect and defend themselves. For such common-sense advice she received a huge backlash from feminists. They claimed that she was victim-blaming. Similar backlash is frequent against those advocating gun ownership for women. Women shouldn’t have to protect themselves. Bad men should just … stop being bad. But that no more equips women for the dangers they may face than trusting criminals to follow gun laws. There will always be criminals and leftist regulations are notoriously inept at stopping them.
Young military women are being pushed into a minefield of close-quarters personal contact with men in their sexual prime. Rank structure and intense combat training further complicate things. But we’ve stripped women of the age-old tools that could help them navigate it. Instead they’re convinced to depend on government bureaucracy to protect them. Big Brother will punish forbidden speech. It will force men to treat them equally. Pass enough policies, and suddenly it will be problem-free for 20-year-old women and men to share tents in the field. Fighting attackers is presumably what these women will be doing in combat units. But instead of teaching them to protect themselves proactively, we’re urging them to use their voices to resist the “patriarchy.” That won’t help in the field against ISIS.
Back in the 1990s Senator Pat Schroeder used the Tailhook scandal to push combat pilot jobs for women. The Navy’s annual celebration was notoriously debauched with men and women participating equally, until sexual assault occurred. The year of the scandal two women were assaulted but the number was grossly exaggerated. A witch hunt ensued for the sake of the same “masculinist culture” purge. Thousands were punished for the actions of a few — even men who weren’t there and had nothing to do with the event. Schroeder said opening the pilot jobs would stop scandals like Tailhook and give women the respect they deserve. The fact that it didn’t work just means there’s (perpetually) more work to be done.
More recently, a 2013 exposé claimed to have discovered 26,000 military sexual assaults in the previous year. Feminists used that study to … open ground combat units to women. When the public heard the astronomical number, the outcry was naturally immediate. The actual number of sexual assaults that year, however was only 3,374. The researchers got the much higher number by inferring it, via a ratio, across the military population. To get those numbers, they included everything from actual rape to “unwanted contact,” and again inferred many unreported cases. The total also included assaults that had occurred before the victim was even serving in the military, a Pentagon practice since 2008 in its annual reporting.
Inflating the numbers didn’t help the victims, nor did it prevent future crimes. The rate of sexual assaults had actually increased some five percent by 2016. Advocates for coed combat units used this baseless narrative: Women are assaulted more when they are barred from the toughest units. So the cure is to have more women in all military jobs. The public outcry simply provided a tool to push for their desired policy. With more women than ever in the military, we’re still waiting for rates of assault to drop. Instead they keep climbing.
Now in 2017, the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller was contrite before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand derided him for letting such behavior “fester” and not doing enough to eradicate “sexual violence” in the force. He had already condemned it in no uncertain terms as antithetical to Marine Corps standards and ethos. The investigation is ongoing and dozens have been punished so far. He has encouraged victims to come forward so that perps can be held accountable. (They can report to other women in the ranks if they prefer.) He demanded support for victims, forbade retaliation against them, and reformed social media policy to include criminal action for cyberbullying. As during Tailhook, common-sense changes and punishing the few participants will not be nearly enough for Gillibrand and her radical cadre.
Marines Are Punished for Wanting All-Male Combat Units
This is all about punishing the Marines for their original sin: Requesting that their combat units remain all-male. It was backed by mountains of peer-reviewed scientific data and common sense for effective warfighting. Even so, the Marines must atone. They must meet feminist demands by integrating Marine Corps boot camp and nearly tripling the number of females in the ranks. Those demanding this even say separate boot camps are the reason for all this misogyny.
Forget the fact that separate boot camps have produced superior Marines with much less distraction and bad conduct than coed boot camps. The Air Force and the Army have both had boot camp sex and rape scandals. Forget the fact that other branches have more women because they’re far less physically demanding. Opposition to integrating the combat arms is now being redefined as misogyny itself. It’s a bully’s tactic to achieve compliance without complaint.
Gen. Neller hasn’t defended the vast majority of Marines who are not part of this scandal, but I will. I served with great guys and came out of the Marines and deployment to Iraq unscathed. Thousands of other women across the military had the same experience. I never had reason to worry that a naked picture of me would end up with jeers online because there are none. I never worried that I’d regret last night’s debauchery with my Marine brothers because there was none. I followed a straightforward formula of maintaining boundaries, not flirting and not getting drunk with the guys socially. It was amazingly effective. I enjoyed the respect of my peers and a great enlistment. Such habits won’t prevent every instance of assault, but they go a long, long way to avoiding them. But we can no longer teach such mores without silly accusations of victim-blaming. And we are now pursuing policies that put women at greater risk in our military.
If there’s a culture of misogyny, then feminist ideology is the culprit. It fails young women and fails to reduce men’s abuse of them. Throwing more women at the problem won’t solve it. To think so is the definition of insanity: repeating what has been done before and expecting different results. Feminists won’t be accountable for their policy and ideological failures. They’ll just blame them on men.