Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Military, Segregation, and Gender Stereotypes

Here is a recent (and awful) article about rape in the military, which ends up promoting the idea of segregating women from men in the military. I thought the article was sloppy and disrespectful.

I wrote a response to the article, which is below.


Dear Ms. Parker,

I was extremely troubled by your article, "Behind those tales of rape that wasn't rape."

I think that your attempt to blame the Pentagon for tension between male and female officers was a veil for your real message, which is to keep women out of the military, or to completely segregate them from men, because it is the women who cause all the problems.

You promoted the idea of segregation in the military, and then stated that among other things it would reduce the plague of divorces caused by fraternizing. Segregation of women from men in the military surely, if ever done, shouldn’t be due to the fact that men and women are cheating while away from home. In fact coupling these two ideas mocks women’s rights, women’s efforts to be put on equal grounds with men, and women’s struggles to be respected in the military.

Your final sentence shows the “true colors” of your article. You stated, “Finally, our commanders and fighting men could focus on the business of war rather than tending to gender skirmishes that distract commanders and steal time, resources and energy from the military's purpose.” Your specific mention of men, without mentioning women, again undermines our women in the military, our women who have been the victims of violence by men, those who do the best they can to stay out of other’s way, to fight, and to be held on equal terms.

I am assuming you come from a conservative background, one which teaches that women should remain at home, or perhaps pursue only certain jobs—perhaps journalism is one of them. There was a time when women were not seen to be intellectually equal to men in the field of journalism, yet you today take full advantage of your ability to compete alongside men in your field. Women’s entrance into the military is new and still under fire, but if you are going to raise arguments, at least raise argument with some merit.

You should take a moment to read some cases regarding women’s rights, segregation, and gender discrimination to understand what the valid arguments are, perhaps then you will be able to write a better story. Saying that segregation is “more rational” without backing it up with any facts or research is simply irresponsible and lazy. Here is one particular to women in the military: United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996).

As a woman, as a journalist, and as an educated individual, you should try to avoid complicated subjects (such as gender segregation) without reading cases and articles, so as to avoid making overbroad generalizations which reinforce the current gender stereotypes that women such as myself try to destroy.

Many people are outraged with your story, unfortunately not all of them have the energy to write you. I hope that you will be more sensitive, exacting, and thoughtful next time you choose to write on such a political topic.