September 17, 1997 · Cavalier Daily

Possible Army Integration on Rocky Ground

This opinion article responds to a report that cites instances of sexual misconduct in the military as evidence that military gender boundaries should not be altered. This article rejects that assertion, countering that the military should adopt a zero tolerance policy towards sexual misconduct. Further, the writer rejects the idea that women should not serve alongside men because neither gender can handle the responsibility of integration. Instead, she writes, the government must assume a more active role in eliminating sexism and harassment in the military.


1997-09-17 Cavalier Daily Possible Army Integration on Rocky Ground.pdf
Kimberly Brooks
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Possible Army Integration on Rocky Ground
A REPORT describing the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and job discrimination in the army was released Sept. 11 by an internal investigation committee. Those findings have provoked outrage among many, but they also have fueled the fire of anti-gender integration sentiments, directed at both military personnel and civilians.
These individuals point to instances of sexual misconduct as proof of the undesirability of altering military gender boundaries. Those reactions should be expected. Reactionary blame is always an easy answer. It, however, provides no real solutions. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination should not be blamed on the women entering the army or even on the individual men who were not prepared to accept them.
The armed services are a branch of the United States government and it was, therefore, the government's responsibility to ensure that a zero tolerance policy toward sexual misconduct was implemented and enforced.
The survey reports that 72 percent of women and 63 percent of men feel they have encountered sexist behavior during their experiences in the Army. That figure Indicates that offensive behavior and harassment have crossed lines. It is argued by some as proof of inherent obstacles impeding the shift to co-educational training.
They claim women should not serve alongside men, not because the men are sexist or abusive, but because both sexes have proven incapable of handling the responsibility of interaction. There are two major flaws in that line of reasoning.
Integration, whether intended to undo racial, gender or any other long standing division, inevitably will be an arduous process. Using problems that arise to justify the previous system is unacceptable. After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, few were surprised by the difficulties and dangers students faced in the wake of desegregation,
Those dangers, however, did not make the former racist system preferable to the reformed one. Rather, they required the government to take special precautions and preventive measure to minimize confrontations, precautions and measure that have not been made to successfully incorporate women into the Army.
The government not only should take a more active role in eliminating discrimination and harassment in the Army, but also must examine the causes of an atmosphere where such occurrences are commonplace. Army Chief of Staff Dennis J. Reimer, in The Washington Post, blamed this atmosphere on “organizational faults brought on by downsizing, leadership failures for selective individuals and the need to place more emphasis on values.”
Whatever the cause, the level of disrespect and insensitivity that must exist for such widespread abuse to occur should not be permitted in any American institution. How can the army protect American ideals and values from foreign threats when the army itself falls to reflect American ideals and values?
The Army believes it has identified one cause of sexism in its branches and has taken action to amend It. The survey revealed many men's agitation at what they interpreted as preferential treatment for women in the service. The Washington Post reported that physical fitness requirements for women in the army were widely ridiculed and considered easy, even for those women who are overweight and smoke. In response, Army officials have increased the difficulty of the annual fitness test female soldiers must pass. That sort of initiative is a positive example of addressing the problem's source. It is, however, by no means comprehensive.
The Army must educate all soldiers of the unacceptability and dire consequences resulting from sexual harassment. The government must take a more active role in examining standards of behavior and ensuring those standards are met. The National Guard was required to enforce and monitor the desegregation of Birmingham schools. The Army has proven that it too requires the oversight another institution for the integration of women. The surfacing scandals have not proven women's incompatibility with military values. They have, rather, illustrated the incompatibility of America's values with those of America.
(Kimberly Brooks’ column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)
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Date Added June 23, 2016
Date Modifed December 23, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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