One of the last all-male enclaves in the military will now be letting in women, according to an announcement by the Navy on Thursday. I have mixed initial reactions to this.
Certainly, women make valuable contributions to the military, and I’d like women to have the same opportunities in the work force as men do (though I’ll save the topic of anti-discrimination law for another day). Furthermore, there are definite benefits from moving to gender-mixed work forces. There may be increased sexual tension, but my experience is that men tend to behave better in mixed company than when they are by themselves.
Maybe this really is a non-story. The Navy would like us to think so. One sub commander says,
We’re going to look back on this four or five years from now, shrug our shoulders and say, ‘What was everybody worrying about?'” said Bruner, the top sub commander at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in coastal Georgia, where the announcement was made.
On the other hand,
There were some protests, particularly from wives of sub sailors, after the military began formulating a plan last fall.
Supposedly, the protesting wives were concerned more about women taking jobs and advancement opportunities from their husbands, but one has to wonder if that was the real reason (since women are serving all over the military without organized protests by military wives).
One also has to wonder that if this is really no big deal, why the Navy has no immediate plans to put female enlisted personnel on subs. Officers have considerably more privacy on subs than enlisted crew members do. Mixing the sexes amongst enlisted sailors seems fairly problematic.
Maybe this is just the march of progress, but I have a couple of points I worry about:
- I think there are a whole host of gender-related issues that the military prefers not to talk about because they get a lot of pressure to be politically correct. Certainly there is an ugly history (Tailhook, etc.) of sexual harassment in the military and in the Academies. And in conversations with military people, I have heard reports that, in many cases, the physical performance standards for certain tasks are altered for women. I doubt that these are significant (and probably not relevant to being an officer in a sub), but I don’t think we know the full story.
- The worries of wives who have husbands on submarines shouldn’t be ignored. And the families of the women put on subs also might have some legitimate concerns. Military service can be very hard on families. This move might make things even harder.
Lastly, this is odd:
The Navy declined several requests by The Associated Press to interview female sailors and cadets at U.S. bases about the policy change.
Hmmmmm. Probably nothing to worry about.