What the military taught me about feminism: #FtBCon liveblog by @Atalanta

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Richard was in the Coast Guard, which is typically viewed as not really the military, but he was primarily aimed at firefights and combat training. He was also involved with other military branches.

 

It was very butch. He went in looking to be more of a man.

 

So how does feminism fit in? He went in with some negative images of women. Some of the lessons he had to learn are things you would expect to be obvious, but many men do actually need to learn them. Men get insulated in bubble of male culture. Mixed gender training: washout rates were the same between genders.

 

This blew open some of his preconceptions of women: had thought that only an exceptional woman would be able to keep up with men.

 

After boot camp more specific experiences with women.

 

Introduction to feminism: was in a waiting room and picked up a newspaper article about Naomi Woolfe. The book has a primer on feminism. He began thinking about how a woman might view the world and this affected the way he saw the world.

 

There was an overweight woman in his unit, and in the military that’s a bigger deal than in civilian life because you don’t want to have your life depend on someone who is out of shape. His male colleagues used disgusting sexual slurs to describe her. Didn’t feel he could address it. These slurs assumed she was bad because she was a woman, not because she was a bad soldier and not a nice person.

 

Navy tried to deal with male culture through a training for gender sensitivity. She didn’t do a very good job, but she had a horrible job and the other men seemed to think how horrible she was.

 

They had 2 women onboard, officers. One of them was combat officer (despite being a hippy and a feminist). This alerted him to the fact that he was stereotyping her as a lesbian. Other officer was extremely competent and also good-looking. Was considered aloof and looked down on in many ways. People would do things like watch her work out. Richard had to learn how to replace things he had been told by other men with actual evidence and women’s experiences. Had to learn to take women’s words as seriously as men’s.

 

 

2:02 EST Interesting note on maturity. I’d like to hear more about what he says about maturity and the rise of “guy” culture.

2:05 EST This is probably coming from my own biases of the military but he doesn’t look or sound like someone I would have thought served in a fighter type role. What he called the quintessential military guy.  I’ve known a few men in the military and while they’re all nice people, they are mostly conservative in their views of women. Very defined gender roles, taking a strong view that women are to be protected.

2:15 EST I think he makes a good point about not liking the woman solider because she was a poor solider versus not liking her because she was a woman solider. “Women can be awful people too but they’re not awful because they’re women”.  It’s the idea that all women in the group are judged by the actions of one as opposed to being judged individually. That also makes it a lot harder for women to stand up for each other because you don’t want to  lose what few allies you may have by speaking out.

2:22 EST The gender sensitivity training would have been a good place for an ally to step up. From his description, it sounds like the men in his unit didn’t hear what she had to say but it may have been different if a man, maybe with a senior rank, led the training. That had to be a frustrating place to be, wanting to make a change in the culture but being unable to because you weren’t taken seriously.

2:26 EST Consensus building as a leadership style is an interesting choice for a combat role.

2:29 EST Doing it all twice as good as anyone else and hot looking to boot. That’s a hard standard for a “normal” woman to follow. He spoke earlier about going in the military in order to prove himself, it sounds like that’s a commonality for both men and women.

2:31 EST Aloofness as a form on self-preservation. In a negative culture, people take actions like withdrawing or becoming aloof which then feeds into the negative culture.

2:35 EST Drowning yourself in a hyper masculine culture is an unusual introduction to feminism. I wonder how much of it was because he didn’t see himself higher in the ranking on male culture, if that made him able to see feminism. If he had been a stereotypical military guy, would he have been able to relate at all?

 

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