The New York Times has an article today about the U.S. Marine Corps' new recruitment ads aimed at young women, including a print ad that depicts a woman commanding a group of men, with the tag line "There are no female marines. Only marines."
Hey, look at that, ladies -- the military is not only post-feminist these days, it's post-gender! I mean, the logical corollary is that there are no male Marines, either, right? How forward-thinking! And really, who's going to make petty distinctions like "male" and "female" in a time of war?
Well, the Marine Corps, for starters, which bans women from most combat jobs. But more disturbingly, some men in uniform are quite clearly making that distinction, even if the recruitment ads don't. In an article for AlterNet, Dana Goldstein writes, "U.S. servicewomen today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. At some Veterans Affairs hospitals, over 40 percent of female patients report having been sexually assaulted during their service, and almost one-third are survivors of rape."
But there are no female Marines. We're way beyond all that.
On a positive note, the USMC ad (which specifically seeks female leaders) and Goldstein are at least on the same page about one thing: There should be more servicewomen in leadership positions. "Research shows that one of the most effective tools for fighting sexual assault in a war zone is a commanding officer who, from the top, signals a zero tolerance policy for misogyny, sexual harassment, and assault," Goldstein writes. "With the proper training, more male officers can implement that goal, but it is only through diversifying the officer corps that the military can truly change its culture into one of intrinsic respect for women."
It just might be a hell of a scary trip up the ladder for the young women who accept that challenge.