Does the Military Continue to Have Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

“Does the Military Continue to Have Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
Against Women in the 90’s?”

Yes, the military does have sexual harassment and discrimination against women in

the nineties. “Firestone and co-researcher Richard J. Hurns analyzed a 1988 DOD Survey

of men and women in the military and found that 51.8 % of men and 74.6% of women

reported either experiencing or knowing of sexual harassment. Amoung the women

surveyed, 70.1% had experienced “sexual talk or behavior at the work place [that] created

an offensive, hostile or intimidating environment.” Amoung the men, 36.9% gave the

same answer.”(1) The percent of women being sexually harassed is much higher than the

percent of men being harassed. Even though it is not tolerated, it still happens regardless

of the consequences, even in the nineties.

While some women’s experiences have been similar to those of black men, their

integration into the military has also differed in several ways. Because of our society’s

fundamental belief that protecting the home and going to war are a man’s work, men from

minority groups have often been accepted more readily in the military than the women.

Women have been viewed as outsiders in a male environment. Discrimination and

harassment occurs for women because we are entering an all male dominated area. Some

areas are still restricted because of it. For example: serving in direct combat capacities

such as armor, infantry, and special forces--branches from which much of the senior

leadership is drawn. “In 1994, the annual Navywide Personnel Survey included questions

on women’s role for the first time. Some 65 percent of officers and almost 50 percent of

enlisted respondents said they did not think women were fully accepted in combat roles.

While approximately 80 percent said harassment was not tolerated at their command,

almost half of all respondents disagreed that everyone is treated equally in promotions and

advancements.”(2) Some of this is bases on the presumed physical and psychological

characteristics of women which may interfere with their performances of some military

jobs. For example: the physical strength of women. People believe that women are not

strong enough to lift and carry heavy equipment or wounded fellow soldiers and that we

lack endurance to perform these tasks over a lengthened period of time. Also, there is the

idea that women can not perform strenuous tasks quickly, like loading heavy shells into a

weapon. And combat is not for the weak and slow.

Although allowing women in combat remains a top priority, women are now

serving in virtually every other occupational capacity in all four branches of the military.

A large number of previously restricted areas to women have been opened in the Army

and Marine Corps, and the Air Force has women training now for all previously closed

career fields. Even the Navy is improving, which is a shock on its own.

Even with increasing sexual harassment cases, the rising number of women being

recruited is not due to any idealistic vision of the right of women to serve their country in

uniform. One might say this trend is driven by the need to recruit an increasingly

intelligent, well-educated, and fit military in the face of data that reflects the shrinking

amount of qualified male candidates. “By current estimates, there are 191,399 women on

active duty in all four branches of the US Armed Forces, accounting for approximately

12.7 % of all active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Personnel. As of September

1995, women accounted for 13.2 % of all officers and 12.6% of all enlisted personnel.

Approximately 16 percent of all active duty Air Force Personnel (officers and enlisted) are

women, followed by 13 percent of the Army, 12 percent of the Navy, and about 4.6

percent of the Marines.”(3)

Sexual harassment is believed to be increasing, but one must remember a lot of

sexual harassment goes unreported. It is a shame women are afraid to report cases for

fear of being thrown out of their job, or just plain lack of knowledge on where to go or

what to do. Women can get the feeling of not trusting anyone in the military command

easier than women for two reasons. One, 99 percent of commanding ranks are taken by

men, and two, men are more