In honor of International Women’s Day, the organizers of the Women’s March called for a general women’s strike to create A Day Without a Woman. I heartily endorse this and hope if you’re a woman reading this you were able to participate in some sort of meaningful action—because there is still so much work that needs to be done to support women. It is clear that despite all the editorials, articles, awareness seminars, diversity training workshops and conferences that rights for women are still sorely lacking. Look no further than the U.S. Marine Corps, which is currently being rocked by its latest scandal—private photos of female Marines shared without their consent by former partners or stolen outright—and being posted with vulgar comments in a secret online Facebook group.
The veterans and active duty members of Marines United posted hundreds of photos of female Marines in varying stages of dress and undress and included their names, ranks, social media handles and where they were stationed. Not only were these actions unconscionable against the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters who serve beside them, it also strikes a deep blow against the cohesion and camaraderie of the Marine Corps. As Thomas Brennan, the Marine veteran who founded the nonprofit news site The War Horse, which broke the story, told the New York Times: “We are hurting other Marines.”
Sadly, this attitude is not surprising. In my research on workplace dynamics, and in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I have observed that you cannot reform a culture by overlaying it with a diversity program or forcing managers to attend sexual harassment seminars. Systemic change only happens from the top down and requires total integration into workplace culture. The Marines are particularly resistant to this due to their cultural conversation of being “rough and tumble” and having no leadership from the top to model better behavior. Sadly, this won’t be happening any time soon. The current resident of the White House is known for his complete disdain for women and his blatant predatory braggadocio.
However, there is someone who is fighting on—Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). In 2013 she reintroduced the Military Justice Improvement Act (MIJA) into the Senate, but sadly lacked the 60 votes needed for it to pass in 2016. The bill was designed to protect victims who report sexual assault from being retaliated against by their peers or commanders.
While it would greatly help servicewomen, especially female Marines who despite constituting the smallest percentage of any branch of the service (7 percent) report the greatest number of sexual assaults, it would help men as well. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 10,000 men a year are sexually assaulted in the military. Unsurprisingly, only about 13 percent report it, compared to 39 percent of women. Samantha Bee did an excellent report on the MIJA and why it’s so desperately needed on her show, Full Frontal:
As the Women’s March and today’s general strike shows, women have had enough and are taking matters into their own hands, but we have to do our part. Until violators like the men of Marines United are routinely disciplined with dishonorable discharges for posting stolen nude photos, alleged rapists are tried for sexual assault, and violent and vulgar language is no longer condoned within the ranks—nothing will change.
Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps