It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post that has me this angry. There’s a piece in the Marine Corps Gazette entitled “Why Women Do Not Belong in the US Infantry” by CPT Lauren F. Serrano. I’d link to it here but it’s behind a paywall.
So if you’re interested in my response to it, please continue reading. Also, please remember that I am speaking as a private citizen and my views do not represent DOD or any branch of service.
Full disclosure: I will be moderating comments on this piece.
While I applaud Captain Serrano’s willingness to take what she terms a “bold” claim, I do not feel there is anything bold about her article. Rather it is merely recycling the same old emotional arguments, tired excuses and some pretty harsh generalizations against not only her sisters in arms but also her brothers in arms that I would think someone who allegedly respects her fellow Marines would not make.
So where to begin.
“It’s Not About Individuals: My argument has little to do with whether women can pass the Infantry Offcer Course or Infantry Training Battalion, or endure the hardships of combat. Even those select women who can physically endure the infantry are still posing a threat to the infantry mis- sion and readiness. Female Marines who want to stir the pot by joining the infantry ranks are more interested in their careers than the needs of the Corps— they are selfish.”
So in her opinion, the women who seek out these positions are being selfish – because every man who seeks out these positions does so only out of selfless dedication to duty and the Corps? I’m sorry but calling women who want the opportunity to lead the best selfish does much to undermine her argument right off the bat. What do we call the men who want these positions to advance their careers?
Furthermore, she admits that there are women who can probably pass the Infantry courses. If that is all that is required for the men, then what are the additional standards that must be imposed on women before they can compete? Let’s see what CPT Serrano has to say, shall we…
“a female Marine offcer, regardless of MOS, can be just as successful as a male infantry offcer if she is truly a leader and puts the needs of her Marines above her own.”
Then where are the female maneuver commanders? Where is the female commandant of the Marine Corps who came out of Signal or Logistics? Where are the females in charge of the most elite, most sought after positions? I’m actually of the opinion that you should come up in the branch you are expected to lead and before we place women in charge of battalion or higher maneuver elements, they should have served at the lower echelons. So before women can reach the top echelons, they need to start out at the bottom and pay their dues.
“However, as Capt Katie Petronio argued in her 2013 Gazette article, “Get Over It! We are not all created equal,” long infantry careers for female Marines will even- tually lead to career-ending medical conditions as they get older and their bodies are unable to withstand the years of constant infantry training.3 For the already fscally strained military, this will lead to an increase in medically retired Marines who rate medical fnan- cial support for the rest of their lives.”
This is actually about the only place in the article where my head did not explode. There is a valid point to be made here for women who choose this demanding field but for her to say that officers who serve in these billets will necessarily end up with more injuries etc is to make a broad generalization. The truth of the matter is that all of our current generation of warriors are expected to carry extraordinary amounts of gear and this extra weight is burdening all of our knees and backs. The second biggest signature injury of this war is knees and backs. So there’s actually something to be said for this argument but instead of making her argument on physiology or god forbid actual data, she goes back to the same old gender stereotypes.
“The all-volunteer U.S. military is not at war to defend the Nation’s existence; on the contrary, it has a surplus of manpower, is downsiz- ing its number of servicemembers, and can afford to be exclusive. Again, there is no need to incorporate women into the infantry.”
I think I saw a figure that less than 20% of the US population is actually eligible to serve in the military. How many of those are going to be in the infantry? By citing the Israeli and Kurdish armies, she actually defeats her argument: women are capable of doing the job. She just doesn’t want them to because she wants to preserve…what exactly?
Oh, right, the “Infantry Brotherhood: Having women in an infantry unit will disrupt the infantry’s identity, motivational tactics, and camaraderie. The average infantryman is in his late teens or early twenties. At that age, men are raging with hormones and are easily distracted by women and sex. Infantry leaders feed on the testosterone and masculinity of young men to increase morale and motivation and encourage the warrior ethos. Few jobs are as physically and emotionally demanding as the infantry, so to keep Marines fo- cused, the infantry operates in a cult- like brotherhood.”
I don’t actually deny that there is a brotherhood or that it serves a purpose. What I do take vehement issue with is her insistence that the brotherhood as she painted it is worthy of preserving.
“They can fart, burp, tell raunchy jokes, walk around naked, swap sex stories, wrestle, and simply be young men together. Although perhaps not the most polite environment, this is the exact kind of atmosphere that promotes unit cohesion and the brotherly bond that is invaluable.”
What kind of cohesion does this actually promote? Farting and sex stories are key to moral and support. Damn I’ve been doing it all wrong. Perhaps I should have been grabbing my first sergeant’s ass and swapping stories of what my husband and I did last night. Oh wait, it’s different because I’m a female? Sorry, that doesn’t actually fly with me and here’s why: because this kind of attitude is EXACTLY why we have a continued problem with sexual assault in the military.
“While standing in line at the shop- pette in civilian attire a few weeks ago, two young grunts stood behind me inti- mately describing the toned, ft body of a female on the front of a women’s ath- letic magazine. Subsequently, the Ma- rines discussed how attracted they are to women who are in shape and how they can’t wait for the weekend when their squad was planning to go to the club to pick up ladies. Women in the Marine Corps are already in better shape than the average civilian and it can be as- sumed that any infantry woman will be a physical specimen. In the young, testosterone-flled infantry ranks, this is asking for love triangles, unit drama, and the potential for intraunit relationships.”
So let me get her logic straight: women in the marines are going to be physically fit + male marines who are attracted to physically fit women = women should not be in the infantry because of love triangles. By that same logic then, sir, women shouldn’t be in the military at all because we are cause of all the unit drama ever. Seriously? This is her argument? I’m disappointed. I expected better.
But wait, there’s more.
“Platoon commanders in co-ed units already deal with a tremendous amount of drama, pregnancies, and sex in the co-ed unit barracks. Each time an issue arises, the platoon leadership spends a lot of time switching Marines’ barracks rooms, billets, etc. Oftentimes the unit equal opportunity (EO) representative must get involved to ensure gender bias does not occur. Infantry units bring signifcantly less drama to work because they don’t have women in their barracks or workspaces. This allows them to better focus on their mission, training, and readiness.”
I would like some stats on exactly how she’s quantifying “drama”. Because during my time in a brigade combat team, it was the infantry/engineer units who had the most arrests, the most rape allegations, the most domestic violence charges. So adding female Marines to the mix is going to make things worse?
But this next part is where I lost any shred of respect for this argument or this author.
“however, doing so for extended periods of time in isolated combat environments with a population of stressed out 18- to 22-year-olds poses the potential for sexual relations, unwanted incidents, and drama (again, disrupting the brotherhood and taking the focus off the mis- sion), not to mention the spouses of those who are married who now have the added burden of worrying about their husband sleeping next to another woman throughout his deployment.”
The spouses who now have the added burden of worrying about their husband sleeping next to another women throughout his deployment. Wait, let that sink in. Just by being present, female Marines are going to tempt their poor, innocent husband into a honey trap of infidelity? So the men who stray bear no responsibility for their actions whatsoever? No it’s all on the female Marines who lure these paragons of the nation into temptation.
I’m sorry but it’s this tired, pathetic bullish*t reasoning that I have been hearing my entire career. If your husband isn’t a scumbag, he’s not going to stray. Period. Another woman being present isn’t going to make a difference. And that’s about as much polite verbiage as I can must at the moment. Blame the women, don’t ever hold the man responsible for his actions. Sure.
Which brings me to my next gem from this magnum opus.
“Although already not immune to sexual assaults/ harassment, without women amongst their ranks, there are simply fewer op- portunities for infantry Marines to be involved in sexual assault/harassment cases. Incorporating women into in- fantry ranks will increase the number of cases in infantry units, subsequently taking time away from training, readi- ness, and unit morale.”
So Marines who rape once again are not actually responsible for their actions – they are not predators. No, they are merely taking advantage of an opportunity. A female being present is all the excuse these weak willed marines need to rape. I’m sorry, I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor over this one. This author flat out states that women being present = more rapes. Never mind that in order to have a rape you need A RAPIST.
“Every time there is a report of sexual assault/harassment, several Marines have to dedicate im- portant man-hours to resolving the issue…Overall, one sexual assault case ended up costing the Marine Corps an absurd amount of time and money. The opportunity cost for the Marines involved in the case was costly to the Marine Corps and hurt unit readiness. As the pinnacle fghting elements of the Marine Corps, it is in the best interest of the infantry units to mitigate the opportunities for sexual assault/harassment. If women are part of infantry units, it will be a mat- ter of when, not if, more sexual assault cases will happen.”
So the solution is remove the women and all of sudden no more rapes. Right? Let’s diagram this argument out: women + infantry units = rapes. No, I’m sorry that equation doesn’t actually add up. Let’s try again: women + rapists = rapes. Oh that makes a little more sense.
“As the ex- ecutive assistant to the Chief of Staff, I witnessed several EO and sexual assault/ harassment cases against senior military offcers—many of them substantiated.”
Tell me again about this “pinnacle fighting element of the Marine Corps”.
“Neither any amount of SAPR training nor the best leaders can completely prevent sexual assault/harassment and EO cases. It is an issue that should be kept as far away from the infantry as possible.”
She’s actually 100% correct here: preventing rape isn’t about training – it’s about not being a rapist. It’s about not harboring rapist and making an apology for rapists or excusing their behavior as boys will be boys as this author has done.
“Marine Corps infantry is not broken, so let’s not “fix” it.”
By pointing out that infantry Marines cannot be trusted to incorporate women into their teams without turning into marauding rapists, the author has clearly pointed out there *is* something broken in the Marine Corps and it’s broken across all of our forces.
There are actually good questions to be asked about putting women into ground combat units – especially ones with exceptionally high physical demands but this author asked none of them. Instead, she raised tired arguments about how women being around make men rapist and I for one expect more out of our Marines and our soldiers than this author clearly does. I am personally offended for the men I serve with – this author clearly seems to think very poorly of not only them but the women she serves with as well.
This article is a disgrace.