US Air Force Publishes “Fake News” on Gender Barrier

The US Air Force’s 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada, recently published an article describing the creation of an Air Force women’s rugby team. Entitled “Ruck ‘n’ Roll: AF rugby program breaks gender barrier,” Public Affairs officer SSgt Siuta Ika said

…19 women from the Air Force — active-duty, Guard and Reserve — formed the service’s first official women’s rugby team.

Lisa Rosen, a former Air Force Academy and USA Rugby collegiate All-American coach, was hand-picked to serve as the team’s head coach and said she sees a lot of similarities between women breaking through the “divide” in rugby and women serving the military in combat positions.

Beyond that, no where in the article does Ika describe what “gender barrier” was “broken” by the Airmen choosing to play a sport. There is no indication any of them had been discouraged, inhibited, or prevented — by anyone other than themselves — from forming and fielding a sports team for any reason, much less because of their gender.

On that point, women have been playing rugby at the US Air Force Academy since the early 1980s — likely before many of the women featured in this article were even born.

So what “gender barrier” did these women supposedly break?

Despite the official Air Force headline, it would seem no “barrier” even existed.

It’s not altogether uncommon for the military to publish a personal interest or sports-related story about troops’ off-duty activities. However, rather than trying to create a sensationalist setting by proclaiming women are “breaking [apparently fake] barriers,” wouldn’t it have been far better to report on the merits of what the women did?

After all, buried within the story was the fact the Air Force team had recently participated in their local “Las Vegas Invitational” amateur rugby tournament. Unfortunately, the article glossed over the event with just a few sentences and a vague reference to the team “[holding] its own” but being eliminated.

By comparison, an older (and much shorter) article about an Airman being selected for the Air Force rugby team focused primarily on his performance.  His gender isn’t discussed, and but for an accompanying photo the reader would have no idea about any of his physical traits.

With International Women’s Day and other cultural focus on gender recently, perhaps Air Force Public Affairs wanted to contribute to the narrative of barrier-breaking, glass ceiling-shattering, stereotype-defying women.

But for a government institution that claims to pride itself on tolerance, equality, and meritocracy, it does itself no favors by parroting mantras that seem to undermine those very goals.

Perhaps someday society will move beyond the idea that “Person Does Something” is newsworthy simply because of the gender, race, sexual practices, eye color, height, etc., of the person who did it.

Some might say — particularly in light of recent events — the military has spent so much time proactively focusing on physical traits it has neglected to foster the ethical, moral, and character traits of its troops.

A “culture war” over sex and gender won’t affect the military’s ability to win or lose in combat.  But if the US military loses the moral high ground, it won’t matter if it “wins” the war.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
– Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 August 1963

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