Air Force NCO Models Intolerance at Official Women-Only Event
A women-only mandatory briefing held by the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard AFB a couple of weeks ago has already gained some notoriety on social media both for its content and the manner in which it was held. It apparently had good intentions:
Five NCO’s [sic] and the base’s director of Military Equal Opportunity stood at the head of the auditorium ready to lead an honest conversation about being a female in a male dominated career.
But you know which road they say is paved with good intentions.
Some joined the online conversation to call the very concept of the meeting unwise, if not discriminatory. (Consider, for example, if the Air Force had officially called a mandatory meeting of only white Airmen, or of only men, or of only Christians.) Others questioned whether it was proper for the panel of NCOs — which appears to have included members who described themselves as “lesbian…, black, white, or brown” — to “preach” to the Airmen about their private behavior.
While some may find those conversations interesting, the Air Force article revealed another potential problem with the Air Force’s “lesson” in that briefing: The panel appears to have preached an Air Force position of tolerance only for those beliefs which are popular [emphasis added]:
A young Airman stood up to explain her confusion with men who don’t believe that women have a place in the military. She asked the panel for ways to address this belief.
“Tell them that 1967 called and they want their opinions back,” said a panel member who was visibly appalled at the notion.
The panel members went on to explain that the idea of women being unfit to serve is no longer acceptable within our ranks. Unfortunately, they noted, there are still naysayers out there.
The unidentified panel member — presumably one of the Air Force NCOs — was probably trying to make a witty rejoinder to what she thought was outdated or old-fashioned beliefs.
And in so doing, she demonstrated the very bigotry — and sexism — she probably thought she was mocking. Tolerance is a two-way street, you know.
While there are probably still some today (men and women) who say a woman has “no place in the military,” even they probably don’t mean it for the absolutist sound it has. After all, there have been women associated with the military for centuries — though generally in support (and largely nursing) roles. Today, the issue tends to be “women in combat” — including the decision to put women into combat without calling it combat. (In prior conflicts, the placement of women in actual support roles probably contributed to why only a single woman died as a result of combat in Vietnam.) The idea — whether you agree with it or not — about not putting women in combat isn’t an argument against women.
One cannot look on history with rose-colored glasses. Not everything was “good” in 1967, the year picked by the undisclosed panel member, nor in any other year in the past. But one also cannot look on history with jaundiced eyes. Just because an idea is “old” also does not mean it is invalid or wrong.
Whether or not you agree with it, there is a reason for the belief that it is the duty of men to protect their families and their country. Though chivalry has fallen out of favor, it is still founded on a noble — and moral — cause. A chivalrous man holds a door for a woman. Chivalrous men put “women and children” in the lifeboats first. Chivalrous men stand next to their sons and in front of their wives and daughters when faced with a threat. And a moral, chivalrous nation, when called to war and given the choice, sends its men to fight and die.
That is a virtue. It should be lauded, not mocked.
It is true, too, that religious faiths support the idea that it is the proper role of men to protect their families — both women and children. That’s not at all the same thing as saying women are incapable, as the position is often caricatured. In fact, the Bible provides specific examples of women who were warriors — though in at least one notable case, it was after men refused to be.
Members of the military — men and women — can believe it is not right to put women in combat, and they can still be good service members while they believe that. In fact, many do believe that, and they are good troops.
And should someone — anyone — choose to mistreat a woman in the US military because of their beliefs about the roles of men and women, everyone would support their discipline.
One can certainly disagree with that idea — but in a military that claims it supports diversity, it should be no more appropriate for a member of an Air Force panel to — in their official capacity — belittle those against putting women in combat than it is for someone to belittle those for women in combat.
For an Air Force NCO to model bigoted behavior in the face of ideas with which she disagrees is an anathema to the tolerant culture the Air Force claims it has — and she did it on stage with the director for the Equal Opportunity office, the very organization tasked with advocating for diversity and tolerance in the Air Force (assuming, of course, it wasn’t the EO director herself).
Yet nothing will come of it, because denigrating men, opposing the idea that men and women are different, and mocking the idea that men should value women above themselves is culturally acceptable. Given the content of this “training”, some might say that applies even within the US military.
In a military that claims it values diversity, this shouldn’t be. But in this modern age, this seems to be what is.