by David Fraser
In this video essay I analyze the transforming gender dimensions through the lens of the United States military. In an institution that is rich with gender division and traditional values, the United States military finds itself on the forefront of this transforming society. The traditional culture of the male dominated military is changing drastically and has been since the Vietnam War. Customs, values, and beliefs are being influenced by gender integration that is reflective of an overarching societal change. Although gender integration has been on the rise, the personnel statistics still do not reflect a changed culture. Women only occupy 15% of the total military, and the top of the military hierarchy has an even a smaller presence. According to the 2011 Military Demographics report, the top three ranks across the military had 282 officers of which only 26 were women. Furthermore, the top rank had 40 members and only one of which was a female.
It is not just the population discrepancy that infiltrates the service, but these numbers are reflective of a masculine dominated community. Certain feminine qualities and characteristics are frowned upon and are viewed as weak. According to Regina Titunik article ‘The Myth of the Macho Military’, military effectiveness is argued to be found through other prevailing characteristics such as camaraderie, discipline, and service, instead of the traditional view of ‘unhindered aggressiveness.’
In this analysis, I take a historical approach to shed light on this marginalized presence of women in the military. By looking at the military service policy decisions over the past few decades, the political struggle that women have faced is illuminated. An institution has been created that downgrades the benefits of women inclusion and even has marginalized their presence. In this analysis I aim to show that while some change has been made in recent years, the United States military is operating from a skewed lens that is not representative of the United States as a whole. There is disconnect between the primary functions of the military and the culture that ultimately exists.
As stated in the United States Military Doctrine, the Armed Services are responsible for ‘embodying the highest values and standards of American society and the profession of arms.’ The lack of a female presence in the military, however, directly negates their ability to determine the ‘highest values’. In the essence of feminist geography, the marginalization of women from knowledge production and decision making creates a non-holistic view of society. According to Monk and Hanson, ‘the purpose of geographic research has been to provide a basis for informed policy and decision making…yet policy-oriented research that ignores women cannot help to form or guide policy that will improve women’s conditions.’ The male dominated hierarchy is operating from a lens that does not account for the female perspective. In the current situation it is therefore concluded that the United States Military is not operating from a holistic view. The recent policy reforms such as the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1967 and more recently removing the ban on allowing women to enter into certain combat oriented units, has begun the implementation of women into this male dominated culture, but this trend has the ability to largely continue. This trend will not only gain a more holistic view of military operations, but it will benefit from the qualities women can bring such as passion and care. It is at this point that the military will have access to a different lens and provide an insight into the existing gender differences in the service.