A recent PBS television program really "torqued my jaw" as we used to say in the service - and it prompted this letter to the CEO of PBS. The program was an abomination - prefaced by a one sentence platitude that this is not say that all women don't do a fine job in the military. It was an affront to every woman who has or is serving. It showed only video that served their purposes - the women who couldn't get over a barrier - never showed the women who could. It denigrated the memory of Kara Hultgren; it belittled military women; it twisted old stories, it was an opinionated plethora of dead horse rhetoric - and it reeked of anti-feminism and anti-women in any endeavor that competes with men. Here's my rant:
To: Ervin Duggan CEO PBS
As a veteran of 22 years active duty in the United States Air Force I am appalled at the recent deprecating, detrimental, distorted, and obliquely biased program portending to be an objective view of the politics of women in the military.
I am talking about the program "Politics and Warriors: Women in the Military," which should have been more aptly titled "The Donnelly-Maginnis Rumor Monger Show". To spend fifty five minutes giving those two and their cow-towing back-ups, Worthington, Williams and Cohen, over forty seven on-camera segments to spew opinionated, and unsubstantiated, drivel is a disservice to the almost two million women who have served and the over two thousand women who have died in service to this country. To broadcast such slanted, obsequious, and denigrating material was execrable.
To focus practically the whole issue on physical strength, outdated stories, blatant distortions of fact - and use no data on the accomplishments and achievements of miltary women was truly disgusting.
Not one mention of the Rand Study that concludes that, when a woman is correctly. trained, she can be as tough as any man.
The report by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick, MA was led by senior analyst Everett Harman. "You don't need testosterone to get strong," Harman concluded.
Not one mention of the Ministry of Defence in Great Britain conducting the same kind of study. The Sunday Times of London reported that "by using new methods of physical training, women can be built up to the same levels of physical fitness as men of the same size and build." The British article also notes that "contrary to the view of many traditionalists, the operational performance of groups improve greatly if both sexes are involved."
Not one mention of the skills of women pilots, women astronauts, nurses, doctors, mechanics, divers, crew chiefs, and on and on - just blather about strength and combat.
The reality is that there is absolutely no intelligent, logical, sensible reason for women not to be in combat with the technological style of warfare that abounds today.
There are political, patriarchal, religious, and misogynistically stupid reasons to preclude women but they all belong in The Museum of Natural Idiocy next to chastity belts, urban legends, homophobia, senile senators, proselytizing preachers, and military machismo. The antiquated concepts that fill the closed minds of those crusading "experts" have created a brain-lock that has polluted everything from the Congress to the media - and now PBS is adding to that pollution!!
Your specious broadcasting giving only bits and pieces of the gender integration issue was absurd. Yes the miliary rushed to integrate and made a few mistakes along the way but the idea of separating women in training is as idiotic as teaching fish to drive trucks.
The concept of returning military women to separate units for basic and technical school training is as archaic as chastity belts. It reeks of "let's punish the women for the faults of the men!"
All of the other recommendations of the "Federal Advisory Committee on Gender Integrated Training and Related Issues" (Kassebaum Baker) have merit - things like better screening of trainer personnel, to include psychological screening ; increased numbers of women to perform drill sergeant duties; expanded human relations instruction for trainers ; a far more challenging, intensive basic training program; re-evaluation of physical standards; and the teaching of core values throughout the initial entry training process.
But the concept of regressing to the idea that separating men and women will reduce sexual harassment problems is like saying that eliminating laws will reduce crime.
Young men and women live in co-ed dorms at most of our colleges and universities -with some secular schools being the exception. But even schools with rules allow mixed visits, co-ed parties, and mutual recreation areas. They control it with curfews and residence monitors, and assigned clergy/faculty advisors.
We don't separate the sexes any place else - with the possible exception of convents and monasteries - why on earth should the young men and women of the military be isolated in training?
The "old guard' and the "righteous rant organizations" will sally forth with myriad reports, studies, cases, tomes, and plethoras of special projects bulging at the seams with fatuous reasons why it won't work and that feminization is killing the miltary.
A classic example being your guests on that travesty you call a news desk.
With the proper implementation, the proper standards, and the proper supervision, young men and women can train together, work together, and fight together.
It's not a feminist thing, it's not a sexist thing, and it's not a combat thing.
It's a "masculinist" thing in the minds of blame makers like those narrow-minded anti-women outfits who funded your programming.
The fault does not lie with where the women live and sleep.
It lies with the archaic attitudes of the old military men who are resistant to change.
It lies with the ignorant military men who still see women as chattel and sex objects.
It lies with the anti-progress organizations who for some inexplicable reason want women to remain second class citizens.
Let's not punish the women for the faults of the men - let's fault the men who punish women.
And certainly let's not insult miltary women in order to foster and perpetuate the hidden agendas of right-wing organizations and call it public service broadcasting.
PBS should know better!!!
Barbara A. Wilson, Captain, USAF (Ret)
For Myths, Urban Legends and Fallacies about Military Women see also:
Falderol and Idiotic Rumors
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