Women Warriors: Issues Confronting Servicewomen and Women Veterans

About a week ago I had the opportunity to attend a panel at the national NOW conference titled “Women Warriors: Issues Confronting Servicewomen and Women Veterans.”

Led by Anu Bhahwati, Executive Director of SWAN, and Greg Jacob of SWAN, the Service Women’s Action Network, the workshop was meant to educate conference participants about an issue that still fails to garner mainstream attention, the treatment of women service workers and veterans. I was so disturbed by the gravity of the situation that I have decided to dedicate my next three Feminists for Choice posts to the issue.

It may not come as a surprise to Feminists for Choice readers that sexual assault is an appalling problem facing female troops. Among the more startling statistics:

  • From 2008 to 2009 there was an increase of 11% in reported military sexual assaults. The Department of Defense reported 3,230 assaults in 2009 (the department’s last report).
  • In 2008 there were 163 sexual assaults reported in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.
  • Under-reporting of sexual assault is an even larger problem in the military than outside. The Department of Defense reports estimates that 80% of assaults go unreported. (The Department of Justice estimates that 60% of civilian sexual assaults go unreported.) [Read more...]

Kagan Kerfuffle Exposes the Subtle Class Bias of Military Recruiting

John McCain’s editorial on the Kagan nomination got me thinking.  At issue, her move as dean of Harvard Law School denying military recruiters access to the campus Career Services Office.  McCain cites one beleaguered recruiter complaining that without this access, they were “relegated to wandering the halls in hopes that someone will stop and talk to us.”

Funny, recruiters have no problem meeting recruiting targets by wandering the halls (or streets, parks, gas stations, malls, and Wal-Marts) in low-income communities cruising for teenagers to sign on the dotted line.  Of course, there is less competition in this arena than in the post-grad job market of a Harvard law student, whose student body emerges equipped with a world-class education, awesome earning potential, and is still majority white, almost 70%.  McCain bristles at the thought of “white-shoe law firms” recruiting students, but not “one of its great institutions, the U.S. military.”

The damage done to military recruiting efforts by Kagan’s decision is a chimera, but the opportunity to resurrect a tired (and frankly a little pathetic) narrative of God & Country was too hard for Senate conservatives to resist.  When the best and the brightest (read: richest and whitest) don’t roll out the red carpet for military recruiters, it is an insult to the pedigree of military-political careerism and chickenhawks everywhere.  And John McCain won’t stand for it.

Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ as a National Priority

Don't Ask Don't Tell silences voicesYes, I said it. A national priority. For far too long we have had to sit back, waiting around for the president to get the courage to act righteously, while his administration works to acquiesce the LGBT community with tokenist attempts to include a “gay” agenda. Since 1993, when Clinton’s good intention manifested itself into a destructive policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ roughly 13,500 U.S. citizens serving in the armed forces have been discharged. Professional, courageous, committed, intelligent, service members with merit and passion are being turned away because of who they choose to love and who they choose to sleep with. Nearly $363 million dollars have been waisted within the span of 16 years, to enforce a policy that tells people they are less then human if they are gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual.

According to a 2008 Washington Post-ABC news poll, 75 percent of Americans believe openly gay people should be allowed to serve. Right now there are roughly 65,000 homosexuals serving in the U.S. military, along with one million gay veterans. This is not a debate about a couple LGBT identified soldiers wanting access to the armed forces, and even if it were, it doesn’t change the truth about how net-detrimental DADT is to every person in our country. [Read more...]