Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guy: PC Culture Too Difficult For Navy Men To Handle

The Washington Times recently ran an article about former Navy Secretary John Lehman's recent musings on how women, gays, and "political correctness" in the Navy are ruining the macho "swagger" of the branch and, thus, putting the US at risk.

From the article:

"Pilots constantly worry about anonymous complaints about salty language, while squadron commanders are awash in bureaucratic requirements for reports and statistics, [Lehman] added.

'Those attributes of naval aviators — willingness to take intelligent calculated risk, self-confidence, even a certain swagger — that are invaluable in wartime are the very ones that make them particularly vulnerable in today’s zero-tolerance Navy,' said Mr. Lehman, who led the Navy in the Reagan administration.

'The political correctness thought police, like Inspector Javert in ‘Les Miserables,’ are out to get them and are relentless.'”

It's always such a strange argument. Members of our military can handle grueling training, discipline, and killing, but asking them to treat their fellow soldiers with respect and dignity is.... too much? Like, heterosexual Navy men are totally tough, except when it comes to asking them to not make, say, rape jokes- in which case they immediately turn into craven cowards who can't handle criticism?


What Lehman's comments reek of, to me, is a nostalgia for space that's deemed super-duper important precisely because only a certain brand of Real Man can supposedly thrive in such space. As though when women and gay men "infect" that space, it becomes tainted with inferiority. After all, if a woman can do something that society thought only men could do, what does it even mean to be a man and how can being a man be special anymore?

Also, well, I remember back in March, when Time ran an article entitled the "Sea Witch," about Captain Holly Graff. She was the first woman to command a Navy cruiser but was removed for allegedly being "verbally abusive" and because some were "concerned" about her tone.

The comments following that article were littered with folks, most of them men but some women too, explaining how Graff's behavior perfectly demonstrated how women aren't fit for the military, how upstanding the previously-all-male military culture was until women infiltrated it, and how Graff's salty language degraded the dignity of the Navy. The article contained the subtextual argument that This Is What Happens When the PC Police Make Us Have Female Leaders.

But now... we are to accept the proposition that swaggering male sailors are entitled to engage in salty behavior and that it's the sucky lady culture that's ruining all the fun?

Women whatareyougunnado, right? Sometimes they're inappropriate assholes, sometimes they ruin everyone else's inappropriate asshole fun.


What becomes more clear is that what pearl-clutchers like Lehman are really crying about is the loss of all-male (or male-dominated) space that privileges men who meet his acceptable model of male heterosexuality and aggressive hyper-masculinity. They're bemoaning the loss of a time when men didn't have to compete with women as equals, because it was a given that women could never be equals in alleged manly endeavors, because women are what you fuck and what you joke about, not who you work with. They're bemoaning the loss of a time when the way to build heterosexual men's status, confidence, and power was to cut down women and their supposed sissy-boy brethren, gay men.

I don't believe the presence of women and gay men in the military will be the downfall of the free world, as Lehman suggests it will be. Nor do I think it's the "PC thought police" that's keeping certain truths from being uttered.

Because want to know the biggest truth of all that brave truthtellers like Lehman, and his many supporters, dare not utter aloud?

His argument rests on the unspoken premise that heterosexual Navy men value a climate in which they can make "raunchy" (read, sexist and homophobic) jokes more than they value national security and more than they value doing their jobs well. I simply have more respect for and confidence in the priorities of our servicemembers to believe that one.

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