29 January 2010

The Surprising Misogyny of Submarines

Women on submarines is a topic of endless discussion among Navy people. There are constantly circulating rumors that “they” will be putting women on submarines “soon,” but very little seems to have come of it. Ever. That is “The Navy Way” otherwise known as “generally the wrong way, only much slower.” However that is not today’s discussion topic. Today’s topic is: the misogyny this topic brings to the surface and that you will be surprised at the source.

The important background here is that the Navy has copped out of this task based on the precedent that in order to have mixed-sex crews, separate facilities are required and this may be unfeasible on a submarine. Sure they are big vessels, but there is only 3.6 cubic feet of actual living space. (Here is where I make the classic joke about “What is long, hard and full of seamen?” Yup, a submarine. Bwahahhahahha, man this ones kills at Fleet Week…) Anyway, yeah I get that, though it is worth mentioning that many other countries (ones no doubt plainly inferior to us, The USA, leaders of the free world blah blah blah) manage this feat just fine.

Additional barriers to success are those members of the “Old Navy” and I don’t mean the store. These are the salty guys who have been in the military since the “good old days” and who will not stand for any change in tradition. Of course, these people get their knickers in a twist over anything that changes. New uniforms came out last year and they were all “girlfriend, we are not havin’ any of that…..change my outfit, oh no you didn’t.” Yeah…

So with all this in mind I was ready for the usual “not in my Navy, no women in the service” wank. Many people stuck with the tried and true belief that women are not smart enough, strong enough, whatever enough to do the job. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have heard it all before. This is not 1941 so get over it. Note: some decent points were made about the risks to the health of a woman and child in the event of a pregnancy, but in the real-world the unfortunate biological truths of pregnancy are somehow accommodated. Additionally, one could argue that women who were interested in pursuing this type of career would be willing to plan appropriately for this possibility, but that is also a discussion far too involved to explore at this juncture. My real point here is that no one worries about the male sailors in the event of getting someone pregnant, so lets not go there people.

The next objection, which was highly predictable, though still pretty offensive, was the whole “men can’t be trusted in close quarters with women” BS. This is pretty sad. Not only because we feel that men can’t help act this way, and therefore indirectly condone such behavior, but that so many wives feel that their husbands would fall into this category. If you have those kinds of trust issues then a lifestyle where your spouse takes off to parts unknown for 11 months out of the year might not be a good choice for you. I am not a licensed marriage counselor, but damn people, you need to work on your trust issues.*

Equally represented was the mentality that the women submariners could not be trusted. It was hypothesized, in an oddly equal opportunity way, that the women could not be trusted to control themselves either. But here is the sucker punch, the only people placing this theory out there were…wait for it…other women! That’s right. Countless spouses didn’t want their men on a submarine with women because anyone who wanted to work in those conditions was clearly “out to land a man,” a potential home wrecker or just plain too slutty to cope with maintaining a professional attitude. Wow. Double, triple, even quadruple WOW! That shit is effed up. This raises so may questions:

* Is this displacement of blame for husbands who have been unfaithful and these women are compensating by blaming the “other women?”

* Since when in 2010 is acceptable to assume that anyone male, female or otherwise, can not be expected to uphold professionalism in the workplace?

* Why would women assume that other women are out to get their men? Are these guys such a catch that no one could resist? Do these women know many women like this? Better yet, are these women like this themselves?

The last question is the one that most boggles my mind. I never thought twice about the idea that my DH would be on a submarine with women. Probably, because as a woman, I figure you can work with groups of mostly men and not be driven to sleep with them all. Extending this logic to the statement that most people judge others based on their own value systems, what does it say about these women who claim female submariners will behave in this manner?

Bloody horrifying when you think about it…. It is sad to me that the major setback to equality and the pursuit of feminism in the submarine force is not the sailors or the bureaucracy, but other women who just can’t seem to help the cause by not being bat shit crazy. Elizabeth Blackwell just rolled over in her grave.

*No offense meant to anyone who has dealt with infidelity issues, the subtle nuances of that are far too lengthy to be discussed here.