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Sexual Harassment    


Women deserve fair treatment, a non-hostile environment, and a chance to further their careers on an equal footing with man. The fact that harassment, discrimination, and sexual assaults are still occurring in our esteemed military in such numbers is appalling. The military¡¦s overall treatment, lack of respect in handling sexual harassment accusations and the repeated cover-ups of sexual harassment/assault crimes committed by generals is a national disgrace. Nonetheless, we can only make reparation for past injustices, plan to prevent them from occurring again, and hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.


To make tomorrow better than yesterday The Uniform code of Military Justice needs a complete overhauled. Last updated in 1983, the code is lacking any mention of the term sexual harassment. Thought this is a startling realization to us civilians, it is total normal for the military. Sexual harassment, though not mentioned in the code, is a crime under Article 134; ¡§Article 134 is the catch-all of this nation¡¦s military justice system, a compendium of 55 offenses that the armed forces say are prejudicial to good order and discipline or likely to bring discredit on the service¡¨(Gross-Justice¡K). Article 134 establishes an extremely high standard of conduct to maintain an orderly fighting force and prevent abuses of power in a hierarchical system where men and women live and work together 24 hours a day.


Sexual harassment is an offense committed by both females and males in assorted measures; it is predominately committed by males against females. It can ¡§occur in a variety of circumstances¡Ksome examples include: sexual insults, whistling, catcalls, pressure for sexual activity, [seeing girly magazines] and pinching¡¨(Facts¡K). Very simply, sexual harassment is any unwanted and unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile work environment; usually engaged in by co-worker or supervisor, which renders the workplace atmosphere intimidating, offensive and can/will interfere with work performance and group cohesion.


¡§Sexual harassment is an important issue and should not be taken lightly; on the other hand, it should not be taken out of control either¡¨(Facts¡K). The military is full of political correctness. Soldiers and officers constantly have to watch what they say. For instance, a common line heard describing this atmosphere of political correctness is, "I can't talk to this other person if this other person is of a different culture or a different sex. I'm very uncomfortable." This is usually the case because what is harassment to one person is a joke to another.

Women¡¦s experiences with inequality have been similar to those of black men; their integration into the military has also differed in several ways. Because of our society¡¦s fundamental belief that going to war is a man¡¦s job, men from minority groups have often been accepted more readily in the military than women.
Women have been viewed as outsiders in this male environment. Discrimination and harassment occurs for women because they are entering an all male dominated area. Some areas are still restricted because of it. For example: serving in direct combat capacities such as infantry, and Special Forces¡Xis limited to men. Though this policy is rational in light of one, the physical handicaps of women; and two, the image of sending women home in body bags, which no U.S. senator wants too take credit for. Even so, this gender bias is a discriminatory policy, and a limiting of opportunities for women. If women ¡§don't get the same opportunities to go out and compete,¡¨ as men do, then they¡¦ll have a much less chance of reaching a senior leadership position (generals); which are usually drawn from combat hardened/experienced officers (Baxter). ¡§By precluding women from the core functions of the military, they define women as marginal service members, thereby fostering sexual harassment [and discrimination]¡¨(Tailhook Incident 92).


In 1994, the annual Navy wide Personnel Survey included questions on women¡¦s role for the first time. Some 65 percent of officers and almost 50 percent of enlisted respondents said they did not think women were fully accepted in combat roles. While approximately 80 percent said harassment was not tolerated at their command, almost half of all respondents disagreed that everyone is treated equally in promotions and advancements.


Some of this is based on the presumed physical and psychological characteristics of women, which may interfere with their performances in combat rich situations. For example: the physical strength of women. People believe that women are not strong enough to lift and carry heavy equipment or wounded fellow soldiers and that they lack endurance to perform these tasks over a lengthened period. In addition, there is the idea that women cannot perform strenuous tasks quickly, like loading heavy shells into a weapon. Moreover, combat is not for the weak and slow. Although allowing women in combat remains a top priority, women are now serving in virtually every other occupational capacity in all four branches of the military.

Even though women are restricted from direct hand-to-hand combat positions, their prospects are growing by the day. A large number of previously restricted areas to women have been opened in the Army, Marine Corps, and the Air Force. Even the Navy is improving, which is a shock on its own. (Side note: Today in the Navy ¡§all ships are open to women except submarines and Coastal Patrol ships¡¨, -because submarines and Coastal Patrol ships are lacking habitability for women (Women in the Navy).) Even with increasing sexual harassment/assault/ and discrimination (S.H.A.D.) cases, the rising number of women being recruited is not due to any idealistic vision of the right of women to serve their country in uniform. One might say this trend is driven by the need to recruit an increasingly intelligent, well-educated, and fit military in the face of data that reflects the shrinking amount of qualified male candidates.


Then again, Marine Corps recruiter, C. J. Chivers feels that by ¡§1993, in the wake of the Tailhook scandal, the military was desperate to show that it could shed sexism. In recruiting, this translated into hiring as many women as possible¡¨(Chivers). Accordingly, many servicemen resented their female peers, because they felt women, who are not as qualified, were allowed to enter into the military through a side door. Women are asking for fair treatment. However, officers are pressured to cut corners to increase the number of women in the ranks for reasons previously mentioned.


The Navy¡¦s greatest modern-day blunder was the Tailhook scandal, which rocked the country and made aware to all that there was indeed a problem in our esteemed military. The incident took place during the Navy¡¦s annual Tailhook Association convention in September of 1991. What occurred at the hotel-wide party following the convention¡¦s itinerary for the day was a disgrace to the military, but more specifically, the Navy. Female guests and officers at the party were surrounded by Navy aviators ¡§and passed down a gauntlet,¡¨ having their breasts and buttocks grabbed; some of the men attempted to strip off their clothes. (TAILHOOK INCIDENT 92)


The investigations following the Tailhook incident revealed a most upsetting trend set by the leaders of the Armed forces. The leadership, knowing that this same ¡§practice has occurred since 1986,¡¨ demonstrated a tolerance and overlooked the attitude of contempt toward women held by many military men. Further, the investigations showed, that military leaders ¡§did not take the women's reports of the incident seriously and the perpetrators and others aware of the incident obstructed the investigation.¡¨ (TAILHOOK INCIDENT 92)


A review, conducted by the DoD of the investigations following the Tailhook incident indicated, ¡§that the scope of the investigations should have been expanded beyond the assaults to encompass other violations of law and regulation as they became apparent and should have addressed individual accountability for the leadership failure that created an atmosphere in which the assaults and other misconduct took place.¡¨ They concluded these failures to ¡§collaborative management failures and personal failures on the part of the Under Secretary, the Navy IG, the Navy JAG, and the Commander of the NIS.¡¨ The DoD believes that the shortcomings of the investigations ¡§were the result of an attempt to limit the exposure of the Navy and senior Navy officials to criticism regarding Tailhook 91.¡¨ (United States)


To its credit, the Pentagon leadership is seriously trying to deal with volatile and complex issues of sexual misconduct. The brass is now debating whether and how to prosecute cases of adultery. The Navy has made a strong effort, since the 1991 Tailhook scandal, to putting an end to sexual harassment. In fact, all the services have. In March of 1994, the Deputy Secretary of Defense asked the Secretary of the Air Force and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop a sexual harassment policy action plan. This plan was provided in April 1994, and included among its elements (1) the establishment of a Defense Equal Opportunity Council (DEOC) Task Force on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment to review the Military Services' discrimination complaints systems and recommend improvements, and (2) the conduct of a Department-wide sexual harassment survey.


Three survey forms were used in the study. The first survey (Form A) replicated a 1988 DoD-wide survey that produced the first baseline data on sexual harassment in the active-duty Services. The sole purpose of administering Form A was to permit comparisons of the 1988 and 1995 time frames. In summary, these surveys documented a decline in harassment experiences and cited the DoD¡¦s increased emphasis on combating sexual harassment for the success.
The efforts of the militaries ¡§equal opportunity training,¡¨ received by everyone in the military is seen as the main contributing factor to this reduction in reported sexual harassment cases.


When sexual harassment allegations were made in reference to Sergeant Major McKinney, the highest-ranking enlisted Officer in the Army; the Army reacted swiftly and harshly. It even called a press conference to publicize the case. Fearful of appearing soft on sexual harassment, the leadership never seriously offered Sergeant Major McKinney the option of retiring, as it has done in comparable cases¡¨ (Finder). (By comparable cases I am referring to the ¡§Pentagon records obtained by the sergeant major¡¦s lawyers¡K[which] shows in the last three years (95-98) at least 23 senior and general Army officers were accused of offenses including child molestation and adultery - and not one was prosecutes. Each was simply allowed to retire¡¨ (Finder).)
The consequences of the accusations against Sergeant Major McKinney seriously damaged the Army¡¦s reputation. They were looking for a quick fix. A show trial that would demonstrate the Army¡¦s determination and in part make up for the Navy¡¦s Tailhook incident. In the Tailhook trial a number of officers ¡§were courts-martial, but no one went to prison. The resulting public outcry made the other armed services sit up and take notice. They wanted to be sure they didn¡¦t make the same mistakes¡¨ (Finder).


It takes a lot of cases and re-occurring problems for sexual harassment to finally get the notice it needs. Basis trainees are learning that at all levels, the word is getting out that discrimination and harassment have no place in the military profession and will not be tolerated. On a visit to my local Air Force recruitment office, I came upon a pamphlet concerning S.H. that read, ¡§The Air Force can not isolate itself from these social trends¡K¡¨ and must take a zero tolerance position on these issues. On November 13, 1996 in a speech at the Navel academy in Annapolis, then Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, conveyed the DoD¡¦s position on sexual harassment, here is an excerpt:


"...Our policy on sexual harassment is crystal clear. We believe that sexual harassment is wrong, ethically and morally. We believe it is wrong from the point of view of military discipline. And we believe it is wrong from point of view of maintaining proper respect in the chain of command. And for all of these reasons therefore, we have a zero tolerance for sexual harassment."

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment. The DoD following the Tailhook scandal prudently addressed the sexual harassment issue, by instituting the Initial Entry Training and Equal Opportunity Program. With a comprehensive, detailed written policy on sexual harassment they next sought to relieve tensions concerning the issue of sexual harassment. General Dennis J. Reimer, the Army Chief of Staff, ¡§videotaped a segment for broadcast on Army television stations worldwide to reassure the troops that top Army leaders were taking the [sexual harassment] matter seriously¡¨(Schmitt-Sexual Harassment¡K). Second, they distribute the written policy to all officers globally. The policy was distributed, and training to combat sexual harassment begun.


Sexual harassment is believed to be decreasing, but one must remember a lot of sexual harassment goes unreported. Women are afraid to report cases for fear of being thrown out of their job. Women can get the feeling of not trusting anyone in the military command, easier than then men for two reasons. One, 99 percent of commanding ranks are taken by men, and two, men are more likely to help men than women. A woman cannot get help from a commanding officer that¡¦s a woman, because the commanding officer is probably in a rut of her own.


In lieu of these issues, a panel of senior Army officers and civilian military officials were issued to investigate sexual harassment in the United States Army. The panel was to ascertain the shortcomings of: the Army¡¦s Equal Opportunity (EO) program, leadership, and Initial Entry Training (IET). Their finding, recommendations and conclusions are here summarized:


„« ¡§The Army lacks institutional commitment to the Equal Opportunity program and soldiers distrust the EO complaint system.¡¨
„« ¡§Sexual harassment exists throughout the Army, crossing gender, rank, and racial lines; sex discrimination is more common than is sexual harassment.¡¨
„« ¡§Army leaders are the critical factor in creating, maintaining, and enforcing an environment of respect and dignity in the Army; too many leaders have failed to gain the trust of their soldiers.¡¨
„« The majority of officers perform competently, but ¡§respect as an Army core value is not well institutionalized in the IET process.

Their view was that passive ¡§leadership has allowed sexual harassment to persist; active leadership can bring about change to eradicate it.¡¨ Leadership is the problem. (Findings¡K)


¡§Leaders set the values compass for the Army; it is from them that respect and dignity flow¡¨ (Findings¡K). Officers live by an ethos that rules and regulations are there for a purpose and are to be upheld by all military personnel. Unfortunately, the military¡¦s leadership, and senior officers have not lived up to that code. Throughout the military, senior leaders regarding sexual violations of DoD policies, see their charges overlooked; the offenders slapped on the wrist and then allowed to retire quietly.


This lack of ethical leadership is what is creating an environment that undermines human dignity, trust and respect for others. Too many leaders today are more concerned with protecting their careers than with doing the right thing. Many leaders do not deal with incompetent personnel or controversial issues because it is too hard, too time consuming, or may create a problem with their career.


Leadership should get back on the ethical track and make integrity, honor, morals, courage, and honesty more than mere words. I read about these injustices, and I implore the men and women of the military to take the appropriate action and not to quit fighting the system until the right thing is done. We should not ignore injustice and inept leadership. The members of the Armed Forces cannot perform their mission as a team if they cannot trust and depend on each other to do the right thing.


Preventing sexual harassment requires a considerable investment of time and personnel. However, investing in these resources the military will benefit from increased worker productivity and a more hospitable work environment. Sexual offenses are in a way, abuses of power that can affect order, cohesion and effectiveness in the life-or-death environment of the military (Gross-Justice). The military only stands to gain if it takes a no-nonsense, hard-line position on sexual harassment. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Works Cited

Baxter, Roxanne. ¡§Transcript: Interview with Roxanne Baxter.¡¨ PBS Online (1998).
.

Chivers, C. J. ¡§Yes, There is a Double Standard.¡¨ New York Times 17 Nov. 1996:
Late Ed.

Facts about Sexual Harassment. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
January 15, 1997 .

Finder, Joseph. ¡§The Army on Trial.¡¨ New York Times 17 Feb. 1998: Late Ed.

¡§Findings and Recommendations of Army Panel Studying Harassment.¡¨ New York
Times 12 Sept. 1997: Late Ed.

Gross, Jane. ¡§Justice in the Military Has its Reasons.¡¨ New York Times 1 Mar. 1998:
Late Ed.
----. ¡§When Character Counts.¡¨ New York Times 15 Mar. 1998: Late Ed.

Schmitt, Eric. ¡§Senators Doubtful Over Army¡¦s Policies on Women.¡¨ New York Times
5 Feb. 1997: Late Ed.
----. ¡§Sexual Harassment Case Polarizes Soldiers.¡¨ New York Times 16 Feb. 1997: Late Ed.

¡§TAILHOOK INCIDENT 92.¡¨ National Organization for Women. June 1992


United States. Department of Defense. OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL.
Report of Investigation: Tailhook 91 - Part 1. MEMORANDUM FOR ACTING
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: 21 SEP 1992.

Webb, James. ¡§Transcript: Interview with James Webb.¡¨ PBS Online (1998).
.

Women in the Navy. Navy of Office of Information. 31 Dec 2000
.