Send nudes: USMC Scandal Perfect Depiction of Societal Problem
By Sergeant Sunshine
March is Women’s History Month, with March 8 recognized as International Women’s Day. But what topic has taken over the military headlines? Marines posting nude photos of their fellow Marines. Female Marines, to be more specific, but fellows nonetheless.
I have always looked up to the Corps’ mentality of quiet professionalism and taking care of their own. (Also, have you seen a female Marine’s sock bun? That shit’s tight.) While they definitely partake in their fair share of shenanigans and tom-foolery, they tend to handle it discretely and in-house.
Although I’m very disappointed about the current situation, I’m not surprised. This “He-Man Woman-Haters Club” mentality is nothing new for the military, and the military’s response has always been more on the side of “boys will be boys”. Less than four years ago, Marine Corps Times’ cover article was titled Busted for ‘sammich’ jokes: Some Marines say making fun of women is fair game. While the article itself denigrates the misogynistic treatment of women in the military, specifically via social media, the title – which I’m sure was meant to be catchy – belittles the underlying issue: gender inequality and sexual harassment are still huge issues in our military and our society as a whole that go mostly uncorrected.
I’ve heard my share of “sammich” jokes, some of which have been directed at me personally. I pride myself on not being easily offended and have found that if you can take it and dish it out in equal measure, the comments tend to go away. However, this isn’t true for comments online. Most military units will be posting pro-female narratives on their social media pages this month that will be met with as many “You go girl!” comments as “Get back in the kitchen.” While it is the page administrator’s due diligence to delete comments that are graphic, obscene or explicit as per DoD guidelines, a good amount of derogatory comments will be left alone on the thought that social media is self-policing and supportive commenters will shut it down themselves.
One argument being made is that many of the photos being posted to Marines United’s page are selfies, meaning these women took the photos themselves and sent them to someone else. The posters self-justify by stating that those photos are now the property of the recipient and what right does she have to be upset about what the recipient ultimately does with them? This argument just goes to prove society’s lack of respect for women’s bodies. As the lucky beneficiary of a photo of a naked lady, you have been entrusted with materials of the highest classification. Women don’t send naked photos to people they don’t know. They’re intended for someone they trust. Someone they believe will use that photo for their own extracurricular activities without blasting it out to the masses. They weren’t taken casually, and therefore shouldn’t be treated casually.
Furthermore, some may argue that these ladies deserve it. Only sluts send out naked pictures of themselves, so let’s gather them all together and shame them on an open forum. That’s the same as saying a woman deserves to be sexually assaulted for what she’s wearing. The clothes on her back – or lack thereof – are not an invitation for snide remarks and sexual harassment. The same is true for nude photos.
And let’s not pretend like these guys who are now sharing extremely sensitive information didn’t ask for it. Women don’t send unsolicited nudes, which is more than I can say for the fellas. I’ve received some unwanted dick pics in my day, and you better believe I didn’t run to the interwebs to share them with my 30,000 closest girlfriends.
But what about tradition? Men, specifically deployed service members, have been sharing explicit photos of girlfriends and ex’s for decades. Passing Polaroids around the hooch with your buddies is basically a recreational activity for fighters who go months without seeing a real live woman. Pilots have featured Victory Girls on their planes since WWII. If this has been happening for so long, why the fuss now?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the look of old-school pinup girls, but we’re talking about photos of private citizens. And doing this to any woman is wrong regardless of the extent of the transgression. But more specifically, we’re talking about female service members. Your sisters-in-arms being purposefully targeted with the consequence – unintentional or otherwise – of ruining their reputations and affecting their careers. This type of buddy fuckery is blatant disrespect that ultimately leads to a toxic environment and diminished military readiness. And that’s something every service member should take seriously.
Speaking as someone who has dealt with social media misconduct in an official capacity, I’ve learned that many active-duty service members are not aware of the fact that what you say and do on social media is as punishable under UCMJ as any other offense. That’s regardless of whether it’s on your own timeline, a witty comment you make to someone else’s page, or a harassing photo you post without permission to a closed group. You’re a service member 24/7, and that includes the time you spend online. Yes, the military is a direct reflection of society, but we should be better than this. We represent our respective branches of the military and our country as a whole. Is this what we want to be known for?
At some point, names will be dropped and heads will roll. New regulations are being published and disseminated as you read this article. It’s just a pity that it had to come at the expense of so many who just wanted to serve their country.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that overall, now is a pretty great time to be a woman in America. We’ve seen our first female major party presidential candidate, the gender pay gap is narrowing, and there is more attention being paid to women’s rights issues than ever before. But as long as laws are being passed that regulate what a woman can and can’t do with her own body, we will still be second class. As long as military leaders believe that one hour of training every quarter will be enough to squelch discrimination and harassment, the problem will persist. Although all occupations and units have been opened to women and there is more “equality” in the military than ever before, we have a long way to go before all service members are looked at as truly equal.
I’m sure there will be many – male and female alike – who will read this with an eye roll. Yet another article by a whiny chick, whining about chick stuff. I respect that people have their own opinions and that they may differ from mine. But if you can’t recognize why what’s happening is wrong, then you’re part of the problem. The people who continue to treat women as less important, and those who sit idly by as it happens, are going to continue to hold us all back, as a military and as a society. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Be better, stand up for what’s right, and basically just don’t be an asshole.