Jan 14 2014
Well it’s been two years since I have right royally pissed off the feminist lobby, and it is January and I am cold. So it is probably a good time to jump back into the pool and piss them off again.
Navy Times had a recent article up discussing the idea of sabbaticals, and how they could “help retain women in ranks”. After all, a military career is hard and all, and it is increasingly getting in the way of having it all:
Across the military services, leaders are experimenting with programs that will give valued officers and enlisted troops, men and women, the incentive to stay. Also, as the Pentagon moves to bring women into more jobs closer to the combat zone, military officials believe it is crucial to keep mid-career female officers in the services so they can mentor those on the front lines.
“We have innovative things we’re trying to retain women in the service,” said Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations. “It’s about creating the personnel policies that enable someone to say it’s Navy and family, instead of Navy or family.”
In other words, the Navy wants to create a “mommy track”. For what reason, I have no real idea, but it appears they do.
I’ll pause a moment so that you can throw up, and then, scratch your head and utter a cheery, “WTF?!?!”
It seems to me they are not getting the point here. But I will explain why in a minute. For now, lets remember how hard it is for a service woman to “have it all” shall we?
In October, Katherine left the service and moved from Camp Lejeune to California to be with her fiancé. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, she said, she chose stability.
“For women to have a family and a career, it’s just extremely difficult. And, being in the military, it is extra sacrifice, you have deployments, you have workups, and it just makes it that much more challenging,” she said. “The Marine Corps is a lifestyle, it’s not a job. You dress it, you eat it, you breathe it, you live it. For me, I want to focus on getting married.”
So far, Sarah has chosen to stay in. “I love being a Marine, I love the people I work with,” she said. But not long ago, Rachel said she also is weighing similar issues.
It’s not an uncommon dilemma. More often than men in the military, women choose their family over service.
Here is a news flash madam, yes it is about choices, and when you chose to enter the service you made a choice to deal with these complexities. It’s pretty lousy to get in, decide you don’t like the rules of the game and then instead of coping with them, decide it’s better to change the rules and the playing field.
At the risk of being branded with the “M” word-I will remind you that there were reasons that society evolved into the roles for men and women to play in it. Now I will grant you that those roles are changing and society has to change too-but it seems to me that this goes a bit too far.
First of all, its rather discriminatory towards those men (and women) who are not a part of a dual service couple. (Which is a whole another bad trend that is going on-the service has incentives that encourage Sailors to marry Sailors, but we will set that aside for this discussion). A lot of people cannot afford to lose one year’s earnings (or two) especially if there is a stay at home spouse-or young children to raise. They would probably like a year off too-but they can’t afford one.
Second, the logic here is completely faulty. Especially this idea that you have to have women to mentor women. I thought the services were supposed to be gender neutral. So isn’t that what you have a chain of command for? Isn’t that what you have standards of professional conduct for? Is that not why the Navy is firing so many men?
As it is, there is far too much of this “women networking with other women“ going on with results that are predictably geared to undermine the chain of command. I’ve written about it before-and we have seen far too many Navy Times headlines that have been predicated by mentors “encouraging” actions that have resulted in disaster.
Furthermore the hand of time stops for no one-and the DOPMA wall is still out there, and you can’t tell me that there are not some tradeoffs that get made in the advancement world when you elect this course. For one thing you are changing year groups-and the dynamics of who you are competing with may change dramatically and not for the better.
The Navy is not, and cannot be, a “family friendly” employer. That does not mean, however, that men and women cannot find a balance and raise a family. But it does involve choices and these choices are sometimes hard ones. I hate to remind folks this-but having to make those choices is not the Navy’s fault. When one chooses to enter a Navy career, you are making a statement as either a man or a woman: You want to do something hard and career worthy. That women are the only ones who can have children is a biological fact-not a hindrance the Navy created. If later on downstream a woman decides that she would rather get out and have a family, that’s a choice for her to make. Literally millions of women make it every year. But please, spare me the flack about the idea that the Navy somehow needs to make “accommodations” for the increasing numbers of women in its ranks. It belies the original reason the women said they wanted to serve-to have the same opportunities as men. Well making choices about family and career is an opportunity.
“ But it’s unfair, men with a stay at home wife don’t have to make that choice!” BS. I would remind you that there are choices that are being made by the other family-not the least of which is getting by on a lot less money than the dual service couple. “You make choices and you live with them”.
“Well, there is nothing wrong with a sabbatical.” No, there probably isn’t-except when you frame it as a way to “retain women”-and allow them to not have to make hard choices, then you are laying bare the hypocrisy behind the idea –and providing an clear inkling of the double standard that will be enforced in its execution. Why not fix the root problem, which is the Navy’s trying to shove 100lbs into a 50lb career bag, and revise DOPMA, to slow down promotion flow points, and allow officers to serve longer . Maybe give every officer a good 2 year break when he or she attends a civilian university to get a Masters Degree. (It could also have the added benefit of exposing these folks to parts of America that don’t normally see military folks). Bring back some of the “good deal" tours as well.
To pay Phibian a compliment for a change, he’s right when he says, “Again, this isn't harmless. In the zero sum game that is selection, support, promotion, and award – special treatment based on [Gender] is discrimination. It also puts in a perverse incentive to lie, cheat, steal, and to tolerate those among you who do.” In essence you are getting to the heart of what all us nay-sayers said many years ago when we began the great experiment, you will fundamentally change the institution in ways that will ultimately destroy the things that made it worth serving in. The PAO hoopla about these sabbaticals and the idea that somehow the Navy has to get to a 50-50 gender split is just crazy. This is not a corporation-it’s a fighting force. You don't always get everything you want-and you cannot have it all. "You make choices and you live with them." We would do well to remember that.
I used to give dual service couples advice, that I thought at the time made sense and I still do. The powers that be did not like it very much and told me not to pass it on. I ignored them. Basically for a dual service couple-you have to decide who will be CNO and who won't be. In other words you have to decide whose career will come first-and then stick to that strategy. If you both want to be successful you will be childless and or lonely. It does not matter if its the man or the woman-but you have to choose. I still think its a useful thing to ponder-and I've met many dual service couples who follow exactly that course. It works-but evidently CDR Steinem doesn't want to hear it.