Army Panel Cites Persistent Gender Problems

A new report by the chairwoman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services states that sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assaults still plague Army bases.

In August 1997, author Judith Youngman visited the Army’s largest training base in Fort Jackson, S.C., where she interviewed 157 women and men. They told her that sexual relationships between male drill instructors and female recruits still occur, that women’s abilities are degraded by some male drill instructors, and that female trainers believe they are excluded from opportunities for promotions. Interviewees believed “harassing and discriminating behaviors [were] not addressed in many companies,” and said the Army should “get rid of the bad apples.” Both men and women said that sexist attitudes were learned during training, especially by male training officers. Many drill sergeants were accused of being “openly prejudicial and discriminatory.”

The advisory committee will release a separate study today on military bases in Asia. The report, based on a more comprehensive study by committee members, states that the practice of male commanders denying women leadership positions and assigning them desk duty is “widespread.” At some bases, women were “openly demeaned and their roles in the military ridiculed.”

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said the report confirms the Army’s own reports on sexual harassment. “The question is when is the Army going to act to swiftly and aggressively reverse this trend?” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Sara E. Lister said “The Army is concerned that there are people who feel this way, but we are working on solving the problems raised.”


Washington Post - October 22, 1997

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