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Other Voices: Marines vs. Marines — stop the sexism

Spare us the feeble platitudes about boys being boys. The revelation that thousands of Marines, active-duty and veterans, used social media to solicit and share nude photographs of Marine Corps women cannot be minimized or excused. Their actions, which included calls to stalk and harass women in the photographs, are a stain on the Marines that underscores ongoing issues of sexual harassment within the armed forces. It is, again, a wake-up call for a military that too often views — and treats — women as inferior.

Defense Department officials announced that they have opened a criminal investigation into the activities of a group called Marines United, which used a private Facebook page to circulate without their permission nude photographs of Marine women, identified by their full name, rank and military duty station and often accompanied by obscene comments. “Take her out back and pound her out” read one comment quoted by the news website Reveal, which first disclosed the group’s existence.

Some have suggested there has been an overreaction to the site and that the behavior is merely a normal outgrowth of the rough ethos that Marines boast as tradition. They would do well to listen to Marine veteran Thomas Brennan, who wrote the Reveal article. “I’m no angel,” he told the New York Times. “I have deployed just like these Marines. I’ve sat around a fire in Afghanistan and shared that dark, dark Marine humor. … But this is different. It has gone too far. We are hurting other Marines.”

Good order demands respect for one’s comrades. This aberrant, if not criminal, behavior must not be tolerated. The decision of officials to order an investigation is insufficient but encouraging; let’s hope they are serious about holding those responsible to account. Not to be overlooked, though, is that 30,000 Marines, many on active duty, are said to have participated in this site. And there are reports that other branches of the military may also be implicated. That suggests this is not a case of a few bad apples but of deep-seated issues in the military.

Of all the armed services, the Marines have been the most resistant to integrating women into the ranks; the service persists in segregating recruits by sex during basic training and puts up the stiffest opposition to opening up combat jobs to women. This latest scandal demands some real soul- searching by the Marine leadership and action from the Pentagon to finally stop the sexist treatment of women who are a vital part of America’s defense.

— Washington Post

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