As a woman, it’s getting hard to know how to feel about men anymore. On the one hand, we’re horrified by the out-of-control behavior of a Harvey Weinstein, but then we’re also supposed to take umbrage – the feminists on the wall tell us anyway — at the words of retired Marine general and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly who says he grew up in a time when women were considered “sacred”.
Well that just ticked Washington Post opinion writer Kate Germano, a 20-year Marine Corps veteran who left her post as a Lt. Colonel, right off. And she wrote about it. Not just to complain about policy or sexual harassment, but to complain about John Kelly, the man. Noting the news conference Kelly gave to discuss President Trump’s phone call with the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson who was recently killed in Niger, Germano wrote the following:
But then things got weird.
Kelly proceeded to state that, when he was growing up, “women were sacred.” He alluded to current events, seeming to point to the ongoing scandal in Hollywood in which more than 40 women have come forward to say they were sexually harassed and assaulted by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Kelly appeared to imply that, in his day, these problems didn’t exist because men protected women from harm.
The significance of the Weinstein scandal pales in comparison to the state of affairs for women in the military, where one in three are estimated to have been sexually assaulted while on active duty. The problem in the U.S. military is so significant that the United Nations Human Rights Council identified sexual assault and harassment as a human rights violation in 2015.
When Kelly was on active duty as one of the most senior officers in the Marine Corps, the service experienced the highest rates of sexual harassment and assault of any military branch despite being the smallest and having the fewest women.
No one can argue that with the death of his son, Kelly and his family suffered a great loss. Such deaths are tragic and should cause the nation to carefully consider when and how the military is employed as an element of national power. But Kelly’s expressed views about women are troublesome and should not be excused or ignored because of his military rank, service, and the loss of his son in combat.
With the respect due to someone of Germano’s rank and service, allow me to note how troubling it is that she appears to acknowledge the death of Kelly’s son only to make herself seem a bit kinder before launching into a tired tirade of talking points that requires the reader to jump through a pretty magnificent mental gymnastics course to be offended at a man for calling women sacred.
Her opinion basically comes down to her belief that Kelly himself is a flawed man. The proof? 1) he works with Trump; and 2) his opinions about women are why the Marines have problems with female recruits and sexual harassment, etc.
He and his peer group have refused to integrate Marine Corps boot camp despite growing evidence that segregation fosters negative stereotypes and low expectations for Marine women.
If anything, considering the long-standing cultural problems in the Marine Corps related to gender, the views of General Kelly should be more heavily scrutinized by the public and media since they helped to perpetuate the culture of abuse and discrimination Marine women have faced for decades.
Taking those in turn…
Whatever one may think of Trump’s casual misogyny toward women, it never even approaches Weinstein status. Are we then to conclude that every man who worked with Weinstein — and there are a lot of them — are similarly flawed? It’s certainly been suggested that we should think that way, but is that actually a fair approach?
As for the second, there are very good reasons some in the military believe women aren’t suited for combat positions. Disagree with them if you choose, but Kelly’s view of women as the gender men should be protective of is only one of the arguments (and the most innocuous and forgivable one, at that) that they espouse. That argument, as I’ve heard it relayed to me, has to do with how men might behave in intense combat situations to instinctively protect a woman, possibly changing behavior enough to be detrimental to the mission and to the effectiveness of the fighting corps.
My guess is Lt. Col. Germano is familiar with that argument, as well as all the others. And, given her success as a Marine, is probably able to rationally deconstruct the merits of the argument, as well as its negatives. Her knee-jerk reaction that Kelly recalling being taught women were to be protected necessarily led to Kelly helping perpetuate abuse of women is odd, to say the least.
That particular argument, for what it’s worth, makes a lot of sense to me personally. And I’m the opposite of offended by it. In fact, I’m honored.
In any event, when Germano says:
“as much as we have tried to change the system, until men like Kelly and [Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., former commandant of the Marine Corps and current Joint Chiefs chairman] are called out for their outdated ideals about women, we will never be able to level the playing field in the military.”
she actually couldn’t be more wrong. Things are changing, Ms. Germano. The Pentagon is advocating a requirement that women sign up for the draft.
I hope that’s what you wanted.