As the military slowly integrates women into potentially all combat positions per Pentagon orders, reports about how its going have been mixed. If you ask the soldiers and commanders of the Army, it's going alright, as long as everyone is on their best behavior.
The AP took a look at the women assigned by the Army to head up cannon platoons and though everyone's attitude about their roles is positive, numerous concerns were still put forth, many of which sound like things we worried more about half a century ago. Army officials are worried about seeing a rise in sexual harassment and assault cases as more women come into contact with men, as well as consensual "inappropriate" relationships. Soldiers are worried about whether the women are strong enough to keep up with the men (the conclusion they've come to: men are still stronger but women have better endurance). Some are skeptical about the first women chosen for those positions, speculating that they could be they're high-achieving outliers. Plus, swearing:
Men also worried about job standards being lowered to allow women to qualify. They wondered about favoritism and whether the men would automatically help the women, who might be smaller. And they fretted about swearing in front of the women.
"For us it's been a pretty OK transition. A lot of combat soldiers use a lot of foul language, especially with young soldiers. And that's changed, for now," Sgt. Antuan Campbell said with a laugh. "I wouldn't say 'don't swear,' just 'watch what you say.'"
It sounds like the commanders the AP spoke to are doing the right thing to prepare their men for these changes; they've had meetings with them and allowed them to air their grievances. They've also spoken to the women involved, letting them know they that they won't tolerate sexual harassment. This allows them the opportunity to feel preemptively supported and gives them someone to come to, should that unfortunate circumstance arrive anyway.
But compared to many other industries in America, these basic concerns about female involvement in the military seem archaic. You're worried about swearing? What that's really code for is a concern from the men in the Army that the intensely stereotypically male environment that's been tolerated for so long (that many of them didn't have a problem with) will have to change. In this day and age, it's rare to see people forced to make such shifts en masse in such a public way and a necessary reminder of how many women in other jobs are silently tolerating these issues as well. Because no matter how well the Army says it's doing, the one thing that's stayed the same is that the women interviewed for pieces like this are never quoted as saying anything negative at all.
Image via Gerry Broome/AP