Brian Jones, a Marine Corps veteran and the editor-in-chief of Task & Purpose, is tired of military leaders' indifference to systemic online sexism.
"It's hard to believe that in 2014 that I have to tell my fellow Marines and my fellow veterans that they shouldn't make rape jokes about the women they serve with," he said in a NowThis rant. "It's hard to believe that I should have to implore military leaders to take this seriously."
In an article published earlier this month on Task & Purpose, he outlined the extent of the problem. Facebook pages devoted to posting photos of female soldiers, so that users can judge their attractiveness and declare whether or not they'd have sex with them, have garnered thousands of fans. They're purportedly run by Marines, they're frequented by Marines, and they feature photos of women in the military posted without their consent or knowledge. He argues:
Anonymous vitriol on the internet certainly isn't new. But what makes this sort of hatred noteworthy is how it's specifically targeted toward women in the military and its ability to garner a passionate following of thousands of people who genuinely pretend that this is Marine Corps culture.
Vitriol like "Roses are red, violets are blue, be my fucking Valentine, or I'll rape you," a meme response to a photo of a young female service member. The comment was made by a Facebook account belonging to Bradley Durant, a private first class, an infantry rifleman assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
When Jones approached the Marine Corps' media headquarters with questions about the official response to the rampant sexism on pages like this, they "closed ranks" and refused to answer a single one of his questions.
"The Marine Corps says that anything that a Marine posts on social media is his or her responsibility. It's a First Amendment right, right?" he continues in the NowThis video. "But the Marine Corps censors free speech in all sorts of ways: you aren't allowed to protest politically in your uniform. You aren't allowed to wear flip flops in Walmart, for instance. And, so, for the Marine Corps to say, 'We respect freedom of speech' when it's bigoted hate-speech that's specifically targeted at one person, then there seems to be a really big issue in terms of priorities there."
"There is no greater indicator that something is accepted and something is tolerated by leadership than the fact that these men and women are posting these comments under their own names, with their own faces, with rank and unit information on their profiles. They think this is okay."
Singling women out in this way and targeting rape jokes at them is not acceptable, particularly because the military is a field that's so openly hostile to women. According to a 2013 Pentagon report, 26,000 women in the military reported being sexually assaulted that year alone. That's 70 assaults per day. Sexual harassment is common. Allowing military members to harass women online with impunity both reflects and reinforces a system in which women are denigrated, harassed and subjected to sexual violence. Making limp policy changes isn't enough: there needs to be a cultural change, too. Taking a stance against casual misogyny is a good first step.