Navy: Own Your Service’s Pro-Female Legacy

by admin on December 28, 2013

040913-N-0962S-001Back in December 2008, when somebody named Michèle Flournoy was being eyed for a high DOD position, I penned a wry little post over at the U.S. Naval Institute blog, suggesting that the U.S. Navy do more to showcase how the Service has, over the years, done a lot to provide an equal playing field for women.

To help cultivate the growing female cadre of defense-community leaders, I suggested the Navy do things that highlight certain service milestones in the fleet. I wrote:

“To get things started on the right note, the Navy can begin by commemorating December 28, the day then-LCDR Darlene M. Iskra assumed command of a Bolster Class salvage ship, the USS Opportune (ARS 41), back in 1990.”

My proposal–the second post I had ever made at the USNI blog–was shelled. Misogynists spewed foolishness in the comments like “Save the males!” or left acidic asides, “I see instead a concerted effort to fortify “Diversity”…Arguably (not kvetchedly) to the detriment of combat effectiveness I might add…”

Others were quick to hop on their high horses and demand that we simply pay attention to the command change and keep gender or race out of it.

That knee-jerk response was infuriating.

480px-Commodore_Grace_M._Hopper,_USN_(covered)With females, the U.S. Navy has a better story to tell than ALL the other services–what other service has an Admiral Grace Hopper? Or gets to celebrate the fact that women nurses first set foot aboard US ships on Christmas? As far as empowering women goes, the Navy has a great story to tell.

Look. If there is a female anywhere in Washington DC responsible for keeping the Navy funded, it is in the Navy’s interest to engage that person and make them appreciate the Navy more than the Army or Air Force. One way to do it is to “own” the Navy’s legacy and use that legacy for the Navy’s advantage–and, even though the Naval Blogosphere’s resident misogynists hate to admit it, part of that legacy is about empowerment. Of females.

Let’s be realistic. We must assume that any person in a position of power is going to be interested in the “fate and fortune” of their own genetic makeup–i.e., their gender and/or race–And you can also bet that, somewhere, deep in the bowels of a Crystal City, an Air Force Colonel is busy prepping talking points chock-full of tall tales from Tailhooks past–salacious stuff that can be slipped into his Service-Secretary’s conversations with Acting Secretary of Defense Christine H. Fox.  Or New York Senator–and anti-sexual-harassment-firebrand–Kirsten Gillibrand.  Or the other five female members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Or, for that matter, the CEO of General Dynamics…

I could go on and on.

So, in my mind, when top Congressional spots and prime DOD management posts (AND top spots in the defense industry) are increasingly held by females, it is a matter of necessity for Navy leadership to know, understand and be able to discuss how the U.S. Navy became a place where females can get a fair and equal set of opportunities.

And it would also be wise to work on engaging these emergent female national security leaders, making them aware of (and making them stakeholders in) their Navy’s long, proud legacy of leveling the playing field and giving females an opportunity to serve their country in whatever way they can.


Well, right now, DOD funding is a zero sum game.  And the Navy’s legacy?  It’s a free asset, sitting there. Underutilized. Under-appreciated.

Why not use it?

I mean, if we don’t, the emerging set of high-level female national security leaders (like, say, Senator Kristen Gillibrand) will highlight the negative–and unfairly encumber the Navy with a public perception that the Service is unfriendly to females, when, in fact, the record (while admittedly imperfect) shows otherwise.

Own your legacy, Navy. If you don’t, others will.

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