The blogosphere is arcing up in reaction to the recent review on the treatment of women in the ADF.
That’s not surprising. After all, all the ingredients that reliably offend conservatives are present.
Change is likely, the myth of the noble warrior class is under threat, and the old order of things is being challenged.
I won’t pretend that two years in the military makes me an authority, but I reckon I have as much right to hold an opinion on the subject as anyone else.
I don’t recollect any harassment of the sexual kind in my time in the army, but it was an all male context. There was harassment of course – part of the deal in rookies is 24 hour harassment, but it had a purpose and was semi-institutionalised.
If you had enough backbone to deal with it, you probably also would be able to manage whatever other military madness came your way. It was however, never over the top, and managed well at platoon level.
Besides, whilst the power balance was always lopsided because of the hierarchy, the average platoon of Nashos had its own way of dealing with dimwits in authority. There were a few, and they didn’t last.
Harassment is difficult to define – it takes many forms – but you always know it when it’s happening. To my simple mind, the basic solution to the problem is to call it when you see it, and act on it.
The hierarchical structure of the military in theory should help this. After all, there were some behaviours in my time that were simply not acceptable.I assume they still aren't.
Insubordination was one of those.
Another was mishandling a weapon (UD – unauthorised discharge).
There was no give or take with these issues. As a consequence of this clear and set hierarchy an A4 (a charge) would inevitably follow – no grey areas – no tolerance.
Sexual harassment should have the same consequence.
The problem is, of course, that the culture in some units creates a situation where turning a blind eye is acceptable. Imagine if you will that the sexual harassment was male on male. I doubt a blind eye would be turned to that – it is outside the cultural norm. I’d expect that the perpetrator would probably never live it down, if charged.
On the other hand, male on female harassment would by some be characterised as boys being boys. Male on female harassment is, unfortunately for some, culturally acceptable. Sexual harassment, irrespective of gender is out, or should be.
It's about the abuse of power, not sex, and those who engage in it are from the same breed of no-hopers as paedophile priests and teachers. It’s not, and never can be OK. Nor is it ever boys being boys (or girls being girls for that matter, since harassment is not gender specific).
So it has no place in the ADF. It is destructive to team cohesion, demeaning, and cowardly. None of these results are acceptable in the military.
The solution rests with unit and sub-unit leadership. Charge the offenders, and get them out of the military. The existing rules and regulations are there – they simply need enforcing.
Conflation of this issue with the drive to improve female recruiting is muddying the waters. Weeding out the sexual harassers won’t “feminise” the military.
Relaxing physical standards to increase the ratio of females would not however make sense. These standards should be based on a functional task analysis of the physical performance necessary to perform each and every role. Different roles require different standards.
The bottom line should be whether or not the person meets the standard, not that person’s gender.