[Content note: misogyny, rape, rape culture, military sexual trauma.]
[Image description: A bumper sticker with the eagle, globe, and anchor emblem of the U.S. Marines bearing the text "U.S. Marine Corps is part of the Navy--the Men's Department."]
What a great bumper sticker! What a hilarious joke! I think I will order eleventy-six million right away!
It's not that I don't "get" this particular joke (HAHAHAHA NAVY MEN ARE GIRLY and therefore second best AMIRITE?!) Nor that I don't appreciate the Marine-Navy rivalry, or know jokes about it. Yes, most of the cracks are old enough to have sailed with Stephen Decatur, but they are generally harmless.(Example: "What does 'Marine' stand for?" "Moving Around Riding In Navy Equipment." Sad trombone.)
But this "joke" isn't harmless. Because this helps drive the rape problem in the United States military: the casual misogyny that says only "real men" have "real" military status.
Which means that women are outsiders. Women can never, ever be real Marines, real soldiers, real sailors, real airmen. We're in the military on suffrance, having to constantly earn our status. It's "jokes" like this that confirm our second-class status. It's every bit of horseshit that "insults" male personnel by feminizing them, while simultaneously shutting out every woman in uniform. It's attitudes like this that drum out women for reporting rapes, while protecting rapists.
It's why it's considered more dishonorable to report a rape, than to rape a fellow soldier.
And I am so tried of this shit, because really, what else do we have to do? The Army and Navy Nurse Corps have been around since 1901 and 1908, respectively. The first enlisted female Marines, sailors, and Coast Guard personnel served in the First World War, alongside my grandfather. U.S. uniformed women have served in combat zones, survived POW camps, evaded capture after being shot down behind enemy lines--and that's just World War II, folks. That's just a tiny a fraction of U.S. women's service in World War II. And women have decades and decades of ever-expanding military service in the U.S. forces since then.
When women's services were re-organized during the Second World War, the Marines didn't give their female members a catchy, cutesy nickname like WAVES or SPARS. In 1944, Marine Commandant Thomas Holcomb explained to Life magazine: "They are Marines. They don't have a nickname and they don't need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of the Marines. They are Marines."*
"They are Marines." That was 1944. It's 2013. Yet somehow women are still second class personnel? NOPE! We are on the team, no more and no less. Anyone who doesn't like it---well, I'd say "Tell it to the Marines," but that doesn't seem to be working. So take it up with the U.S. government and 100+ years of history. And get the hell over it.
*Quoted in Emily Yellin, "Our Mother's War," (New York: Free Press, 2004).