“We have allowed to thrive and in some instances, even encouraged a culture where women are devalued, demeaned, and their contributions diminished.”
That’s one of the most powerful lines from an open letter co-signed by nearly 100 current and veteran female Marines urging the service to address its rampant culture of misogyny and sexism. The letter is signed by Marines of all ranking including colonel, lieutenant colonel and major.
“In a culture that prizes masculinity, it is easy to mistake barbarism for strength.” the letter reads. “Yet we respectfully disagree with the notion that to fight and win our country’s battles, we must preserve an institution where men are permitted or even expected to behave like animals, and women trespass at their peril.”
“In a culture that prizes masculinity, it is easy to mistake barbarism for strength.”
The letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post on Tuesday, was written in response to the nude photo scandal that rocked the Marine Corps March. Hundreds of veteran and active-duty Marines were sharing nude photos of female Marines without their consent in a private Facebook group called “Marines United.” It was later revealed that nude photos of female Marines had been shared on a site called AnonIB dating back to May 2016.
The open letter is broken up into three parts, one directed to the Marine Corps service, one to fellow Marines and the last to their “sisters-in-arms.”
To their fellow Marines who are men, the co-signers explained the letter was about the sexism and violence female Marines face in the wake of its misogynistic culture:
This is about the time you said, “We don’t need any more females in this section,” as if there were a quote. It’s about the time you made the joke about the female Marine and her face, her hair, her voice, her private life, or her sexual orientation. This is about pretending you don’t hear women when they speak. And about looking only at men when you speak. Or treating sexual assault training as a burden. but above all, this is about leadership.
And to their sisters-in-arms, the Marines wrote that, through solidarity they can protect one another.
“We will not allow fear of being professionally ostracized or retaliated against,” the letter reads, “keep us from acting or speaking truth to power, or reaching out to mentor you and protect you.”
Alongside the open letter, over 400 female Marines have created their own Facebook group to lobby for a change in the service’s sexist culture, according to the Post. The group, titled Actionable Change, was created by Lt. Col. Ann Bernard.
“We love the Marine Corps, and this is about making it better,” Bernard told the Post. “We fought the fight and thought we got the job done, and now we’re realizing we’re not quite there yet. We’re not going to allow another generation of junior Marines that has this mentality that does not serve the Marine Corps at all.”
Head over to The Washington Post to read the full letter from Actionable Change.