from the pages of June 1994

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Gender Politics

Tailhook '91: Women,

Violence, and the U.S. Navy

By Frances K. Pohl

 

Ritual is an essential aspect of every social order. Through rituals belief systems and modes of behavior are confirmed. Rituals often include sacrifice, either literal or symbolic. A victim is offered up in order to confirm the power of one segment of the social order over another. Such rituals tend to multiply when established power relations are threatened. They are also the hallmark of highly militarized societies in which male warriors attempt to assert their dominance within the social order, as well as their right to determine membership in military organizations. Those most different from them--women--are often the sacrificial victims, particularly women who dare to attempt entry into the sacred military domain.

It is in this light that the 1991 Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas must be understood. The multiple attacks on women documented in the investigative report of Derek J. Vander Schaaf, the Deputy Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense, were part of a well-orchestrated series of rituals, ones not new to the 1991 convention. These rituals were intended to put women "in their place," particularly those women who had become a part of this elite military order. Vander Schaaf notes in the foreword to his report that it was "important to understand that the events at Tailhook 91 did not occur in a historical vacuum. Similar behavior had occurred at previous conventions. The emerging pattern of some of the activities, such as the gauntlet, began to assume the aura of `tradition'."

For those women who suffered through Tailhook '91, and particularly for Lt. Paula Coughlin, the woman who broke the story to the press, the rituals have been twofold: first, those involving the convention itself; second, those involving the investigations into Tailhook '91. These latter rituals have only recently come to an end, with the dismissal of the cases against the three officers charged with indecent assault in connection with the investigation. While a number of junior and senior officers have received various forms of reprimands and Adm. Frank B. Kelso has succumbed to pressures to resign a few months before his planned retirement, not one person has been court-martialed or found guilty of a criminal act. And Coughlin, having suffered not only the initial assault, but over two years of what she terms "covert and overt attacks," has resigned from what promised to be a successful career as a Naval aviator.

Vander Schaaf warned that the Navy would face many difficulties in dealing with the issues raised in his report. "Personal friendship, knowledge of past service and sacrifice by the officers involved, and a general reluctance to end or adversely impact otherwise promising military careers will further complicate the matter." Yet he had "every expectation that the Navy [would] address the causes and conduct that combined to produce the disgrace of Tailhook 91," and therefore offered no specific recommendations. The Navy did not live up to Vander Schaaf's expectations. The military's lengthy investigation and final closing of the books on Tailhook '91 does not mean the end of assaults against women within the U.S. military.

 

The Tailhook Association

The Tailhook Association originated as a private organization composed of active duty, Reserve and retired Navy and Marine Corps aviators, Defense contractors and others associated with naval aviation. In 1956 the association, located in San Diego, organized its first annual Tailhook Symposium as a reunion of naval aviators. In 1963, the annual reunion moved from San Diego to Las Vegas and was expanded to include a number of seminar sessions relating to naval aviation, as well as other professional development activities.

Over the years the Tailhook Association, in the words of Vander Schaaf, "has depended on substantial support from the Navy and from contractors doing business with the Navy. Senior aviation leaders [ have regarded] the Association as an integral part of naval aviation [and therefore, until recently] felt justified in lending Navy support." This support has included free office space at Naval Air Station Miramar, transportation of officers, civilian staff, and spouses and friends to the annual conventions, and use of Navy time to plan these conventions. Transportation in military aircraft to the Tailhook '91 convention in Las Vegas cost the Navy nearly $400,000 for fuel and contract maintenance. The Navy has also been the primary source of seminar speakers and has played an integral role in determining the agenda for each year's symposium. The Tailhook Association, therefore, was seen by the majority of its members and by those outside of the Association as a government-sanctioned organization.

The Tailhook Association was also closely connected to the Defense Industry. According to Vander Schaaf, "in the early years of Tailhook, the conventions revolved around social gatherings and parties held in various hospitality suites that were funded and operated by Defense contractors. Those suites offered free food and beverages to all Tailhook attendees." This involvement of defense contractors in Tailhook conventions parallels the growth of the military industrial complex in the late 1950s.

In the late 1970s the Department of Defense informed the Tailhook Association that it would no longer condone the hospitality suites sponsored by the Defense Industry because of potential conflict of interest. As a result of this directive, the hospitality suites became the responsibility of individual squadrons. Defense contractors still attended the conventions, however, and were provided with another forum in which to socialize with senior naval leadership, the "President's Dinner." In addition, the exhibits set up by defense contractors were an important aspect of Tailhook conventions. According to a Tailhook Association document, "the exhibit hall housing defense contractor exhibits and Navy informational booths [at Tailhook 91]...numbered a record 172 booths in what has become one of the largest aerospace industry trade shows in the nation." The document goes on: "At no time in the Association's 35-year history had there been a better illustration of the unique triumvirate that is Tailhook as a symbiotic relationship among aviators, admirals and industry, each giving and receiving information from the other." According to a report issued by the Tailhook Association on November 30, 1992 "nowhere else is so objective and relaxed an atmosphere possible in a military context. A lieutenant (jg) can tell a vice admiral what's wrong with a piece of equipment, and five minutes later that admiral can ask an industry representative how to fix it. Conversely, the admirals can explain policy directives or tactical changes to junior officers with a directness that otherwise probably would be impossible. And simultaneously, an aircraft designer or ordnance engineer can tell a Navy program manager what to expect from a new procurement item without an onerous paperwork burden." As we will see, this "relaxed atmosphere" also included consuming large quantities of alcohol, which helped create an atmosphere that was far from relaxed for most women. In addition, women's presence at the conference as aviators rather than as wives, girlfriends, or hired prostitutes altered the "men's club" atmosphere of earlier Tailhook conventions.

 

Tailhook '91

Tailhook '91 took place in Las Vegas, Nevada from Thursday, September 5 to Sunday, September 8. At least 4,000 people attended--some estimates go as high as 7,000--although at most 2,100 were actually registered for the professional aspects of the convention and even fewer attended the professional events. Most interviewed by Vander Schaaf and by the press agreed that the primary reason officers attended Tailhook was to "socialize."

Vander Schaaf's report for the Department of Defense is the most complete account of this event available at the moment. Over 2,900 individuals were interviewed and some 800 pictures of events at Tailhook were obtained. This report is not as complete, however, as it could be; the majority of convention attendees involved in or witness to the attacks on women decided to cooperate only minimally with the investigation. No male officer, and very few female officers, named names. Instead, they abided by an unofficial "code of silence" in order to protect all of those who engaged in behavior that ranged from dereliction of duty to indecent assault. In the words of Vander Schaaf, "collective `stonewalling' significantly increased the difficulty of the investigation and adversely affected our ability to identify many of those officers who had committed assaults." Some officers also reported to Vander Schaaf the existence of a "Lieutenants' Protective Association (LPA)" and a "Junior Officers' Protective Association (JOPA)," both of which were described as allegiances among officers. According to LPA and JOPA rules, "a junior officer will not `give up' another junior officer just because he has done `something stupid'."

Despite the stonewalling and code of silence, Vander Schaaf was able to identify 90 instances of indecent assault (83 against women, 7 against men) and numerous other incidents involving "indecent exposure and other types of sexual misconduct, as well as other improprieties by Navy and Marine Corps officers." Forty-nine of the women assaulted were civilian, 24 were military officers, 6 military spouses and 6 government employees. All seven men were Navy or Marine Corps (their assaults involved, primarily, being pinched on the buttocks by a woman or by a person whom they did not see). The "other improprieties" included the hiring of strippers and prostitutes to perform in the hospitality suites and the display of pornographic photographs and videos, also in the hospitality suites. Prostitution, while legal in some counties in Nevada, is not legal within the city limits of Las Vegas.

The files of 140 officers were referred by Vander Schaaf to the Acting Secretary of the Navy for consideration of appropriate action. Of these officers, 23 were determined to warrant referral to the Navy for having participated in indecent assaults. Indecent assault is a crime under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice [UCMJ]. The files of an additional 35 flag, or senior, officers were also forwarded to the Acting Secretary in order to determine whether action was warranted "with respect to the responsibility of each flag officer for the overall leadership failure that culminated in the events of Tailhook 91." Finally, 51 officers were discovered to have made false statements during the investigation.

Vander Schaaf's report included two parts: the first reviewed the Navy's initial investigation of Tailhook `91 and found it lacking; the second looked into Tailhook '91 itself. Almost all of the assaults and indecent exposures took place on the third floor of the Las Vegas Hilton, in the area of the 22 squadron-sponsored hospitality suites, including the adjoining patio. These suites were ostensibly set up for the members of various squadrons to meet and relax during the convention. In reality, they were the sites of excessive drinking and rowdy behavior. Such behavior included streaking, mooning, butt-biting and ballwalking.

"Butt biting" is just that--one individual biting the buttocks of another. In almost all of the cases reported at Tailhook '91, men bit women. This activity appears to have a long history within the Navy, going back, according to one Marine major, at least 20 years. Many interviewed tried to pass it off as good-natured fun and, for the most part, consensual. Vander Schaaf identified eight individuals (seven women and one man), four of whom were officers, who had been subjected to nonconsensual "butt-biting." One woman described her experience as follows: "A British pilot came up to me and bit me on the left hip. He bit me hard enough that his one tooth went through my cloths [sic] and broke the skin. The bite hurt me but I did not know I was bleeding until I lifted up my clothes to look. I could smell alcohol and I think he was very drunk." The same man returned later and bit her again, leaving a large welt and bruise.

Ballwalking involves men walking around with their testicles exposed. The origins of this "ritual" are unclear, but some officers remembered observing ballwalking among naval officers in Korea or the Philippines while another noted that he first came across it at a squadron golf game. "Those golfers who failed to reach the point of the women's tee, when teeing off, were required to play the remainder of the hole while ballwalking." A number of aviators described ballwalking as a "manly thing" to do with the guys. It was also described as an "act of defiance" or an activity that would allow a person to get one up on the other guy by being "ruder and wilder." One of the <MS>T<D>-shirts sold at the convention referred to ballwalking with the phrase "Hang 'em if you got 'em." Hospitality suite organizers also engaged in this competitiveness for the honor of hosting the "rudest," "wildest," or "manliest" suite, which contributed, according to one officer, to the increasing rowdiness at the Tailhook conventions.

Another "ritual" which occurred at Tailhook '91 took place in the "Rhino" suite, named after the mascot of the suite squadron. To a large painting of a rhinoceros was attached a large dildo, which functioned as a drink dispenser for a mixture of kahlua and cream called "Rhino spunk." Women who entered the room were shoved towards the rhino dildo; the men would chant loudly the woman's name and encourage her to "suck the rhino" or "please the rhino." Those who complied were cheered. Those who refused were booed. A number of women told Vander Schaaf that they found the behavior of the men to be "unnerving." At least five stated that they were physically restrained from leaving the suite and forced toward the rhino against their will. Some were rescued by friends, others managed to escape on their own.

Little had been done in prior years to condemn or prevent such behavior, despite the fact that complaints had been lodged with the Board of Directors of Tailhook in 1985 and 1989. Prior to Tailhook '91 the Board did issue a letter warning against such things as "gang mentality," underage drinking and damage to Hilton property (the bill for damage after the 1991 convention was $23,000). In both April 1985 and July 1990 the Secretary of the Navy issued instructions on alcohol and drug abuse that outlined the goal of the Department of Navy "to be free of the effects of alcohol abuse." Needless to say, these instructions were not followed at Tailhook '91. Official records reveal that a total of $33,500 was spent on alcohol at the convention, a figure that did not include much of the alcohol bought when initial supplies ran out. There were 271 kegs, or 4,200 gallons, of beer delivered to the hospitality suites over the course of the weekend. An additional 97 kegs of beer were ordered for consumption in the exhibition area.

Those who consumed large quantities of alcohol did not remain inside the hospitality suites. Many congregated in the hallway outside of the suites, forming the infamous "gauntlet." Drunken male aviators, at times numbering close to 100, would mill about as if socializing, until a woman approached, usually from the direction of the elevators. As soon as she entered into the group, the men would line up on either side of the hallway and start grabbing her breasts, buttocks, and crotch area as she tried to make her way down the hallway. Women described men pulling their tops down, ripping their clothes, reaching inside their underwear, grabbing their breasts and buttocks. Many fought back, kicking, biting, hitting, and, in at least one instance, threatening to use a tazer gun. Many others expressed feeling "helpless, angry, violated and humiliated." At least one woman, an 18-year-old student from the University of Las Vegas who had been drinking heavily, was lifted up, stripped of her jeans and underwear, passed along the hallway, and dumped on the floor at the other end. When the executive director of Tailhook, who knew what had happened, was asked how he viewed the matter, he responded: "I looked at it as a spontaneous incident, more along the line of a prank, not a prank in good taste, but...that's my view of the situation at the time."

And where was hotel security during all of this? According to witnesses interviewed by Vander Schaaf, "many assaults occurred in the presence of hotel security staff and those officers failed to act in the absence of specific complaint by the victims." Another witness stated that he saw approximately ten women attacked in the gauntlet and that, although the women were protesting the attacks, the "two security guards or police officers standing there [were] laughing while watching the assaults." Several other "witnesses reported seeing hotel security officers in the hospitality suites watching strip shows and pornographic movies." Vander Schaaf concluded that "the relationship between the Tailhook Association committee members and the hotel was such that both parties approached the security function simply as an issue of containment. Neither party sought to control improper activities unless severe bodily harm or significant property damage appeared imminent....The general opinion stated by countless witnesses was that, within the confines of the Tailhook convention, the aviators could act with impunity."

Those interviewed said that such gauntlets were part of a Tailhook tradition and had existed for at least 15 years, but had not always been so violent. The move from catcalls and joking to grabbing and pinching occurred at the same time that increasing numbers of women entered the military. Early Tailhook conventions were mostly "stag" affairs. "Unwritten" rules discouraged officers from bringing spouses (or cameras) and the majority of the women in attendance were either prostitutes or "groupies." Since the early 1980s increasing numbers of female naval officers and male officers' wives had begun attending the conventions.

The appearance of these "respectable" women obviously cramped the male naval aviators' style and, correspondingly, increased their hostility towards women. Alcohol aggravated this hostility and created a heightened sense of territoriality. These women should not be here. If they do attend, then they must accept the consequences. Many of those interviewed said that the women assaulted knew what was on the third floor and shouldn't have gone there. Yet the third floor was also where the majority of the "socializing" and "informal behavior," praised as such a valuable part of Tailhook, took place.

The hostility towards female aviators in 1991 was particularly intense because of three additional factors: the Gulf War, the downsizing of the military, and women in combat. Tailhook '91 was seen as a celebration of the U.S. "liberation" of Kuwait and defeat of Iraqi forces earlier that year. Those who attended felt particularly entitled, therefore, to "blow off a little steam" (one officer referred to the convention as a "free fire zone"). At the same time, however, the futures of many of these military heroes were jeopardized by the pressures on the U.S. government to cut back on military expenditures in the face of the end of the Cold War. And finally, the possibility of women flying combat aircraft had been placed on the table, and arose during the symposium part of the convention. When a female officer asked the panel of flag officers whether women would be allowed to fly aircraft in combat, the response was an uncomfortable acknowledgment that if Congress directed them to allow women to take on this role, then such a direction would be carried out. A male officer in the audience offered a different opinion, standing up and forcibly stating his personal objections to women in combat. The audience responded with loud cheers and applause.

According to one female Navy commander, the combination of heightened emotions from the Gulf War, the downsizing of the military, the fear of the loss of not only a job, but a lifestyle, and the large quantities of alcohol, led to "an animosity in this Tailhook that...was telling the women that `We don't have any respect for you now as humans'....This was the woman that was making you, you know, change your ways. This was the woman that was threatening your livelihood. This was the woman that was threatening your lifestyle. This was the woman that wanted to take your spot in that combat aircraft." The male aviators displayed this attitude not only through their actions but also through their choice of clothing (or lack of it). Two of the T-shirts worn by the men at Tailhook '91 read "He-man woman hater club" and "Women are property."

A female aviator also reported that, immediately following the Flag Panel, she was verbally harassed by male aviators who expressed to her their belief that women should not be employed in naval aviation. They also accused her of having sexual relations with senior officers while deployed on carrier assignment. Discrediting female aviators through accusations of sexual impropriety was a tactic used time and again against those women who spoke out about the sexual assaults at Tailhook '91. The most well-known case involved Lieutenant Paula Coughlin, the naval aviator who broke the story of Tailhook '91 to the press in June 1992. Here is Coughlin's description of what happened to her at approximately 11:30 PM on the evening of September 7, 1991 as she entered the third floor hallway: "The man...moved in immediately behind me with his body pressed against mine. He was bumping me, pushing me forward down the passageway where the group on either side was pinching and then pulling at my clothing. The man then put both his hands down the front of my tanktop and inside my bra where he grabbed my breasts. I dropped to a forward crouch position and placed my hands on the wrists of my attacker in an attempt to remove his hands...I sank my teeth into the fleshy part of the man's left forearm, biting hard. I thought I drew blood. I then turned and bit the man on the right hand..." [The man removed his hands], and another individual "reached up under my skirt and grabbed the crotch of my panties. I kicked one of my attackers...I felt as though the group was trying to rape me. I was terrified and had no idea what was going to happen next."

When she finally broke free she ran into one of the administrative suites. She sat in the dark, attempting, in her words, "to understand what had happened to me...I was appalled not only by the brutality of the incident, but the fact that the group did that to me knowing I was both a fellow officer and an admiral's aide."

 

The Immediate Aftermath

Paula Coughlin was aide to Rear Admiral John W. Snyder at the time of the Tailhook convention. In reporting to Snyder what had happened to her, she opened herself up to accusations of having "broken rank, " of having dared to call into question the "boys will be boys" mentality and activities of the Tailhook conventions. Shortly after the convention, the Navy began an internal investigation into Tailhook '91. At the same time rumors were circulated about Coughlin in order to discredit her--e.g. she was seen in the Rhino suite collecting souvenirs or she willingly had her legs shaved at the leg shaving booth set up in one of the suites (many of these claims were investigated later by Vander Schaaf and proven false). In May 1992 the Navy issued its report stating that 14 female officers and 12 civilian women had been assaulted by mostly junior Navy officers; only two men were identified. The following month Coughlin went to the press with her story, knowing that what had been identified in the Navy's report was only the tip of the iceberg. She also had further reason to suspect the accuracy of the report: the civilian hired by the Naval Investigative Service to interview her had pressured her to see him socially (his punishment, when Coughlin reported his actions, was a three-day suspension without pay).

Coughlin's statements to the press forced the Pentagon to initiate its own investigation, headed by Vander Schaaf, into the Navy's investigation of Tailhook '91. The first head to roll was that of Naval Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett, III, who resigned in June 1992, shortly after Coughlin went to the press, amid questions about his involvement. Not only did he attend the convention but he was in at least one of the third floor hospitality suites. In his letter of resignation he took full responsibility for the Navy's handling of the incident. That same month two top Naval officers were relieved of their commands for "failing to keep subordinates from displaying lewd banners about Representative Patricia Schroeder at a naval aviators banquet in June 1992. Schroeder had been a vocal critic of Tailhook '91 and had lobbied for the new investigation.

In September three admirals in charge of the Navy's investigation of Tailhook '91 were relieved of their commands. Two, including Rear Admiral Duvall M. Williams Jr., were forced to take early retirement, while a third, the Naval Inspector General, was reassigned. Witnesses reported that Williams Jr., the commander of the Naval Investigative Service, had engaged in a "screaming match" in a Pentagon corridor with the Assistant Navy Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Barbara S. Pope. During this altercation Williams Jr. compared female Navy pilots to "go-go dancers, topless dancers or hookers." In September four civilian women also sued the Tailhook Association and the Las Vegas Hilton over sexual assaults that occurred in both 1990 and 1991.

The fallout from Vander Schaaf's investigation continued into the following year. In May 1993 six senior officers were reassigned; in October three admirals were censured and thirty reprimanded. Navy Secretary John H. Dalton also recommended the removal of Adm. Frank B. Kelso, the nation's top naval officer, but Defense Secretary Les Aspin refused to follow the recommendation. It was only continued pressure on Kelso from outside of the military establishment that forced him to resign in February 1994.

Only three men were officially charged with any criminal wrongdoing; Marine Captain Gregory J. Bonam, Lt. David Samples and Cmdr. Gregory E. Tritt were charged with indecent assault. A fourth officer, J. Cole V. Cowden was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer. The cases against all four have been dismissed. Bonam made front page news because he was the one identified by Coughlin. Two witnesses for the defense claimed they were with Bonam elsewhere at the time of the assault and another said he saw the assault but the man who attacked Coughlin was not Bonam's height (not surprisingly, he could not say who the man was).

Certainly nobody wants to send the wrong man to jail. But that is not the issue here. Vander Schaaf's report states that at least 83 women, and probably more, were assaulted at Tailhook '91. The male naval aviators hanging out on the third floor of the Hilton know who did it. And they are not talking. Why should they? What they did was engage in the time-honored and government-sanctioned activity of sacrificing women in rituals meant to prove their manhood and their right to define the rules and regulations of the military order. The ruling of a military judge in February 1994 only confirmed this right. Capt. William Vest Jr. found that Kelso had been privy to the sexual misconduct at the convention and had tried to cover it up when he "manipulated" an initial investigation. Kelso's actions thus compromised the cases against three officers who had been charged with failing to stop misconduct by junior officers at the convention. Yet the findings of this judge were not enough to convince the Senate two months later to vote to demote Kelso to the rank of two-star admiral, thus cutting his retirement pay approximately $17,000 a year, because of his involvement in the Tailhook scandal. Instead, they followed President Clinton's recommendation that Kelso be allowed to retire without a demotion, at the rank of four-star admiral. In making his recommendation Clinton argued that the "evidence is not sufficiently compelling enough" to deny Kelso retirement at full rank. Through a legal slight of hand and a selective questioning of credibility, all parties escaped punishment.

 

The Women's Action Coalition

Over the course of the almost two and a half years since Tailhook '91, many women's organizations have publicly protested the assaults against women that took place during this and previous Tailhook conventions. One such organization is the Women's Action Coalition (WAC). WAC identifies itself as "an open alliance of women committed to direct action on issues affecting the rights of all women....WAC insists on economic parity and representation for all women, and an end to homophobia, racism, religious prejudice, and violence against women. We insist on every women's right to quality health care, child care and reproductive freedom." The organization was formed in January 1992 after the interrogation of Anita Hill by the all-white male Senate Judiciary committee during the course of the hearings on Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court in the fall of 1991. This interrogation made blatantly clear over national television what many women in this country already knew--that the current political and legal system fails to adequately represent or reflect the experiences and concerns of women (while the seven female senators now serving in Congress could not prevent Kelso's retirement at full rank, they certainly, in one Senate aide's words, made "their male colleagues squirm a bit" during the heated debate over sexual harassment that preceded the vote).

The 100 or so women who gathered in New York committed themselves to exercising their "full creative power to launch a visible and remarkable resistance" to attempts to limit the gains made over the last two decades in the area of women's rights. They also committed themselves to advocating for substantial changes in the way the political and legal system currently operates. WAC's goal is to keep these issues in the public eye. Since January 1992 WAC chapters have been set up in nearly every major city in the U.S., as well as in Europe and Canada.

In the summer of 1992 WAC organized a widely publicized demonstration at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego that contributed to the cancellation of Tailhook '92. A year later the Tailhook Association felt that the controversy had died down enough to allow them to resume their annual conventions without attracting any attention. They were wrong. By publicizing the upcoming convention and staging a demonstration of 150 to 200 people on the night of October 8, 1993, WAC spoiled Tailhook's party. Only approximately 700 people attended, mostly retired Navy men and their spouses or "girlfriends," who were treated not only to chanting protesters and TV cameras, but also to a documentary exhibition highlighting the events of Tailhook '91. This vastly reduced number was undoubtedly the result, in large part, of the Navy's decision to officially dissociate itself from the organization and to forbid officers from attending Tailhook conventions on Navy time. In addition, by October 1993 Tailhook had lost 80 percent of its corporate sponsors, membership had dropped 15 percent and insurance premiums had skyrocketed, primarily because of the 12 lawsuits filed by women who claim they were sexually assaulted at Tailhook '91.

The events surrounding Tailhook '91 raise many questions. Given the way in which the U.S. military trains its soldiers, could we have expected the naval aviators who congregated in Las Vegas in September 1991 to have acted in any other way? Has the sensitivity training organized for male aviators after Tailhook '91 and the toll-free telephone line set up for advice and counseling for victims of sexual harassment made any difference? Not according to the statements of four servicewomen representing each of the military services, who testified in March 1994 in front of the House Armed Services Committee. These women described having suffered sexual harassment ranging from unwanted kisses to verbal abuse during basic training, and how they were then punished or put in dead-end jobs for complaining, while those who harassed them went unpunished or received only mild reprimands. "I began my naval career on a fast track toward advancement," stated Navy Lt. Darlene Simmons. "These events have completely derailed my ambitions. Despite the rhetoric, the Navy will not tolerate those who report sexual harassment."

It is not clear exactly what it will take to eradicate the deep-seated sexism that is so integral a part of the U.S. military. Certainly more than hotlines and sensitivity sessions and allowing women to fly combat duty. And certainly not another Tailhook convention.

 

Frances K. Pohl is currently Associate Professor of Art History at Pomona College and the author of two books on the U.S. artist Ben Shahn.