The military’s sex-assault epidemic is a fixation in Washington, with lawmakers and the brass at odds over how to confront the cultural mindset that condones misogyny and makes sport of harassment.
Marines have come under recent fire for offensive Facebook pages where women are mocked, degraded and objectified. At their most shameful, they take and post images of unsuspecting female service members and insinuate they have no worth beyond performing domestic chores and sexual favors.
Such behavior is hate speech — discrimination of an entire gender — and should be as unquestionably unacceptable as demeaning others based on race or religion. Sexist comments and crude jokes at boot camp, in the barracks or workplace and even online signal cultural acceptance of such behavior.
It further contributes to the proliferation of harassment and abuse.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., complained to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, demanding a “plan of action” to end the online bullying. Amos responded that the Corps is looking at making some sites off limits to Marines, but said tangible progress requires legislation.
Restricting websites, though, will never get at the root of the problem. The troops themselves must change the culture by letting others know they won’t tolerate treating their female comrades with anything but respect.
Their failure to stop sexual assault and harassment whenever and wherever they encounter it undermines efforts to eradicate the behavior. Troops must own this problem.