First things first, this is going to be another one of my shorter posts. The days ahead are packed so I’ve sat down to rattle something off on Wednesday night just to keep the content coming. Secondly, when it comes to the military and feminism I am very confident in my feelings towards one and very uncomfortable and unsure about the other.
I’m not one to bandy around words like “liberal” and “conservative”, proper nouns or otherwise, but in general the profession of killing others isn’t one that sits easily with me. To say that I think we can solve all of the world’s problems by just sitting down, talking, and hugging it out is a step too far, however. There is clearly a need for such men and women, with World War II being the obvious go-to example of when war is right [literal decades of video games have communicated how evil the Nazis were]. Not everyone can be negotiated with or see reason, no matter how badly we would like that to be true.
So no, at bare minimum I do not hate the military or its existence. That of course does not mean I don’t get uneasy about the whole semper-fi-oorah-[yes-I-know-those-are-both-specifically-USMC-related] mentality that appears to be a requirement of serving in the armed forces. It makes sense, of course, to want to foster an unbreakable kinship between people who depend on each other for their survival, but it’s also obvious that this kind of impregnable bond can lead to a lot of terrible things being covered up [see literally any recent news article about police brutality].
It should also go without saying that this club, if we can call it that, is primarily male. According to CNN as of four years ago only “about 203,000 [. . .] or 14.5% of the active duty force of nearly 1.4 million” is made up of women. Even without this statistic it isn’t surprising that the vast majority is men, and that such a male-dominated environment results in particular attitudes and opinions being fostered.
Feminist-Grunts11bravo, U.S. Infantry Soldiers is a mouthful [and referred to from this point on as Feminist-Grunts], but also the name of a Facebook page I came across with a very unique mission. It claims to be “for Infantry dedicated to respecting women and kicking ass of chauvinistic a**holes,” which doesn’t sound like something I have any problem with whatsoever. It’s also run by a single “feminist female veteran” who describes the page as being a “parody account”. To dig deeper into what she means by that, she says:
“This page is really a parody satire project where I pretend that feminist grunts exist, that they run this page, and that they believe in fairness, equality, and that everyone regardless of sex, gender, race, class, religion, has an undeniable right to pursue whatever careers they want to the best of their ability.”
The definition of “parody” is shaky given the actual content, but let’s concentrate on the good intention here. Back in 2013 the page, which at the time of this writing has 247 likes, posted the following image:
I’ll be upfront, the first statistic is important, especially given the significant difference in population sizes of both men and women in the military; having roughly half of the 26,000 cases be women is one out of every ten female members. The second statistic is presented without context and thus has to be disregarded. The third sentence at the bottom of the image, however, is definitely worth thinking about, and its juxtaposition with the cleavage directly above is pretty effective.
GRUNTS 11 Bravo, U.S. Infantry Soldiers [referred to as GRUNTS 11 Bravo from hereon] is what I assume the aforementioned page is referencing or riffing on, and has 44,605 likes at the time of this writing. That page actually shared the image two days ago, but with the following caption:
I’m actually going to reiterate that again for emphasis, and SEO purposes:
“All I see is titties, titties, and more titties. The other squiggly word shits are the incoherent ramblings of a virgin asshat.”
I’m also going to cut you off before you get to where I think you’re heading. No, Grunts 11 Bravo is not officially affiliated with the United States Army in any official capacity. In fact, the short description of their page is significantly more succinct than that of Feminist-Grunts, saying:
“Infantry coming together to support one another or just bullshit about past experiences. If we offend…we don’t care.”
For what it’s worth scanning through the page I was able to find posts motivating fellow soldiers, as well as one providing help for any who were looking for employment. Community is important, and knowing that there are people out there who can, as their description says, support you is fantastic. On the other side of things there are the reactions to a video by one Gabriella Renee Vasquez, that features her and friends lip-syncing and posing to a song before a cut reveals them changed from civilian garb to military attire [through some digging around on her profile it appears that she’s at least undergone basic training]. Here’s one of the milder ones below:
It really is one of the less offensive comments; I’m sure you can imagine what other sorts of things were said. To bring things back to the original shared image that was meant to be the focal point of this post, the comments on that are . . . well, they’re certainly something. I was actually going to compile a few but came across one of the worst things I’ve ever read, so check it out on your own if you feel so led. The point is that the sentiment of “Wtf is a feminist grunt”, shared by one Vernon Riedle, is generally agreed upon on that page.
Again, I know that this isn’t officially condoned by any higher-ups in the armed forces and that this isn’t necessarily representative of what soldiers as a whole feel or believe, but it is troubling. And to be fair the term “feminist” is not an easy or simple one, and Kat has even taken the time to grapple with it and question its utility on social media. That said, pockets of misogyny that hide under the guise of “harmless fun” are, at the end of the day, still pockets of misogyny. What’s intended to be a safe, or at the very least supportive, space ends up fostering and perpetuating harmful attitudes.
At the end of the day we have, one one hand, a page like Feminist-Grunts that appears to hope against hope that there are infantrymen who are for fairness and equality in all areas of life, particularly when it comes to women. On the other we have GRUNTS 11 Bravo that, as far as I have been able to tell, has every intention of dashing that hope to the ground. It’s an interesting interaction that represents, I’m sure, just the tip of the iceberg that is the topic of women in the armed forces.
Also, on a slightly unrelated note, the following image was also posted today, so **** that page, for real: