Hundreds of female Marines join group pressuring male colleagues to change
By DAN LAMOTHE | The Washington Post | Published: April 11, 2017
Hundreds of female Marines and Marine veterans have launched a new group to press for an end to misogyny in the Marine Corps, saying the recent scandal in which nude photographs of some women in the service were distributed by their male colleagues is unacceptable.
The group Actionable Change began as a Facebook group, and now has more than 400 members, said Lt. Col. Ann Bernard, a Marine reservist who established the group. In a new letter shared with the service, the group says it will "lead from the front" when it comes to ending misogyny, and says the service has allowed "a culture where women are devalued, demeaned, and their contributions diminished," and in some cases allowed it to thrive.
The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, has nearly 100 co-signers, some with ranks as high as colonel. The women signed it as the service grapples with revelations that hundreds of Marines and Marines veterans shared nude photographs of female Marines and other female acquaintances without their permission through a Facebook group called Marines United.
"In a culture that prizes masculinity, it is easy to mistake barbarism for strength. Brutality for power. Savagery for ferocity," the letter said. "Yet we respectfully disagree with the notion that to fight and win our nation's battles, we must preserve an institution where men are permitted or even expected to behave like animals, and women trespass at their peril."
Among the group's stated goals is to increase the percentage of women in the Marine Corps from about 7 percent to 20 percent, improve gender integration in the military, make revenge porn illegal in the military and address existing problems with new training that includes firsthand stories from female Marines. Men are not allowed in the group right now, but will be once it moves beyond its formative stages, Bernard said.
Bernard said some co-signers on the letter wrestled with doing so due to concerns that it would hurt their careers. Those who did felt compelled to do so in an effort to change the service's culture, she said.
"We love the Marine Corps, and this is about making it better," Bernard said. "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."
Other groups with similar missions also have been launched in recent weeks, including one called Not in My Marine Corps and another called the Female Marines United campaign. The service itself also has launched a task force to better understand the problem.
A Marine spokesman, Maj. Clark Carpenter, said that the service shares Actionable Change's concerns and will "continue to stand by all our female Marines" on the issue.
"Esprit de Corps must be blind to gender, sexual orientation, religion, or race in order ensure our future success at home and on the battlefield," he said. "We remain committed to addressing this issue strategically, on an institutional level that will eradicate attitudes and behaviors that run counter to our core values."
A spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, said in a statement that the service is committed to attracting, mentoring and retaining talented men and women alike. Gen. Robert Neller, the service's top officer, has called for increasing the percentage of women in the Marine Corps, and it has established a five-year plan to do so.
Read the letter: