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Women in Navy Have It Easy ? Stereotyping

It is not a secret that some of the professions are still considered to be either purely male or purely female prerogative. Any change in this paradigm creates as a minimum a lot of discussion, but, more often prejudice that does not reflect the real situation and picture. One of great examples, where stereotypes are so deeply settled as to create a global image, is the U.S. Navy. This essay will look at some of the major myths and stereotypes that are created around the way women in Navy are perceived today. Primary question that we would like to discuss is as follows:

What myths do women have to break about female Navy force and how Navy authorities create them?

Stereotypes are created inside and outside of the military environment. It is easier to justify the myths and prejudice created by people, who are not directly involved in army and Navy specifically, as people tend to drive conclusions based on their imagination. It is interesting, however, to see the evolution of Navy in the way it approaches the market. According to the U.S. Navy, there are several major drivers that can attract women in Navy; major ones of them are a) variety of jobs that can meet all the expectations b) personal as well as professional growth c) leisure time and “time to dress-up” (Official U.S. Navy website, 2010).

Looking back at the history, we can see several arguments in favour of the secondary role, given to women in Navy from the very beginning. According to Friedl, army started to look at the opportunity to employ women to army only during the First World War, when obvious shortage of the manpower raised the question of hiring women to perform some of the jobs to keep the fleet afloat. It came as a result of the investigation of Naval Act 1916, whereas Secretary of Navy concluded that there is no statement that yeoman should be a man (Friedl, 1996, pp.57-60). Since then, the myth about the secondary role and easy being for women in Navy started to develop among male military personnel. Another argument, discussed in teh book, in favour of the fact that Navy itself generates ground in favour of stereotype that women in Navy have it easy is the fact that army stopped hiring women after the First World War and up to the moment when the authorities again faced with actual lack of manpower back in 1974 during the Korean war.

One of the strongest arguments in favour of the statement we make in this paper is pure statistics that shows that among officers’ staff, only just about sixteen percent are women. Moreover, due to a number of limitations for the positions that women can take, the majority (66%) of female personnel is serving in Fleet support and only 6.6% serve in aviation and 2.5% in Special operations. With this statistics in mind, I inevitably, ask myself: “What does it mean to be a woman in Navy?” (Bureau of Naval Personnel, 2010).

One could argue that the growing number of female personnel in the army can talk in favour of the fact that Navy itself is trying to eliminate stereotypes and open up for the opportunities and benefits of having women in Army. While we recognize official efforts of the government to make army more balanced in terms of genders and other possible minorities, the strength and validity of the argument are still relatively vague. The statistics change and shift in male/female ratio, however, is still so imbalanced as to significantly undermine this argument.

Another aspect that we have to acknowledge is the influence of self-positioning and reputation that women create in the army by taking over “easier” and back office jobs. It is not a secret that women are more concerned with the time they will have for the family while serving in army. I, however, strongly believe that women have additional responsibilities in the family and children education and it is important to balance personal and professional life. It, on the other hand, does not mean that during the time women dedicate to the Naval service their job and responsibilities are lower the ones assigned to their male colleagues. It is obvious that women do not choose easy way, but learn how to combine several areas of responsibilities that they have to cope with.

We have discussed the stereotypes that are in place in regards to the female Naval personnel. Looking at the historical attributes of female service in Navy as well as the way current Naval force approaches women, it is not a secret that that internally the stereotype of easy job for women is promoted on various levels. Authorities attract women with benefits that would not fit male personnel, such as leisure and family time and opportunity to “dress-up” from time to time. History shows that army was trying to avoid female personnel in Navy by all means. And finally, statistics cannot lie and it provides evidence in favour of the argument that Navy authorities themselves limit female participation in various jobs within Naval structure in the United States. With these observations in mind, I am confident that Navy plays significant role in development and facilitation of stereotyping women in Navy.

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