The armed forces have long been thought of as a boy's club with a deep-rooted history of sexism and misogyny, but a group of hundreds of outspoken female marines are now looking to enact change.
Spurred by a nude photo scandal earlier this year in which hundreds, if not thousands, of nude pictures of female marines and veterans were reportedly shared in a private Facebook group called Marines United, over 700 female marines have banned together to form a group called Actionable Change.
Part of the goal of this newly formed entity is to put an end to misogyny in the service by increasing the percentage of women in the Marine Corps from about 7 percent to 20 percent, improve gender integration in the military, and make revenge porn in the military illegal.
A letter shared with members of Actionable Change and obtained by The Washington Post states, "In a culture that prizes masculinity, it is easy to mistake barbarism for strength. Brutality for power. Savagery for ferocity. 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."
And, nude photographs aside, the military can be a perilous place for women.
When it comes to sexual assault in the military, the statistics are alarming. According to Pentagon estimates, there were approximately 26,000 cases of sexual assault in the military in 2012, but, as noted by Salon, that figure doesn't include the thousands of cases that statistic doesn't count because they were reported by civilian women and civilian military spouses, or the estimated thousands of cases that went unreported altogether.
According to Salon, one reason servicewomen are reluctant to report assault is because those who do are 12 times more likely to experience some kind of retaliation than they are to see an attacker convicted. A 2015 Human Rights Watch report outlines some forms of said retaliation, including vulgar text messages, destruction of personal property, and death threats.
Lt. Col. Ann Bernard, a Marine reservist who helped establish Actionable Change, says the group is only striving to make the Marine Corps better. "We fought the fight and thought we got the job done, and now we're realizing we're not quite there yet," she tells The Washington Post. "We're not going to allow another generation of junior Marines that has this mentality that does not serve the Marine Corps at all."
In an age where we're seeing a paradoxical rise of misogyny and feminism, these female marines should be lauded for their brave initiative.
But if you think you need hundreds of people behind you to combat misogyny; think again. As it turns out, even small efforts to change misogynistic and sexist behavior can have a significant impact. Case in point: these women who are waging war against revenge porn, one law at a time.
Cover image via Shutterstock.