SUMMARY: The Kazakhstan Ministry of Defence has created a “Miss Army” photo competition in a bid to recruit more soldiers to the forces. The Ministry posted photos online of 123 of its ‘prettiest female soldiers’ in three different poses – in uniform, with weapons and in civilian clothing. The strategy is predicated on the sexist and hetero-normative assumption that young men will join the forces if they are attracted to the ‘pretty’ female soldiers.
SOURCE: Simon Tomlinson, April 10 2015, ‘Borat’s call of Beauty?’ The Dailymail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3033505/Kazakhstan-military-unveils-123-prettiest-soldiers-bid-attract-recruits.html
SUMMARY: Tamara Lusardi has served in the US army for nearly three decades. Five years ago she decided to transition from a male to female gender identity and faced serious workplace discrimination as a result. After 3 years of legal proceedings, with the first complaint filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012, the commission decided in her favour on April 1 2015, in a landmark decision that protects transgender employees across all federal agencies. Army Spokesperson Wayne V Hall has stated the military branch will comply with the EEOC decision, despite a right to appeal within 30 days. If uncontested, Lusardi will gain compensatory damages, access to female facilities and guaranteed prevention of future harassment or retaliatory action. However, this decision will not change military policy banning transgender people from uniformed service as it only applies to US civilian government employees, says the Legal Director for the Transgender Law Centre.
SOURCE: Max Blau, April 9 2015, ‘Alabama transgender woman wins discrimination case against US Army,’ The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/09/alabama-transgender-woman-tamara-lusardi
Summary: The New Zealand Defence Force had less than 15% female recruits in 2013/14, a number that was deemed “disturbing” by Lieutenant Colonel Louisa O’Brien, a woman serving 28 years in the forces. O’Brien attributes the culture of the military and its unwavering rigidity to this shocking decline in female recruits. There is still a perception that the military is a male-centric domain, and “overcoming the image of military life being a man’s life was a challenge in recruitment.” The Ministry of Defence has commissioned a report at the end of 2013 to determine how best to maximize opportunities for women in the defence forces.
Source: Aimee Gulliver, April 8 2015, ‘ Low Female Defence Force recruit numbers ‘disturbing,’ Stuff.Co, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/67645891/low-female-defence-force-recruit-numbers-disturbing
Summary: The Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course (IOC) was gender-integrated in September 2012 in an attempt to evaluate the ‘feasibility of opening ground combat jobs to women.’ However no female volunteers have successfully completed the course. Even though eligibility requirements for the IOC expanded in order to meet the goal of 100 female volunteers, there were only 27 female officers who attempted the course throughout the two and a half year testing phase, with 4 passing the Combat Endurance Test. This is not the end for women in combat, as further research and analysis is needed, including a comparison of the Infantry Training Battalion Course, which had a higher pass rate of 44% for female Marines.
SOURCE: Hope Hodge Seck, April 7 2015, ‘Last IOC in Marine infantry experiment drops female officers,’ Marine Corps Times, http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2015/04/07/last-ioc-in-marine-experiment-drops-two-officers/25418867/
Summary: The US Special Operations Command has conducted several surveys of 9000 members about their perceptions about women in combat, in an attempt to “to examine the socio-cultural barriers to integration, and potential solution(s) to overcome those barriers.” There are several stock-standard misunderstandings that proliferate the responses to the surveys, such as women in combat will be more likely to be sexually assaulted if captured. The pentagon has claimed many of the respondents, majority of whom were men serving in male-only units, as “uninformed.”
SOURCE: Anna Mulrine, April 7 2015, ‘ Pentagon faces hurdle to women in special ops: uninformed men,’ Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2015/0407/Pentagon-faces-hurdle-to-women-in-Special-Ops-uninformed-men
Summary: Air Force Academy has instigated campaigns to raise awareness and educate cadets about sexual misconduct in light of the recent White House report that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college, including military service academies. Superintendent of the AFA, Lt. Gen Michelle Johnson suggests that 20% of reported sexual misconduct relates to rape, 20% relate to events prior to joining the academy and the 60% majority of reports are for sexual harassment and “unwanted touching.” The AFA is attempting to raise cadets awareness about what constitutes sexual misconduct, and also to discourage “social media badmouthing.”
SOURCE: Debbie Kelley, 2015, ‘AFA Superintendent wants to talk about ‘uncomfortable’ topic,’ Military.com, 7 April, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/04/07/afa-superintendent-wants-to-talk-about-uncomfortable-topic.html
Summary: Bashas Al-Assad’s secular Baath party attempts to mobilise ‘progressive’ campaigns, including the liberation and emancipation of Syrian women, specifically through the iconography of the masculine defence force. The visual and discursive representations of the Syrian Army centre on the 800 women that are part of an elite combat unit. This brigade was widely publicised as women enlist voluntarily, are trained and then are dispatched to the front line of combat operations. This is not a radically ‘modern’ turn for the Syrian defence force, as “there have always been women in the Syrian Army,” claims Fabrice Balanche, an academic expert on Syria. A French researcher for CNRS, Zakaria Taha, also claims that, “This allows [Assad’s Baath Party] to be seen from the outside as a secular regime that is both respectful of women’s rights and actively involved in the fight against the Islamist threat. It also legitimises the party in the eyes of Western countries in its fight against Islamist movements as well as giving the party more power to silence the opposition.”
Source: SOURCE: Sarah Leduc, 2015, ‘Assad’s female fighters: Progress or Propaganda?,’ France24, 2 April, (http://www.france24.com/en/20150402-syria-women-soldiers-assad-army-propaganda/)