01 December 2010

Grantee Highlights Sexism and Racism at the Heart of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Ms. Foundation grantee Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) has published an excellent and insightful piece about Don't Ask, Don't Tell (the US military's policy banning homosexuals from service) and its not-so-subtle sexist and racist roots.

Featured yesterday on the WNYC.org site, the piece was timed to coincide with the release of a new Pentagon report that revealed that 70 percent of active duty and reserve troops surveyed feel that the repeal of DADT would have a "positive or, at worst, inconsequential effect on a unit’s ability to 'work together and get the job done.'" While the battle over DADT has largely been perceived as a LGBTQ issue, Anuradha Bhagwati, Executive Director of SWAN, points out that the policy has had a negative effect on women and people of color in the military, who are particularly susceptible to punishment under the banner of DADT. She writes,

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has long fed off the hatred of unwanted and vulnerable personnel, namely, women and people of color. Since the inception of the policy, servicewomen have been disproportionately impacted compared to their male counterparts. While the proportion of men discharged under DADT has decreased steadily over time, the proportion of women discharged has increased. And yet, the percentage of total women in the military has remained steady over that period. Last year, though women made up 14 percent of the total military population, they made up a shocking 39 percent of DADT discharges. In other words, women are currently expelled from the military under DADT at almost three times the rate at which they serve.

To make matters worse, people of color in the US military are also disproportionately impacted. For instance, in 2008, people of color made up 29 percent of the total military population, but made up 45 percent of discharges under DADT. As with women, the impact on people of color has increased over time. People of color made up only 25 percent of all DADT discharges in 1997, but currently make up about one-third.

How do we explain these numbers and trends? ...For those commanders with axes to grind against individual servicemembers, DADT becomes a convenient way to oust unwanted personnel from the ranks. In this way, racist and misogynistic attitudes get combined with or subsumed by homophobic policy.
Take the time to read this article in its entirety -- and then learn more about how SWAN is working to repeal DADT and ensure equality within the US military.

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