Wrong questions about women on submarines

After serving 29 years as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and having commanded two nuclear submarines and a conventionally powered surface ship, I must tell you that your article "Is there room on submarines for women" (Jan. 28) was a serious disappointment.

Ranging from factual inaccuracies (the crew does not sleep in "jumpsuit uniforms" - frequently quite the contrary!) to emphasizing what submariner's wives thought about women on board (more relevant opinions were completely ignored), the article was shallow and downplayed the very real concerns held by those who not only go to sea in these ships, but who stand ready to engage in undersea combat.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the submarine as a weapon of war this April, I would hope some serious, rather than tabloid-oriented, discussion on mixed-gender crews would become the norm.

Capt. Steven G. Slaton Bremerton, Wash.

Your article regarding women on submarines asks the wrong questions and in doing so heats up the issue into tabloid fare. Rather than ask whether women should be integrated into the Navy's submarine crews, why not ask whether Navy women should and could have a submarine to "man" all by themselves?

Surely there are enough qualified women to fill every post, from captain to deckhand. Then you might ask, could one or two men be integrated into a submarine, in those cramped quarters, with an all-woman crew?

Your article starts and ends with a cultural bias that colors the question and the issue. If I were a woman aboard an all-women sub, I wouldn't want a man on board. Give women their own sub!

Lanny Cotler Willits, Calif.

Benefits of simplifying

Regarding your article "Simplifying your life: a starting point" (Jan. 31): We left the computer publishing industry in New York to move to the country to simplify our lives, spend more time with our children, and follow our hearts by opening a store, Mama's Earth - The Environmental General Store. Everything we offer is earth-friendly in some fashion, either organic, natural, recycled, or dedicated to environmental or social justice issues.

While it may seem contradictory for owners of a retail store to be advocates of voluntary simplicity, we strive to ensure that everything we sell is useful in a basic, common- sense way. And, though we don't use a cash register, we do have a Web site!

Carolyn and John Grogan Great Barrington, Mass.

Out of the melting pot

Regarding Edward Glick's Jan. 26 opinion piece "Diversity: virtue or vice?": My family emerged from the melting pot blended with equal smidgens of Dutch, German, English, Scottish, and Swedish.

But we were just "Americans" and liked it that way. The only one who pins me down on identity is the Census taker. This year I am going to write "American-American."

Amy Jay New York

The first black Oscar winner

Your fine article "Meet the 'Jackie Robinson of film' " (Jan. 28) on Sidney Poitier was erroneous in stating that he was the first black actor to be nominated for and win an Oscar. While he was first to win top honors, the wonderful Hattie McDaniel was the first black actor to win the Oscar in 1939 for her supporting role as Mammie in "Gone With the Wind."

If your article meant male actor, the clarification would have been helpful, and a nod to Ms. McDaniel's accomplishment appreciated.

Phelix B. Hanible Northampton, Mass

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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