Marine photo scandal echoes past concerns of misogyny in Corps culture

A formal investigation is underway after a private Facebook group was shown to have been hosting nude photos of female Marines and veterans.

Wilfredo Lee/AP/File
U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard stands under a Marine Corps emblem in Jupiter, Fla., in May 2014.

In the latest challenge to the integration of women into the United States Marine Corps, hundreds of Marines are being investigated in relation to hundreds, even thousands, of nude pictures of female colleagues and veterans shared on social media.

The photo sharing itself began less than a month after the first three female infantry Marines entered active service on Jan. 5. That milestone itself was made possible by the historic announcement a little over a year earlier, when then-President Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary Ashton Carter officially opened all military occupational specialties to women.

There has been substantial opposition to the move, but of all the branches of the US military, the Marines have arguably seemed the most resistant to welcoming women into all roles.

“There is no place for this type of demeaning or degrading behavior in our Corps,” Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green, the most senior enlisted Marine on active duty, wrote in an email response to The Center for Investigative Reporting, where the photo-sharing story first broke.

“Let me be perfectly clear; no person should be treated this way. It is inconsistent with our Core Values, and it impedes our ability to perform our mission,” he said.

The photographs in question were shared on a private Facebook page called “Marines United,” which is reported to have had nearly 30,000 followers. In some cases, the women were identified by name, rank, and location, and countless obscene comments were posted.

The activity was initially uncovered – and brought to the attention of the Marine Corps – by Marine veteran Thomas Brennan, who runs the nonprofit news organization “The War Horse.” A day later, at the request of the Corps, the social media accounts concerned had been deleted by Google and Facebook. And the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has launched an official investigation.

“The Marine Corps is deeply concerned,” reads a statement issued to journalists by the Office of Marine Corps Communication. “This behavior destroys morale, erodes trust, and degrades the individual. The Marine Corps does not condone this sort of behavior, which undermines our core values.”

The Marines have long struggled with accusations of misogyny and other forms of discrimination, but the recent addition of women to their front-line units has lent new focus to the issue. Several Marine Corps generals publicly opposed Mr. Obama’s edict on admitting women to all military occupations, “raising questions as to whether the Marines' institutional resistance to gender integration within its principal war-fighting units has unwittingly exacerbated the struggle with reducing deviant behavior,” as the Marine Corps Times reported.

The formal investigation into this latest incident continues, but in the meantime, “As Marines, as human beings, you should be angry for the actions of a few,” wrote Sgt. Maj. Green. “Ultimately we must take a look in the mirror and decide whether we are part of the problem or the solution.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.