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"Don't Ask" Hits Women Hardest, Ladies Shut Out of Service

"Don't Ask" Hits Women Hardest, Ladies Shut Out of Service

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," might bring to mind men fighting in foxholes — but the plan is actually rooting out more foxes of the opposite gender. The US Army and Air Force discharged an hugely uneven ratio of women to men in 2007 under the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, which prohibits gay military personnel from disclosing their sexual orientation.

The New York Times reports that even though women only make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those discharged under the policy in 2007 were female. Up in the air, women account for 20 percent of the Air Force and 49 percent of its discharges.

And the trend is growing — there's a noticeable increase from 2006, when about 35 percent of both the Army’s and the Air Force’s "asked and tolds" were women, according to stats pulled from Pentagon data by a policy advocacy organization. What's making the L-word, "lost female soldiers?" To see what the executive director of the organization had to say about the findings,


Women make up 15 percent of the armed forces, so to find they represent nearly 50 percent of Army and Air Force discharges under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is shocking,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the organization’s executive director. “Women in particular have been caught in the crosshairs of this counterproductive law.

Sarvis's organization, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, didn't perform formal interviews and therefore couldn't offer any specific reasoning for the increase in women being discharged. According to the Times, Pentagon officials couldn't explain why the numbers for women spiked last year either and isn't pushing for any change in policy — the Pentagon holds that it's up to Congress to decide whether the law should be altered or repealed.

The don't-ask policy prohibits anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States because it "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order, and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." While gay and lesbians in the military are prohibited from speaking about any homosexual relationships, interestingly the law states that one must engage in open homosexual acts to commit a punishable offense.

On the recent fifteenth anniversary of the policy's adoption Time put together an exposé noting that while the "move was initially hailed as progress for the rights of gays in the military, today many see it as a liability." Obama recently spoke out telling the gay publication the Advocate that he favors the repeal of the 1993 policy. What's behind this imbalance? Why are more women getting snagged and punished?

Photo courtesy of Showtime

Join The Conversation
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Good. I'm glad I could put a smile on your face :)
chancleta chancleta 9 years
undave you cracked me up
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
In relation to the post, just quoting percentages doesn't mean anything. When you look at the actual numbers, 602 people were discharged from the military last year under DADT - that's out of 1.5 million people on active duty. So, we're talking about 0.04% of the military. If they're including reserves in that number as well, then you're looking at 0.02% of the military. When you're talking about numbers that are that small, the percentage changes are not statistically significant. That's like saying I know two single people and one of them is getting married. OMG! Marriages went up 50%! What could have caused that!? The fact that female discharges under DADT went up slightly does not represent a growing trend. It is puzzling that women represent a larger percentage of the discharges than of the overall demographic. My anecdotal experience is that gay women in the military guard their orientation a little less fervently than gay men do. I guess that's a possible explanation. In relation to DADT in general, it needs to be abolished. I realize that it would cause some logistical issues and those would need to be worked out. While the UK could serve as a model, they are a significantly smaller force than the US military. The sheer size of our armed forces make it a much more complicated issue for us. Nonetheless, it is well past time to toss this outdated and discriminatory policy.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
I agree with foxie-- as a military spouse, more soldiers and officers are gay then one would believe... no one cares. just as long as they don't broadcast it :)
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
We men are looking for any reason to get you silly women back into the kitchen. Why can't you just get back where you belong, and while you're at it, get me my beer! ;) GTR :pucca: JK
janneth janneth 9 years
Foxie, thank you so much for your perspective. Interesting info.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
HF, thanks for bringing out the nuances of that military policy - i had no idea and i can see why it would be a lot more complicated to simply abolish the law. I think it would do us some good to take a look at what the UK did and take some recommendations from them.
foxie foxie 9 years
I could rip out my hair from hearing all the civilian speculations on Don't Ask policy. First things first, I love the L Word as much as the next person... but that show is FICTION, people. Pretty much nothing Don't-Ask related happens in real life like it did on the show. As far as Don't Ask Don't Tell being counterproductive, it's just a lot more complicated than that. The very essence of the military is the structure and the discipline and rules, etc. Trainees are expected to adhere to strict rules while in training phases. Many of the rules are based on the idea that men and women are not permitted to be alone together or have sex in the barracks. With openly gay servicemembers, the rules would be nearly impossible to enforce without a complete change in the training infrastructure. Talk about counterproductive! And that's not even TOUCHING on all the issues that would arise in Basic Military Training/boot camp! The military is a lot friendlier to gays than civilians are led to believe, for sure. Heck, I work with someone who outed himself in military work forums! I used to live in the barracks, during TRAINING, next to an open lesbian. Her girlfriend spent the night with her all the time. Meanwhile, my HUSBAND wasn't even allowed to enter the barracks. So I guess "fair" depends on where you're sitting.
janneth janneth 9 years
Harmony, you articulated what I was thinking.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
Absolutely Jill! I was wondering how they handled barracks assignments and such. I think I'll do some research.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I am sure we can get some pointers from the UK. If their military can handle it, I am sure ours can.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Thats the truth HF, its not like switching a light switch, its not going to happen overnight and the majority of people don't realize that.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
Don't ask don't tell DEFINITELY needs to be scrapped. However, it is going to take some maneuvering. The way the military is set up, you don't bunk with people of the opposite sex. It is done this way to avoid sexual harrasment, distraction, etc. If the military does away with don't ask don't tell they have to figure out how to handle barracks and bathroom usage...not because they think that gay men and women are predators...but because this is the policy of the military. You are not allowed to stay with your sexual preference. I mean women are STILL not allowed on submarines because there are not separate bathroom facilities for women. THEN where do we put bi-sexuals. Blah blah blah. It's a VERY complicated issue. I absolutely think it should be abolished. The time and energy and MONEY should be spent to figure out how to make this work. My only point is that it's not as simple as just changing the law.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I think all of the "disaster" scenerios about what would happen if we allowed gays in the military have already been proven wrong. First of all, the UK has been allowing homosexuals into their military since 2000, with few problems. Secondly, those gay UK soldiers are serving right along side our soldiers in Afghanistan, with few to no problems. We don't really need to rely on playing the "what if" game, because the UK took away the mystery for us. Let them serve, and we will all benefit.
Sweet-Jane Sweet-Jane 9 years
First of all, there is a long history of gender inequality in the military. I wouldn't be surprised at all if women were easier targets for discharge. The military also has a long history of sexual harassment. If I were a lesbian and constantly getting harassing remarks from the men I serve with, I'd eventually snap and tell them I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole...even if I wasn't gay. Mere speculation, but those are my thoughts. Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a half-step in the right direction. Clinton found a way to do SOMETHING for gays in the military, even though it essentially shoved them further into the closet. It's time for a real change. If someone is willing to serve our country and potentially give their life for it, we should thank them for their bravery and selflessness - period.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
pop - i was thinking the SAME thing. but don't ask, don't tell prohibits us from having stats on that. even so i just ran an theoretical example in my head and even if 100% of the women in the military were gay and only 2% of the men were, the number of gay men would still outnumber the number of gay women.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
It wouldn't surprise me either judging by the programming Cinemax after dark offers.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I wonder: -- What % of women in the military are gay -- What % of men in the military are gay I hate to make broad generalizations, but it wouldn't surprise me if the percentage of women who were gay was much higher than the % of men.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I agree hypno. I just don't understand why people can't see that this is the same fight over and over again. Everyone is afraid that if we let X do Y then America is destroyed. And then we let X do Y and nothing happens. Whether it's black people playing baseball, women voting or gays in the military. Why don't people just learn that it's going to happen and it's either going to be easy or it's going to be nasty. But it's going to happen.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I think the militaries stance on homosexuality has become incompatible for all involved. It's only a matter of time these changes never come easy or fast enough for those who are being burdened with the cause. As civilian society becomes more and more relaxed about homosexuality the military will follow in its foot steps.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
"Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission. The presence of such members adversely affects the ability of the armed forces to maintain discipline, good order, and morale; to foster mutual trust and confidence among service members; to insure the integrity of the system of rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment of service members who frequently must live and work in close conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members of the armed forces; to maintain the public acceptability of military service; and to prevent breaches of security." ----Now i dont know if that statement from the Dont Ask Dont Tell Policy holds true anymore, I know many guys in the military and they have said they really dont care as long as "the dude doesnt try anything" I think its a bit dated myself.
lovelie lovelie 9 years
Has anyone ever read the book Manuevers, by Cynthia Enloe?
stephley stephley 9 years
Probably the women are getting tossed out faster because the men are finding out serving with lesbians isn't living up their fantasies. When you consider this along with the earlier reports of sexual assaults against military women, there's something seriously wrong - a dangerous imbalance.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well I think it is safe to say that regardless of military ordinance, any other rule or physical barrier man can not restrain what Mother Nature is intent on expressing.
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