Vulnerable women in uniform

7 Apr
The ADFA Shield

Image via Wikipedia

I can only imagine what “Kate”, the young woman at the centre of the Australian Defence Force Academy outrage, is feeling today.

No matter what the outcome, Kate’s life at the ADFA is forever changed, and probably not for the better. It’s clear she can’t count on the support and understanding of her superior officers, who ploughed ahead with a hearing against her on trivial matters regardless of the allegations that she was unknowingly involved in consensual sex with a young man who’d set up the web cam and arranged for six of his mates watch his sexual performance with her.

Whether deliberate or not, going ahead with the hearing under these circumstances seems at the very least insensitive, possibly punitive, and definitely idiotic, given the media attention already focused on the workings of ADFA.

It’s difficult to get one’s head around the mindset of the young men who set up this situation.  The degree of treachery they demonstrated themselves capable of is blood curdling. Kate no doubt liked and was attracted to the individual who did the deed. In all good faith, she consented to sexual intimacy, thinking it was indeed intimacy, and why on earth should she expect anything else? How many women agree to engage in consensual sex and think to ask first if they’re being secretly filmed?

These men seem to have no awareness that a woman is a human being, and neither do some of their superiors.

There should be zero tolerance of events such as this. These men ought to be thrown out on their arses in the gutter.

It isn’t Kate who ought to lose her career, though given the difficulties she’ll have to face, I wouldn’t blame her if she got out. Those men, however, have crossed the line and there ought to be no going back allowed once that line is crossed.

In 2011 there are young men still willing to treat women as sub human in this country’s defence forces. These seven male cadets are supposed to be the future leaders in the army, navy and air force. If they can’t recognise and respect the humanity of half the globe’s population, in my book they’re not leadership material.

But the buck doesn’t stop with them. Who are their superiors, and what are they doing to change this Neanderthal culture? Very little it would seem, as Kate is still being subjected to harassment, in spite of media outrage and global media coverage of the incident, the fury of Defence Minister Stephen Smith, and the anger of Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston. Even though these heavyweights are on the case and the ADFA is under world wide media observation, nothing has stopped those young bloods carrying on regardless with their harassment of Kate, as they coat her bedroom door with shaving cream, and apparently demand that she apologise for outing the seven men.

So much for military discipline. Doesn’t seem to be having much effect.

So who is in control at the ADFA?

Now there’s an attempt by Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defence Force Association, to distract from the substance of the scandal by quibbling about the appropriateness or otherwise of Stephen Smith’s comments on the matter. While that might be an issue at some later date, the central concern at the moment is the inappropriate behaviour of the ADFA cadets towards a young woman, and the culture inherent in ADFA that apparently allows them to believe such behaviour is acceptable. It seems to me that’s a far more urgent issue than whether or not Smith crossed some boundaries.

Perhaps Neil James’ peculiar priorities are an example of the sub human sexist ADFA culture, in that the abuse of women comes well below the list of concerns, and the proper protocols between the Minister and his department are uppermost.

6 Responses to “Vulnerable women in uniform”

  1. gerard oosterman April 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    The ‘Neanderthal’ culture in the ADFA is a logical consequence and continuation of a societal culture which continues to nourish an absurd differentiation of the sexes well before there is a need to do so. Children are just not allowed to be children
    Little boys are blue, little girls are pink and the twain meet in the ADFA or PA or any other Academy wherever they can thrive and express this well embedded estrangement from each other.
    They egg each other on and when the shit hits the fan. It is always seen as an individual break down or transgression and everyone avoids looking in the mirror that society holds up.


  2. PAUL WALTER April 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    If Houston had followed up on his own assurances to the public back mid decade, in response to similar incidents, things might have moved forward.
    I wouldn’t think its just confined to the armed forces, tho. As Gerard say, it’s part of the culture- the commercial teevs have had a proverbial field day this week beating up on similar antics with teenagers and sexting/ brawling.
    I’m not so sure its just cultural, also. It seems to extend across humanity and even spills across the species divide to chimpanzees, who happily bully etc each other, although without mobile phones.
    Must head off for a reread of Lord of the Flies.


  3. Steve at the Pub April 8, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    The female cadet should be carpeted & punished for not only the previous offences, but also for fraternising and for talking to the media. And she will be.
    Smith has made a dickhead of himself. Attempting to influence the judicial process is unforgivable. He should not be defence minister.
    The male cadet should be done for fraternising, then either dishonourably discharged from the ADF, or appointed to the rank of ordinary seaman & posted to Heard Island where he is to command a shovel, moving 2 tonnes of sand from pile to pile & back again, for the remainder of his 12 year stint.

    If the female cadet can’t take the pressure, when it is she who has broken the most rules, then she is not what the ADF needs.


  4. PAUL WALTER April 8, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    SATP, the trouble is, she’s already been “carpeted”, so to speak. That’s what she’s upset about.
    Actually teev current affairs pointed out she has been carpeted (on another issue) and many felt this prejudicial to her current issues.
    Dont forget, this is not about sex, sex was consensual. What it’s about is the juvenile antic from the lad, texting the event out for public consumption. Heard Island by all means, shovelling Walrus shit for caddish behaviour.
    No wonder women hate us, some times.
    As for Smith, not so sure. The armed services have a long history of this and Houston himself declared brightening up the mentality was a mission for him, four or five years on and behaviours straight out of Animal House are still the go..


  5. Sam Jandwich April 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Well for my part I agree with Jennifer and Stephen Smith. To suggest that the woman involved has done anything wrong is, I don’t think sub-human is too strong a term. She has shown extraordinary bravery in reporting the incident to the media, and doubly so since she already knew Defence was not going to give her one iota of support. So firstly “Kate” I am very sorry for what you have had to go through, but good for you, and ADFA better single you out for the fast-track to the senior ranks before you find a career more deserving of your talents.

    However, I don’t think you can wholly blame ADFA for the fact that this happened in the first place. These were junior cadets in their first year of training. Who knows what their backgrounds are, but I would venture to suggest it is probably unfeasible to drill out their propensity for such behaviour in the short time these kids were at ADFA, no matter how good the education on personal integrity they receive there is – though judging from the appalling way ADFA has handled the situation i imagine their component on treating others with respect and integrity 101 probably needs some development.

    Having said that, I do actually think that this whole debacle is an example of gender politics and social norms running amok – it’s not just that these blokes are arseholes on an individual basis, but that they have been allowed to become that way by what I shudder to call a patriarchal environment, both at ADFA and in their earlier lives – and evidence that feminism still has a lot of ground to cover and deserves to be supported. But, in reference to past debates on the subject, I hope that this can be done without resorting to wholesale deprecation of men, and to making out that nice boys such as myself have anything in common with the hidden camera brigade in the defence forces.


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