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Blue The Nation | August 23, 2014

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Air Force Finally Appoints a Woman to Lead Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force

Air Force Finally Appoints a Woman to Lead Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force
Jonathan Nathan

Hey, maybe the military–or at least the Air Force–actually does give a shit about preventing sexual violence and rape within the ranks. It would be easy to think that they didn’t, given that the people they put in positions of authority, including positions ostensibly intended to curb sexual violence against women, tend to be men that like to commit sexual violence against women. But the Air Force, at least, has finally taken the common-sense step of trying to combat sexual violence against women by appointing an actual, real-life woman to lead its task force which aims to combat sexual violence against women. Seems like a no-brainer, but in the task force’s ten-year history, there’s never been a woman at the top. Major General Margaret Woodward changes that.

Pictured: The very model of a modern major general. Yes, I had to make that joke.

Now obviously I don’t mean to say that there aren’t any men out there who could effectively lead the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force. Of course I don’t think that. I, myself, am a man and a feminist, and I believe there are millions of other feminist men out there. So yes, there are a lot of men who could do a great job in this position. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly hard to believe that any of those men currently work in the United States military, as a cursory look at Blue The Nation’s coverage of sexual assault in the military will make clear.

And even aside from that, appointing a woman to this kind of position sends a message to men and women, victims and perpetrators, grunts and officers alike. That message is this: “Hey, we’re taking this seriously now.” With a man at the top of such a task force, you have no idea what his priorities and agendas are. You have no idea how seriously he takes the issue of sexual violence against women, particularly in light of the fact that the most recent man to hold the position was arrested for drunkenly groping a stranger in the parking lot of a strip club. With a woman at the top of the task force, there’s about a 95% chance that she’s going to actually try to do her job. She might turn out to be an Aunt Tom like Sarah Palin or a Phyllis Schlafly, sure, but you have to assume that a woman like that probably isn’t a woman who joins the military at all, let alone achieves the things that Woodward has achieved.

“So that’s when I said, ‘Well sure, you can’t expect a pregnant raccoon to clean up your mess for you on a September Sunday!’”

Woodward outranks her predecessor, the disgraced Lt. Colonel Jeff Krusinski, signaling a greater degree of attention being paid to the problem. She’s been with the Air Force since 1983 and has served as the commander of the 89th Airlift Wing, of which Air Force One is a part. She was named the commander of the 17th Air Force in 2010 and was in charge of bombing operations during the 2011 NATO mission in Libya to oust Moamar Gadhafi. She was the first woman in U.S. history to command an air-war campaign. After that, she became the Air Force’s Chief of Safety, her most recent position before she was reassigned to her new post.

So from the bathroom stall to the military mess hall, this great nation of ours is taking baby steps toward gender equality and a safer, better world for women. Now let’s see about an Equal Rights Amendment, huh?

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