Up until 20 years ago, each aircraft in the United States Air Force was named after a woman. Generally, the name was painted on the plane’s side, along with a picture of a scantily clad woman.
While the tradition of painting pin-ups on planes in long gone, pictures and calendars featuring half-naked women are still prevalent in the Air Force, and have been tolerated for years. General Mark Welsh, however, sees a problem with that, and tends to do something about it.
Now, all airmen have 10 days to remove all pin-ups from US Air Force work spaces and public areas.
The directive is an attempt to stamp out sexual assault in the Air Force, which has dramatically increased in past years.
Air Force chief General Welsh maintains that having a “culture where such objectification of women is tolerated” may contribute to the increasing reports of sexual assaults.
There were 700 reports of sexual assault in the Air Force this year alone. That number is up from the 600 reported in 2011.
Welsh gives examples of pin-ups as objectifying women, hailing the days of 20 to 30 years ago, when the military was all male.
“You know, briefing slides that show a half-dressed woman for some reason,” Welsh told The Air Force Times. “Inappropriate calendars on a wall, jokes being told at the beginning of a squadron meeting that are just off-color, and nobody appreciates them.”
Welsh continues, “It’s the environmental stuff that has somebody going, ‘Well I really didn’t need to listen to that today. I don’t need to walk into the door to see that on the side of the guy’s cubicle.’ ”
Welsh said he has received multiple complaints about images, jokes and comments that made women and men uncomfortable.
Many women, according to Welsh, believe that they have to “go along to get along,” meaning that they have to act like the offensive images and comments don’t bother them in order to get along with those in their work spaces.
“After talking to a number of our female officers… I believe that there is a potential that this is a problem in more than those isolated areas,” Welsh said.
“Quite frankly, if we have 20 percent of our people who don’t feel that they are fully respected and valued for all the incredible talents and the dedication they bring to the job, then that’s just not the Air Force we want to be.”
General Welsh, however, is concerned that offensive images are continuing to objectify women in work spaces across the Air Force.
He has focused on the need to stop sexual assaults and harassment in the workplace since coming to office in August.
‘In my view, all this stuff is connected,’ he said. ‘If we’re going to get serious about things like sexual assault, we have to get serious about an environment that could lead to sexual harassment. In some ways this stuff can all be linked.
While it is not proven that these comments and pictures that objectify women actually contribute to the rise in sexual assaults, Welsh feels its better to be safe than sorry.
“I’m not saying every case is linked, but it could be linked, and why would we want to tolerate there even being a chance of that?”
Probably the most shocking case of sexual assault took place at a basic training installment. The assaults involved two dozen training instructors, of which 11 men have already been charged.
“Quite honestly, I’m not sure what we’ll find,” Welsh told the Air Force Times. “There might not be that many places where it’s a problem; there might be a number of places where it’s a problem. I don’t know. That’s part of my concern. That’s why we’re not going to waste time trying to figure it out one place at a time.”
Welsh said that, while the mandate includes all military members, officers’ personal computers and email accounts will not be searched for offending materials.
“Nobody’s going to be going through somebody’s pockets in their coat in a locker or through their personal drawers,” he said.
Do you think that pin-ups and sexual comments contribute to sexual assault?