As part of an attempt to discourage sexual assault, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered that “offensive” materials be removed from military workplaces. The definition of “offensive” is unclear, but local command leaders are searching for a wide range of materials thought to create a hostile working environment. Items removed thus far range from pornography to a Princess Leia action figure.
Tony Lombardo of Military Times notes that Hagel’s instructions are unclear, and reports that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has adopted a version of Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Possible targets include pin-up calendars and provocative song lyrics. The directive applies only to common workspaces; individual barracks and private possessions are not being targeted.
Racy images were once a fixture of military life for men far away from home. With the advance of women into military careers, however, military culture has changed–too slowly, according to activists and critics on Capitol Hill. One group, Morality in Media, is attempting to convince Hagel to prevent military stores from selling magazines such as Playboy, Maxim, and Black Men on base, Karen Jowers of Army Times reports.
The display of provocative images and the use of vulgar language in common workplaces has largely disappeared from civilian life because of a growing consensus that it creates discomfort and encourages discrimination against women. However, the guidelines adopted by the military are extremely vague, and activists have long struggled to establish a convincing link between men’s magazines and sexual assault.