US Navy Looks to Promote Gender Uniformity, For Example…

usna combination cover navy uniform initiative

I was driving through Annapolis the other weekend when I saw some midshipmen walking around near the city dock area.  I did a bit of a double take because something didn’t look quite right as one of the mids walked past my car.

To my surprise, one of the female midshipman was wearing a “combination cover”, or the brimmed, flat-topped hats depicted in the top right image.

Women don’t wear “combo covers”, they wear hats like the one shown in the image on the left.  Only the men wear those sort of hats… or so I thought.

The United States Naval Academy was chosen as a test site for the Navy’s Standard Cover Initiative, which according to a statement by their Public Affairs Office, is part of the Navy’s goal to “further a climate of inclusion for female Sailors and officers and to promote uniformity and professional appearance.”

As part of that initiative, Naval Academy female midshipmen began wear-testing the male midshipman combination cover (hat) beginning June 26 through the 2012-2013 academic year; and enlisted women in the USNA band are wear-testing the male chief petty officer combination cover beginning Aug. 17 through the 2012-2013 academic year.

Personally, I think this is a terrible idea and does little except reduce the self-image of the poor woman who has to wear it.  However, considering the fact I’m no longer on active duty and I’m not female, I figured I’d ask around and get some other opinions.

One female officer, and USNA alumnus comments,

“It’s ridiculous.  There’s absolutely nothing to be achieved by swapping covers.  You will not gain gender neutrality or parity by requiring them all to wear the same covers.  And moreover, it’s distracting from real issues that deserve far more focus than this such as sexual assault, and the combat exclusion laws, and others.  Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that our combat exclusion laws are unrealistic for modern warfare.  We should be spending time and resources to solving these issues, rather than these empty, and meaningless gestures.”

Another female officer offered a slightly different view:

“As a line officer and engineer, the amount of time I wear dress uniforms which might require this cover is quite minimal.  It’s also unlikely it’ll ever affect me, so to be honest, I don’t really care all that much.  If the Academy wants to make everyone look the same, then fine, but thinking that it’s going to promote a climate of professional inclusion is highly doubtful.

The fact is, both hats look terrible.

Men’s uniforms were designed many years ago and they are timeless.  Women’s uniforms were designed in the 50s to be in line with the fashion of the day back then.  Unfortunately, they are still stuck in the 50s.”

Another summed it up her opinion in one word… “ridiculous.”

The fourth officer I spoke to stated:

“The more we try to make our female and male sailors the same, the more apparent the difference becomes.  We are all sailors, but it is ok that our uniforms are different, it doesn’t mean we are less or more capable.  It is about looking professional and representing the US Navy.”

What do you think?