The Australian Defence Force (ADF) finds themselves in yet another sex scandal this week. The force has barely recovered from last year’s ‘skype scandal,’ which involved members of a defense force academy videotaping sex without permission and streaming it to other members of the academy. This time it is alleged that officers have videotaped sex with other colleagues and civilian women and distributed the videos via the defence email system. It is a disappointing revelation considering the promises to rid the force of sexism following the scandal last year. If the allegations prove true, it seems that things are getting worse, not better, for women in the ADF. Yet there is a glimmer of hope. The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General David Morison has come out with a public video statement that shows true courage and has already been hailed as a feminist manifesto.
While it may be too early to hail Morison as a feminist hero, his words show a departure from the predictable ‘these are bad apples’ gender lip service that typically follows scandals. Morison not only states that these actions are out of line with military values, he also calls on soldiers to leave the force if they conduct or condone this behavior.
He may not realize it, but Morrison also moves to redefine Australian militarised masculinity when he says that he doesn’t believe that toughness can be built on humiliating others and that all members of the force should ‘show moral courage’ and take a stand against such behavior. It may not seem like a big deal, but shifting the way that courage and toughness are defined could mean more than any grand declarations to rid the military of perpetrators. He also talks about the band of brothers AND sisters- making a concerted departure from a particular masculine image of the force.
There is always room for cynicism at a time like this, but here’s hoping that a thoughtful, prompt, and meaningful reaction to activities that have been brushed off for too long as ‘par for the course’ within defence forces around the world may show times are changing.