Victory for Women in the Military: Sexist Religious Posters Removed from Air Force Base

02/27/2017 04:59 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2017

 

A set of seven blatantly sexist posters at Air Combat Command (ACC) headquarters at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia has been removed.

The posters, which were first brought to the attention of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) by an Air Force officer (who was joined by fifteen other USAF officer, NCO, and civilian clients, nine of whom were women) because the messages on two of the seven, as the officer put it, “clearly advocate a higher value in religious Airmen over non-religious Airmen, and communicate a necessity for religious faith to be successful as Airmen,” which, as the officer noted, was a violation of Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12 of which states (emphasis added):

“Leaders at all levels … must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.”

But, as the officer also noted, the message that religious airmen were superior to non-religious airmen wasn’t the only problem with these posters. With the quotes on all seven posters coming from a completely outdated Red Scare era Air Force Manual from 1955, the posters were also blatantly sexist.

As the officer said of one of the religious quotes – a quote that included the line “It is only a man of deep convictions, a man of deep faith, who will make the sacrifices needed to save his manhood” – this “harkens back to days of male dominance in the Air Force, and is not appropriate.”

As I reported in a previous post regarding these posters, it was the overt sexism of the posters that led the National Organization for Women (NOW) to join forces with MRFF and its sixteen clients in demanding that these posters be removed, with NOW president Terry O’Neill writing an open letter to General Herbert J. Carlisle, the commander of the Air Combat Command.

The gist of the 1955 Air Force manual from which the quotes on the ACC posters were copied, which was titled “Living for Leadership,” explained to Air Force officers of the Red Scare era that the basis of the United States was religion; that an officer must become a gentleman, and that to be a gentleman a man must, of course, be religious; and that it was absolutely necessary for a man to be religious so as not to fall prey to the lure of godless communism. As the manual told the men of the Air Force, a man who wasn’t religious was ignorant, and “This self-imposed ignorance of the purpose of man is the only explanation we can find for the easy enlistment of soft-thinking dupes into ‘pinko’ organizations.”

Other quotes on the ACC’s posters from this 1955 how-to-be-a-good-religious-gentleman-and-not-a-pinko manual included gems of male supremacist wisdom such as:

“Single-minded, strong, self-controlled, gentle and always considerate – this is what is expected of you. This is the key to a better world – this is the secret of of great leadership – this is the role of a true gentleman.” – AF Manual 50-21, August 1955

As the Air Force Times reported on February 7, officials at the ACC were refusing to remove the posters despite the complaints about them, claiming that the blatantly sexist (and religious) quotes on these posters were not inappropriate because they were “historical.” And, according to the command’s latest statement, published in a February 15 article on Military.com, they were still sticking to this “historical” argument and intended to leave the posters up.

But apparently the ACC has had a change of heart and decided to join the rest of us here in the twenty-first century. In an email this morning to MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein, one of MRFF’s sixteen clients at Joint Base Langley-Eustis wrote:

“I was one of the 16 military and civilian members you represented at Langley AFB in objecting to a series of sexist and theistic posters displayed in an ACC building. I just wanted to update you that, as of today, every picture in that series has been removed (photo attached). I wanted to pass my sincere gratitude to you and the MRFF for holding ACC leadership to regulations (AFI 1-1) and to equal representation of all Airmen and civilians regardless of sex, race, or religion (to include none).”

No more will the female “airmen” at this air force base have to walk past posters explaining to them their “role of a true gentleman.”

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