Anyone who has ever known me will tell you that I've never been uncomfortable in the presence of guys. My friends have always been primarily male, as have my coworkers. Burping, swearing, drinking, dirty jokes and bar fights have never fazed me. I'm not a tomboy by any means, but I've always managed to hold my own.

I'm also well aware of the difficulties women have faced for decades in a male dominated society. Personally, I've never experienced it first hand, that is, until I pinned on my stripes.

I didn't get passed over for prime duty assignments or fade away into the background. Quite the opposite, actually. Suddenly, I was center stage, and not for my superb job performance. All at once, my friendships with male counterparts, both superior and subordinate, were viewed with purely sexual connotations. While friendships with female subordinates were gently chided, the same interactions with male subordinates were questioned and investigated.

Two male Soldiers, regardless of rank, can associate, pal around and interact without a single person passing judgment. The same interactions between those of opposite genders are viewed as flirting or being otherwise involved with each other.

Why can two male Soldiers walk together to work every day and not have people whispering about them sleeping together' Does that strike an unfair note with anyone else' Should a female Soldier in a unit full of males be told to go out and make female friends because it appears inappropriate for her to constantly be in the company of males'

I'm the senior enlisted Soldier in a unit of all males. Trust me, I'm the last person to raise the pink flag of femininity and say that I'm treated differently because I'm a girl. To my Soldiers, I'm just one of the guys, which is all right by me. But, for some reason, people looking in are downright disturbed to see a female constantly in the company of male subordinates. Yes, my time with my subordinates should be limited to work or Soldier related events, but it should be because they are junior to me not because they're boys.

My concern is in those who contort any sharing of common interests or any sort of bond between males and females as only sexual. This view is immature and works against building morale and cohesion in the force. As if girls and guys are so incredibly different that they can only be brought together by the primal need to procreate.

I understand that forbidden relationships do occur. However, not everyone is on the prowl. Some people are in search of a perfectly platonic soul mate or just a buddy to sit around with and count down the days to redeployment. Are we a society so embedded in drama, gossip and negativity that we can't fathom a relationship between two people as being anything more than sexual or for career progression'

To say that males and females should separate themselves based only on what's below the belt is gender segregation and sex-based discrimination. Both of those, I'm pretty sure, are violations of Army policy. Soldiers are supposed to be treated equally regardless of race, religion or gender. If you don't treat Black, Hispanic or Asian Soldiers differently than white Soldiers, then why the gender differentiation' Let's all start seeing things in green instead of pink and blue.

Page last updated Thu March 27th, 2008 at 06:26