UPDATE: Post-publication of this story, the official Marine Corps Facebook page released the following statement:
"Despite what you may have seen in other headlines, there will be no change to the male uniform cover. Straight from the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos:
1. The President in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover.
2. We are looking for a new cover for our female Marines for one overriding reason: the former manufacturer went out of business.
3. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover."
Crank up the defibrillator: The New York Post is having a coronary over what it says is "Obama's plan" to sissify the United States Marines. "A change to the Marine Corps' uniform hats could take the hard-nosed Leathernecks from the Halls of Montezuma to the shops of Christopher Street," gasps the tabloid in what it calls an "exclusive" article headlined "Obama wants marines to wear 'girly' hats." Christopher Street is a snarky reference to the historical and symbolic center of gay life in New York City.
The Post goes on to claim that "officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines' iconic caps…with a new version that some have derided as so 'girly' that they would make the French blush." Hats aside, from the derisive tone and language, clearly someone doesn't think that either gays or women are tough enough to serve, not to mention the insult to the entire nation of France and our commander in chief, who has nothing to do with this decision.
What the Post does get right is that the Uniform Board is currently seeking feedback from both active-duty members and reservists on whether or not to adopt a universal cover (that's a hat to us civilians). A Marines spokesperson told Yahoo Shine that the Corps periodically reviews uniforms and recommends changes. The options would be either a slightly modified version of the current male cover or a topper with a smaller crown — dubbed the "Dan Daly cap" after a World War I hero, Sgt Maj. Daniel Joseph Daly — which is more similar to the cover currently worn by women. Daly, who twice won the military's highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor, famously led the charge on German troops in the 1918 Battle of Belleau Woods with the cry, "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" Voting ends on Friday, and the Uniform Board will convene on Oct. 29 to consider the results.
The Marine Corps Times chimes in: "The movement to make female uniforms more similar to those worn by men comes as the Defense Department begins to open more roles in combat units to women."
However, similar doesn't have to mean identical. The reality is that, generally speaking, men and women have different physiques. In an editorial for Time magazine, former naval officer Darlene M. Iskra wrote, "I have no qualms about female sailors wearing the cracker-jack [classic Navy] uniform, but let's not forget that women have bumps and curves in places where males do not. Tailor the jumper tops to accommodate the female body. It's not being exhibitionist…it's being realistic. When someone feels good and looks good, they will act accordingly."
What makes sense is letting the soldiers speak for themselves about whether or not to adopt a more unisex appearance — which is what the Uniform Board appears to be doing in the case of the hat options. This seems particularly important for the Marines, for whom appearance is deeply important. "Tradition is more than just a word to the Marine Corps. It's honestly what separates us from the other branches of military," a sergeant who preferred to remain anonymous told Yahoo Shine. "Tradition ties directly to appearance, how an individual Marine looks in or out of their uniforms." Another Marine, former staff sergeant Andre Cato, agreed, "It seems absurd to change the cover. As far as tradition goes, we go way back and it's a very big value." He added, "Females are perfectly happy with their uniform, as are males. It would be like trying to fix something that's not broken."
And in the unlikely event that the Uniform Board decides to change to a unisex hat? Let's recall Daly himself. His so-called girly hat didn't diminish his bravery or bluster one bit.
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