Books: December 20, 1995
Rocking the Boat
ROCKING THE BOAT
Women's struggle for equality and respect in the Navy
Tailspin: Women at War in the Wake of Tailhook
Jean Zimmerman '79
In February 1948, then-Secretary of Defense James Forrestal '15 testified at a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, calling for women serving in the military to receive equal status as men. "Women in the services have proven their value and their capacity," stated Forrestal, a former World War I Navy flier and the secretary of the Navy during World War II. "They should be given equal rights with male enlistees and male officers. If we are going to use women in the armed forces, we should go the whole way and give them identical status and benefits as men."
If only Congress had heeded this Princetonian's advice and gone all the way. But it didn't, and, instead, voted to integrate women into the military with certain restrictions. Over time most were lifted, except one: the ban on women serving in combat positions aboard ships, in warplanes, and on the front lines. That exclusion, Jean Zimmerman '79 persuasively argues in Tailspin: Women at War in the Wake of Tailhook, contributed to what happened 43 years later at the 1991 Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas.
"Tailhook, an event that called out for change, was itself an aftershock of a seismic change within the aviation community," writes Zimmerman. "Women had entered and irrevocably transformed what had heretofore been a closed clique. No longer was naval aviation a place where men were men and boys would be boys. But the men just kept clinging to their old world, and the boys went on acting like boys."
Zimmerman places the Tailhook scandal in the larger context of the experience of women in the Navy. It's a fascinating yet disturbing account that Zimmerman researched with the Navy's cooperation, conducting nearly 500 formal interviews and going aboard several vessels. The result is a detailed, well-written narrative that blends character sketches, historical background, and analysis. It's a behind-the-scenes glimpse at a world rarely seen, or else glamorized by movies like Top Gun.
Zimmerman recounts in gripping detail the gauntlet and other sordid events that occurred on the Hilton's third floor that Labor Day weekend. Yet what is equally disturbing is her portrait of the atmosphere encountered by women who wanted to fly.
She explores what she calls "the crucial relationship between respect and responsibility." As she observes, "women of the Navy, whether on the third deck of the Hilton or in the ready room at Miramar, would never be respected by their male peers unless and until they were allowed commensurate responsibilities." Tailspin is filled with examples of women being treated as second-class citizens, from male counterparts who questioned their abilities to "blame the victim" innuendo in the wake of the sexual assaults that occurred at Tailhook.
She also chronicles the twists and turns of the Tailhook investigation, from an admiral's initial reluctance to follow up on Paula Coughlin's reports to the fallout of who was punished and why. The bungled and protracted investigation is in itself a telling story of how women are treated in the Navy. For the most part, investigators met with a wall of silence. As Zimmerman asks, Is it surprising that it's difficult to get answers out of people who have been trained to withstand enemy interrogation?
While Tailhook presented opportunities for reform, it also opened up the possibility of lifting the combat exclusion for women. When the ban was finally revoked in April 1993, it signaled, Zimmerman writes, "a fundamental shift in the relationship between the sexes." Finally women have what Forrestal advised in the first place: equal responsibility and equal rights for those working side by side. But will women now be accorded respect?
Among the many people profiled in Tailspin, Kara Hultgreen is a vivid example of the type of woman who wanted to fly: the fighter chick. She's always wanted to go fast, she's tough, she's one of a few women who entered the jet-training pipeline in 1989. Yet when Hultgreen arrived on the Hilton's third floor that Friday night, she was mistaken for a hooker. She laughed at the men's ignorance.
And when Hultgreen dies while flying an F-14 Tomcat in October 1994, she isn't eulogized as the first female pilot. Instead, as Zimmerman reports, "a series of anonymous faxes sent from somewhere within the Navy impugn[s] (falsely, as it turned out) Hultgreen's flight record." Even in death she's treated differently than her male colleagues. Although the combat ban has been lifted, which shows how far the Navy has come, the reaction to Hultgreen's death demonstrates how far the Navy still needs to go.
-Robin L. Michaelson '89
Robin Michaelson is an editor at Macmillan Publishing in New York City.
A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History
Albert J. Raboteau (professor of religion)
Beacon Press, $23.00
White Christian settlers heralded America as God's New Israel and used the Exodus story to exaggerate the new nation's destiny. For the slaves, the biblical story held a far different meaning: They were old Israel, "suffering bondage under a new Pharaoh." This chasm between black and white interpretation is just one of the keen observations made by Professor of Religion Albert J. Raboteau in A Fire in the Bones. This collection of nine essays, some new, some previously published, offers thoughtful insight into the history of African-American faith, the role of religion in the black struggle for social justice, and the black search for autonomy in white-controlled denominations. Raboteau also undertakes to explain the black minister's chanted sermon, in which style is content. This fine collection accomplishes the important task of sharing the "sorrow merging into joy" that characterizes African-American Christianity and, as Raboteau set out to do, gives us a clearer picture of who we are as Americans.
Rebecca Goldstein *77
Mazel, or luck in Yiddish, guides the life of Sasha Saunders and is the theme of the rich fifth novel of that name by Rebecca Goldstein *77. Mazel begins in New Jersey, with Sasha; her daughter, Chloe, a classics professor at Barnard; and Sasha's pregnant granddaughter, Phoebe, a mathematician at Princeton. Goldstein, however, leaves behind the fascinating interplay between these three generations and moves the novel to Poland to give a detailed account of Sasha's early life there. We learn about the rural shtetl where she grew up and about her family, parents, and grandparents, a confusing account that led me to keep a lineage chart. Sasha rejects the confining life of the shtetl, and finds her voice and fame in the Yiddish theater in Warsaw before escaping to New York at the start of World War II. At times the storytelling is wonderful, but at other times didactic, especially when describing Yiddish theater. In the end, the layered stories come full circle and return to the "Jerusalem of New Jersey," illuminating Sasha's initial repugnance and final acceptance of her granddaughter's decision to live as an orthodox Jew.
-Jennifer Gennari Shepherd
Jennifer Gennari Shepherd is a freelance writer living in Princeton, New Jersey.
Moral Fiction in Milton
John M. Steadman *49
University of Missouri Press, $42.50
Ethnic Conflict and
Democratization in Africa
Harvey Glickman '52, ed.
African Studies Association Press, African Studies Association, Credit Union Building, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322. $29 paper
Everyone in Dickens, Volume I: Plots, People and Publishing Particulars in the Complete
George Newlin '52, ed.
Greenwood Press, $275
When Strangers Cooperate:
Using Social Conventions to Govern Ourselves
David W. Brown '59
The Free Press, $24
IKKI: Social Conflict and Political Protest in Early Modern Japan
James W. White '63
Cornell University Press, $39.95
The Wounded Storyteller:
Body, Illness, and Ethics
Arthur W. Frank '68
University of Chicago Press, $19.95
Pombal: Paradox of the
Kenneth Maxwell *70
Cambridge University Press, $44.95
The Enemies of Leisure (poems)
John Gery '75
Story Line Press,
$19.95 cloth, $10.95 paper
Peacemaking: Moral and Policy Challenges for a New World
Gerard F. Powers '80, Drew Christiansen, SJ, and Robert T. Hennemeyer, eds.
Orders to U.S. Catholic Conference Publishing Services, 3211 Fourth Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017-1194. $19.95 paper
I. M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism
Michael T. Cannell '82
Crown Publishing Group, $30
Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays
Leigh Eric Schmidt *87 (religion professor)
Princeton University Press, $24.95
Gide's Bent: Sexuality, Politics, Writing
Michael Lucey *89
Oxford University Press,
$39.95 cloth, $16.95 paper
Justice, Liability & Blame: Community Views and the Criminal Law
John M. Darley (psychology professor) and Paul H. Robinson
Westview Press, $56.50
Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of
Jennifer L. Hochschild (professor of politics and public affairs)
Princeton University Press, $29.95
Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and
Deborah Epstein Nord
Cornell University Press, $16.95 paper
Vital Crises in Italian Cinema:
Iconography, Stylistics, Politics
P. Adams Sitney (visual-arts professor)
University of Texas Press,
$45 cloth, $17.95 paper