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'Don't Say the 'F' Word': Air Guard discusses women's issues, progress in military

Capt. Dana Grigg, Nevada National Guard assistant judge advocate, speaks March 7 during the “Don’t Say the ‘F’ Word" discussion at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Emerick (released).

Capt. Dana Grigg, Nevada National Guard assistant judge advocate, speaks March 7 during the “Don’t Say the ‘F’ Word" discussion at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno. Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Emerick (released).

RENO, Nev. -- "Feminism" is more than a divisive term often flippantly tossed around on cable talk shows or social media for political gain, said Capt. Dana Grigg, Nevada National Guard assistant judge advocate.

"For me, it represents a person, whether male or female, who believes women are people and not less than that," Grigg said.

To establish a conversation on feminism during Women's History Month, Grigg invited Mary White Stewart, a University of Nevada, Reno sociology professor, to speak at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno on drill weekend. The event titled, "Don't Say the 'F' Word," included a roundtable discussion on issues affecting women in the military.

The idea for the discussion originated while Grigg was on maternity leave last year and noticed many of her friends on social media used "feminism" as a derogatory term, she said. Feminism represents a multifarious movement, not simply driven by narrow ideology, she said.

Stewart echoed Grigg's sentiments during a lecture on the history of the women's movement, from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 to the 19th Amendment in 1920 to equal pay issues today.

Concluding her lecture, Stewart advanced the notion that the military is in a unique position to lead the nation on women's issues -- more so than many other national insitutions.

"The military may well be in the best position to lead the rest of the nation through the last steps of equality and equity," said Stewart, author of several books that examine violence against women.

She added: "The military has made an obvious effort to incorporate women. It's also had to address very visible problems, like the problems of sexual harassment in the military and sexual assault."

Along with its openness on such issues, the military's rank structure provides a hierarchical system that shifts focus from stereotypes of men and women in the workforce, Grigg said.

"In the military, we are judged by rank, respected by rank, but there is no male or female in rank," she said.

After Stewart's lecture in front of about 50 Airmen in the base dining facility, a roundtable discussion followed. It included:

Col. Shanna M. Woyak, 152nd Airlift Wing Medical Group commander
Chief Master Sgt. Linda J. Simons, material management superintendent
Col. Barbara C. Morrow, 152nd Maintenance Group commander
Senior Master Sgt. Michelle L. Anderson, 152nd Intelligence Squadron superintendent

The women took questions and reminisced when they weren't as readily accepted in the Air Force because of their sex.

"We've progressed and I'm very happy to be a part of this organization," Anderson said.

Although Grigg said the military has made strides, it must maintain a certain cognizance that promotes equality.

Nationally, the military remains predominantly male, and this is no different in the Nevada National Guard. The most recent data shows men outnumber women nearly 4:1 (3,383 to 869).

Grigg said she wants to continue the discussion in the future and diversify the audience with more junior enlisted and officers of both branches, Army and Air.

"We're hoping to start a conversation," she said. "It would be nice to do something at least annually. This is just a jumping off point."