Sexist comment calling women in the Navy a 'social engineering experiment' is shut down

Elise Solé
One man launched a Facebook debate by calling female submarine officers a “social engineering experiment.” (Photo: Getty Images)

A former member of the U.S. Navy who called female submarine commanders a “social engineering experiment” was shut down for the sexist comment on social media — including by the U.S. Navy Submarine Force.

Earlier this week, the Facebook page for the government organization posted an extended deadline for women already enlisted as sailors to apply for various submarine-related jobs. “Do you have what it takes to earn dolphins?” asked the post, referring to the service’s insignia, a sub flanked by two dolphins.

That’s when Bill Brown, a former Navy officer in Hertford, N.C., couldn’t resist writing, “So glad I am retired and not involved with this social engineering experiment.”

Facebook commenters were quick to point out Brown’s sexism. “You’re just scared that a woman might actually be better than you at something. Stuck in your old ways… enjoy retirement,” wrote one man. Another wrote, “We’ve got a dozen female Rangers. What makes you think they can’t be Sailors?”

Submarine Forces also jumped in, writing, “Bill Brown, integrating women aboard submarines is not a social engineering experiment and it is not something new. Women have been serving aboard submarines in other nations since 1995. The U.S. Submarine Force requires the best and the brightest America has, regardless of gender. Glad you are enjoying retirement.”

Brown retorted, “I again state that I am glad I am retired and don’t have to put up with it. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

The retiree had one defender among the group, a man who offered his unscientific take on why women aren’t suited for submarine work: menstruation. “My vote against it comes from doing time on a tender,” he wrote. “Don’t know if the same rules apply but light duty/rack pass for ‘cramps,’ we are getting underway, the I-might-be-pregnant crowd would show up at medical.”

A woman wrote, “Where do I sign up for LLD [limited/light duty] for cramps?! I’ve been Navy-ing wrong all these years! Clowns.”

And one man replied to both critics, writing, “I have yet to see something get better from exclusion. Your bigoted worldview isn’t welcomed in our Force anymore… it’s for the best that you’re both retired, we need open minds and humility to lead sailors and you seem to be lacking.” Someone else added, “I don’t know a single female who has ever gotten lld for cramps. 99% of the time Doc will toss her a thing of Motrin and tell her to deal with it.”

Brown did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, a spokesperson for the submarine force, says comments like Brown’s are important to address. “It’s our responsibility to recruit the best people, regardless of gender, and we feel strongly that women are more than capable and have the talent to serve in the submarine community,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. 

Current stats show there are 18 U.S. submarine crews with female officers (four of those crews have a mix of officers and junior sailors), and the 19th will be integrated in July. By the end of 2024, there will be 21 crews with female officers and 14 crews with women of varying rank. 

Self-Kyler says the Navy holds annual sexual harassment training. “All sailors are expected to uphold high standards of character and conduct, and to treat fellow shipmates with the utmost dignity and respect regardless of gender,” she says, adding, “For the most part, these women want to go to work and do their job and not be treated differently.”

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