Under the Radar

Sound Off: Is It Time to Give Midshipmen a New Name?

"Every time I think the PC Police has run out of ridiculous causes, they find something else to complain about. They will not be happy until they have ruined our country." 

--Vince Zamaria, an Annapolis resident and midshipman sponsor for over a decade.

On January 1st, secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus issued a memo to the chief of naval operations asking for an "update of position titles and descriptions to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these positions." He also wrote: "Please review the position titles throughout the Navy and ensure that they are gender-integrated ... removing 'man' from their titles."

Back in 1976, when women first enrolled at the Naval Academy, the brass just decided to call them "midshipmen," but times have changed and the Pentagon is aiming to make the United States military gender-blind.

Some readers of The Capital in Annapolis are irate about the coming change (including Mr. Zamaria quoted above). "I'll be fine with 'midshipperson' once females are upheld to the same physical standard and males can have long hair," wrote another reader.

It's not just the Naval academy facing a change: jobs like construction man, Corpsman and Torpedoman will also be changed under the new rules.

Folks in West Point are enjoying the controversy, since the Army had the foresight to use the gender-neutral "cadet" way back in the day.

Suggested new terms include mid, midshipperson, midshipmate, middie, subensign or ensign junior grade. The Navy has refused to comment on what names it's considering.

So, here's the question: can "midshipman" just be declared a gender-neutral term so everyone can get on with things? After all, haven't women at Annapolis have been called that for 40 years without much drama or trauma? Or it it fair that the new standard be applied uniformly across the service branches? If they're changing the name, what should it be? Sound off!

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