February 03, 2003
Stupid Letters

I normally don't post stupid letters from Stars and Stripes, the Military paper published in Europe, because there is a different type of stupidity exhibited by most of the letters with which I disagree. However, there were two today that spun me up. One was a boilerplate anti-Bush screed, accusing Bush of being another "war-hungry Republican". The other one, however, really irritated me. Here it is (letter is not online yet; the Stripes website updates the letters once per week):

I'm writing about the big controversy over servicemembers wearing earrings. I'm an active-duty member of the Army. I also wear earrings and will continue to wear them. I've been wearing earrings for almost 18 years. That's three times as long as I've been in the Army.
The Army preaches that everyone should be their own person, but you can't do this, you can't do that. You need permission to go here or there. You can't wear this or you can't wear that. I'm a grown man. When I'm on my own time, I do what I want. I've been stopped numerous times on my own time and [been] told to take my earrings out, which I don't. I don't need someone to tell me what I can and cannot wear.
All the higher-ups obviously think that wearing earrings is wrong or bad. They're out of touch with reality, because more than 80 percent of U.S. men wear earrings or have a body piercing of some sort. It's common in this day and age.
And what is this double standard? Women can wear earrings, but men can't. That sounds like discrimination toward men. If one looks at the past, one sees that men have been wearing earrings or body piercings for hundreds of years, a lot longer than women have been wearing them.
The higher-ups need to either abolish this regulation or change it so that it's equal all around. That would mean no one in the military, men or women, would be able to wear earrings or body piercings at all, on or off duty.
Benjamin L. Anderson
Kaiserslautern, Germany

Oh, where to begin, where to begin? There's so many points to tackle.

First off, the fact that you have worn earrings three times as long as you have been in the Army is irrelevant. Army regulations prohibit earrings among male servicemembers on base, or while in uniform or on duty, and prohibit any other type of body piercing under any circumstances. The navy's policy is essentially the same. (I am not sure of the policies for the Air Force or Marine Corps, but I doubt they differ much). He knew about the regulations (and agreed to them) before he joined. If the regulations are too much of a burden for him to bear, he should get out of the Army. He's been in for six years, so he must have reenlisted or extended at least once, so it's obviously not an unbearable burden.

He states "I don't need someone to tell me what I can or cannot wear". Obviously, he is mistaken, because he habitually violates the Army's established policies and standards. He notes that it is on "his own time"; sorry, one is a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine 24/7. When it comes to obeying regulations, you are always on duty. (I'd like to see someone try to use such a defense against a positive urinalysis result—"I smoked the joint off-duty, so I can't get busted...").

Anderson then goes on to say that the senior leadership is "out of touch with reality" because they don't share his views of piercing. Whether it's common in the civilian world or not is irrelevant; longish hair and nail polish are not uncommon amongst men in the civilian world, yet are prohibited by military regulations.

The "double standard" squawk is trotted forth whenever there is a disparity in the regulations between men and women, but it's usually the men who snivel the loudest (despite high profile lawsuits by women who have sought equal access). It applies to regulations regarding earrings, hairstyles, fingernail length, and so forth. The women have their own issues to worry about—more expensive clothes (and more uniform styles to maintain), career fields and duty stations that are totally closed to them, and the chauvinistic attitude held by many men who resent having to work with women. Yet the women in the military seldom complain about those issues, while the men cry about not being allowed to wear earrings *ON BASE* or *ON DUTY*.

If one wants to talk about real double standards, I could bring up the different housing allowances for single servicemembers and married, but that is another topic altogether...

posted on February 03, 2003 06:10 PM


I have very little sympathy for this guy. If his self image hinges so much on whether he can be his own man by wearing an earing, he's got a lot worse problems than being in the military. What a petty, stupid thing to bitch about. By doing so, it indicates to me that things aren't too bad for him in the military. Give me a complaint with some substance or just shut up!

posted by Steve Sorensen on February 4, 2003 11:49 PM

What a sad sack of shit.

With that attitude, he doesn't belong in the Armed Forces in the first place, so he'd be doing everybody a favor by getting out the first chance he gets.

Friggin' Cry-baby.

posted by Emperor Misha I on February 5, 2003 06:23 PM

This guy was right... What is so sad is that none of you can give an inch....You beat your wives and ignore your kids... BUT hey, you are cool,, and the guy who wants an earring or a navel ring is wrong? Give me a break. Take a look in the mirror. Get real and get with the times.... YOUR days are over.... There is a younger generation out there who WILL take over,, and if they don't ALL is lost because we will become a nation of has beens.....

posted by wolf cryer on January 26, 2004 02:11 PM

I *am* part of that younger generation. I can deal with people who have body piercings. Most of the guys (and chicks) I work with have piercings, ears and elsewhere. However, the military has rules, and while we may not agree with them, we are expected to abide by them. As I said, this guy is breaking the rules (in fact, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs military behavior, he is breaking the law). The rules may well change, but until they do, we're expected to follow the rules.

The real world is not all that different; most companies have dress codes or the like. Starbuck's requires their employees to cover all visible tattoos while they are working; Walt Disney Resorts requires all male employees to be clean-shaven. If one does not care for the rules of a particular company, don't work for them. It's not a difficult concept to grasp.

As to your little slap against the married with children set--sorry, doesn't apply. Thanks for playing, though; we have some lovely parting gifts.

posted by timekeeper on January 26, 2004 11:25 PM

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