Posted by: joshjasper | March 6, 2010

The Power of Words

Thank you to the Marines at Camp Pendleton for the last two days.  I had the opportunity to work with men and women that wake up every morning knowing that they may be asked to risk their lives for their country.  We spent the last 48 hours exploring leadership, the band of brothers, core values, and how language influences our behavior for the sole purpose of eliminating sexual and domestic violence. 

We met with the Marines to teach the Mentors in Violence Prevention program, (MVP) which focuses on the role of the bystander.  The bystander in any given situation holds great power.  Our hope for the Marines was that they would truly appreciate the role they play as leaders within their unit and within their respective communities.  One leader can, and must always be an active bystander.  This active participation can positively influence the behavior of many. 

During the discussion of how words impact our behavior, one of the female Marines shared the following: “I’ve been in the Marines for 12 years and I have learned that a woman in the Marines Corps is only one of three things.  You are either a bitch, a ho, or a dike.” 

Can you imagine volunteering to join the United States Marine Corps, to serve more than 12 years in an organization that you truly believe in, and to be willing to sacrifice your life for your job only to be placed in the three categories mentioned above by the people your work with?  After the woman in the training shared her thoughts I started to think about every other woman who is not a Marine but still feels like she is put into those misogynistic and homophobic categories.  

What do we gain by treating women this way?  Surely the reward must be great for such ongoing behavior or it wouldn’t persist like it does.  The answer is of course obvious.  It’s for the same reason racism, classism, and any other of the “isms” exists.  We use words like bitch, ho, and dike to control someone and to obtain a sense of power over another person. 

It was inspiring to see the other Marines provide support and empathy for the woman that had shared her experiences.  Without a doubt the students left yesterday with a new perspective.  They left with their certificates in hand filled with the knowledge and skills needed to positively influence the lives of many.

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