Navy Will Inspect Its Bathrooms for ‘Degrading’ Images of Women

Elizabeth Harrington | June 18, 2013 | 5:16am EDT
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American movie actress Betty Grable models a bathing suit in the most famous pinup photo of World War II. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis/AP Images)

( – In line with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order for troops to have their workplaces searched for “degrading or offensive” materials -- part of an attempt to curb sexual assault in the military -- the Navy will inspect even its bathrooms.

While what’s degrading or offensive is open to interpretation, the material can include song lyrics and “inappropriate cartoons.”

In a memo sent on June 13, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered that all sailors, Marines, cadets and civilian employees have their workplaces searched by June 28.

The “comprehensive visual inspections” of the workspaces conducted by commanding officers will “ensure they are free from materials that create a degrading, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

Such items are “contraband,” the memo says.

According to the order, “Workplaces include but are not limited to: Office buildings, facilities, naval vessels, aircraft, government vehicles, hangars, ready rooms, conference rooms, individual offices, cubicles, storage rooms, tool and equipment rooms, workshops, break rooms, galleys, recreation areas, Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges, and heads.”

“Individuals conducting the inspection will immediately seize and document any contraband discovered during the course of workplace inspections,” the memo says.

“Contraband includes materials that are patently lewd, lascivious, obscene, or pornographic, as well as supremacist images, publications, or materials,” it says.

Those items can include song lyrics, “inappropriate cartoons,” pictures with “inappropriate comments,” and “unprofessional” calendars or posters, according to a spreadsheet template provided to commanders to record their findings.

The searches are a result of an order by Defense Secretary Hagel, after a Pentagon survey found that approximately 26,000 Service members experienced “some form” of sexual assault in 2012.

"[F]ostering a command climate free of all forms of unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment, is  essential to maintaining high morale, good order, discipline, and readiness,” Maybus’s memo says.

The definition of what constitutes degrading or offensive material is broad, and if there is doubt, the inspectors are advised to remove items anyway.

Items that “a reasonable person would consider degrading or offensive,” will be removed and documented.  Personnel can face disciplinary action if they do not comply.

According to the memo, “Degrading or offensive material includes, but is not limited to, documents, logs, books, pictures, photographs, calendars, posters, magazines, videos, props, displays, or other media, including electronic media, that contain inappropriate depictions and are detrimental to a professional working environment.”

“If there is doubt as to whether material is degrading or offensive,” the memo says, “the individual conducting the inspection shall remove the material from the workplace to ensure a professional work environment.”

“For purposes of this specific inspection,” Sailors and Marines will not have their personal items searched.  Barracks, rooms, computers, lockers, cars, and cell phones will be off limits to inspectors.

The results of the inspections must be reported by July 12, 2013, submitted to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy.

The searches will continue regularly -- more than once a year, according to the memo.

All branches of the military are under orders to remove inappropriate materials from work spaces, but the Air Force has made an exception for some of the pin-up art of World War II.

According to a December 2012 Dayton Daily News report, paintings of voluptuous women will not be removed from the nose cones of old planes at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

"That's our history," Col. Cassie Varlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, was quoted as saying.

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