Air Force's demotion of 'Playboy' model poses questions about morality
Published: Thursday, February 22, 2007
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 17:05
Michelle Manhart, a officer on extended active duty for the Air Force, was taken off duty and demoted last week. Her punishment was prompted by the February issue of Playboy, in which she posed. She has since resigned, after 12 years of service in the Air Force.Now, before I go off on a feminist rant, let me say a few things. Any previous offenses Ms. Manhart committed have not been reported in any articles that I have read about the situation. I have not seen the photos she was in, so I do not know what they look like, though it was reported she partook in pictures with her clothes - in uniform - and without them. I have not heard any instances of a man being involved in risqu pictures, so I do not know if his punishment would be any less. But something tells me it would have been.
The Air Force released a statement that said that Ms. Manhart's conduct did not "meet the high standards we expect of our airmen." Even disregarding the heavily ironic use of the word "airmen," I still have a serious problem with this explanation for the demotion. What, if any, relation does posing for Playboy magazine have with her service in the Air Force? Is she going to fly the plane naked now? Furthermore, they only suspended her after the pictures were published. Therefore after she had posed for them, until the issues publication, the Air Force probably hadn't sensed anything different about her behavior.
If her superiors had never found out about the pictures, nothing would have happened. No one's opinion of Manhart would have changed. And Ms. Manhart, presumably, would have remained in the Air Force. Everything would have continued as usual, as it had since 1994, when she began her service. But because someone found out, opinions of her changed, and suddenly she wasn't considered good enough for the Air Force.
Boiling it down, what the Air Force is saying here is that posing nude caused her to fall below their standards. So now that they know she was in Playboy...what does that mean? She's dirty? Unfit to fly a plane? Not tough enough? What? Ms. Manhart had 12 years to display any sort of flaw that would render her unfit to serve. And yet she didn't. She rose through the ranks and was placed in active duty. That seems an act of trust, on the Air Force's part.
It would be different if the Air Force had a rule that explicitly stated that posing for Playboy magazine was unacceptable. It would be a stupid, unfounded, sexist rule, but then at least her superiors would have a legitimate excuse to demote her. She broke the rule, she was demoted. But they don't even have that!
This situation reminds me of a Victorian-era husband, who, realizing his love is no longer a virgin, becomes disenchanted and disgusted, and refuses to marry her. But the Air Force is not this woman's husband; she is a grown adult, and this is not the Victorian era. It's high time the Air Force grew out of it's old-fashion prejudices and got with the program.
The truth is, Michelle Manhart did nothing wrong. She made a personal decision that should have had nothing to do with her job. Whether people agree with her decision or not is none of their business and certainly it is none of her superior's business.
And even if it was decided by them that posing for Playboy made her an immoral character, so what? Judging by the stories I've read about harassment of female officers by men in the army, it wouldn't seem that she would be the only one.
Of course, and this is my major point, posing for Playboy does not make her immoral, or slutty, or whatever other words sexist morons can think of. It makes her a women confident of her sexuality. But it is just that, it seems, that makes her unfit to serve her country.