West Point Going Gender Neutral

West Point is changing its Alma Mater and most cherished poem to be more gender neutral.

The head of the U.S. Military Academy thinks it’s time to replace the “men” and “sons” in West Point’s two most beloved songs with more gender-neutral lyrics. Lt. Gen. Franklin “Buster” Hagenbeck, superintendent of the nation’s oldest military academy, told a congressional oversight committee Wednesday that with more than 3,000 women graduating from West Point since 1976, the change is long overdue.

During a presentation Wednesday to the academy’s Board of Visitors meeting in Washington, Hagenbeck said he wants to change the words to the military academy’s alma mater and its companion piece, “The Corps.” Both songs date back about a century. In “The Corps,” the proposals include changing “The men” to “The ranks,” and “We sons” to “The Corps.” The superintendent said the changes aren’t being pushed by female cadets, but it’s a commonsense move considering the role women play in today’s military. “When are they going to be recognized for what they’re doing?” he said.

Hagenbeck said he got the idea for the revision two years ago at a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of women being admitted to West Point. He listened as the female alums sang lyrics from the songs that included, “We sons of today, we salute you.”

Hagenbeck has spent the last few months discussing the possible changes with alumni, Army brass and cadets. He said he’ll make the final decision, possibly after graduation ceremonies on May 31 and before the Class of 2012 arrives this summer.

While seemingly trivial, this is a major change to beloved Corps institutions. And West Point loves its tradition. Still, it’s hard to argue that it makes sense, more than a generation after the first females graduated from the Academy, to have cadets chant, “We sons of today, we salute you/You sons of an earlier day.” One wonders if the second “sons” will go as well?

Incidentally, while there’s technically music to go with it, “The Corps” began and exists primarily as a poem. Indeed, I’m not at all sure I’ve ever heard it sung.

Also, if the Supe’s up for making changes to bring these institutions into the modern day, one wonders whether “With eyes up thanking our God” is up for review? Then again, I’m not sure what else will rhyme with “Where they of the corps have trod.”

Story via email tip from Jeff Quinton.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Wow. That’s actually a really big deal. I still remember when the Citadel went co-ed, and the virulent backlash that brought out from (some of) their alumni. I wonder what sort of misogyny this will bring to the surface…

  2. James Joyner says:

    I wonder what sort of misogyny this will bring to the surface…

    Oh, some I’m sure. Mostly, though, the resistance will be of the “tradition for tradition’s sake” variety. Most of the Old Grads have resigned themselves to the Corps going co-ed by now.

  3. I wonder what sort of misogyny this will bring to the surface…

    Always look on the dark side of life…

  4. Floyd says:

    Legion;
    Ever wonder why the words misohomy or masculist are not in the dictionary?
    A little misology, maybe?

  5. Michael says:

    Always look on the dark side of life…

    …and you’ll never be disappointed.

  6. Michael says:

    Ever wonder why the words misohomy or masculist are not in the dictionary?

    Because we already have definitions for “tradition”, “custom” and “default”?

  7. Floyd says:

    Michael;
    At least you are still willing to admit to misology, by substituting facetious nonsense.

  8. Michael says:

    At least you are still willing to admit to misology, by substituting facetious nonsense.

    I’m saying we create definitions for things that are new or different, because they are new and different. We have more extreme adjectives than we have moderate adjectives. We call a noise loud or soft, but we don’t usually label it moderate unless we are comparing it to another noise that is either loud or soft, and sometimes not even then.

  9. Grewgills says:

    Ever wonder why the words misohomy or masculist are not in the dictionary?

    Because the words you are looking for are misandry and masculinist. Check Websters or OED it’s not about institutionalized linguistic unfairness, it’s about poor spelling.

  10. Floyd says:

    Grewgills;
    Thank you for at least a partial correction.
    “misandry” does appear in Webster’s New World dictionary as word
    “modeled on misogyny”
    It does not appear in “Microsoft Encarta Dictionary” or in “The New Century Unabridged Dictionary”
    At any rate, it would really be a misconstruct rather than a misspelling, since the one now appears in A dictionary and the other doesn’t.
    To that extent I stand corrected, thank you.

    As for Masculinist; it does not appear in any of the above mentioned dictionaries in my library.
    “Masculinist” would seem to be the gender equivalent of “femininist”, whereas “Masculist” would logically and more appropriately be the gender equivalent of “Feminist”
    If in fact the dictionary publishers should recognize their existence at some point,which to date they have apparently not done.
    Interesting response, thanks again.
    Incidently, neither “word” is recognized by the spell check.[lol]

  11. Grewgills says:

    Floyd,
    Masculinist is in Websters online dictionary though the definition is not parallel to the definition of feminist. Make what you will of that.

  12. Floyd says:

    Grewgills’
    Interesting addendum….
    Though many of these words are not officially recognized {yet?} they are all over the internet.
    Oddly “misohomy” is often offered as a more appropriate substitute for “homophobia”.
    There are organisations presenting themselves as
    “masculinist” as a part of their name or self description.
    I did find “Masculist” used as an obvious answer to Feminist.
    While I welcome the gradual evolution of the language, I do lament sometimes what appears to be the “babelization” of English.
    [if there is such a word] [lol]

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