Earlier this week a series of photographs of sweaty men climbing a greased up phallic symbol went ’round the blogosphere. The pictures were of a naval tradition: at the end of their first year, students enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy come together to climb a monument covered in lard. In a ritual designed to mark their completion of their first year, they swap a newbie’s sailor’s hat for the next iteration of their headgear, one that looks a little bit more like the one worn by naval officers.
What was interesting to me about the series of photos is the absence of women. It might not immediately strike you as odd — given that, symbolically, the U.S. military is a strongly masculine space — but, in fact, 31% of the USNA class of 2015 is female. So almost one in three of the students pictured should be female. But they are almost entirely absent and are never featured close up. Shots of the crowd of students suggest that this wasn’t the photographers’ choice; even among the students on the ground, women are few and far between. They weren’t excluded from participation, since we see one here and there. So, where are they? What kept them from participating in this time-honored tradition?
Pictures that might include a woman:
Lots more photos at Buzzfeed.