Soldiers guard near a cordoned area in Akersgata, Oslo, July 23, 2011. A suspected far-right gunman in police uniform killed at least 84 people in a ferocious attack on a youth summer camp of Norway's ruling Labour party, hours after a bomb killed seven in Oslo. Witnesses said the gunman, identified by police as a 32-year-old Norwegian, moved across the small, wooded island of Utoeya in a lake northwest of Oslo on Friday, firing at young people who scattered in panic or tried to swim to safety. EUTERS/Berit Roald/Scanpix (NORWAY - Tags: CRIME LAW MILITARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NORWAY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES INNORWAY - RTR2P6S8

U.S. Military, Take Note: Norway’s Unisex Army Dorm Rooms Are Working

According to a new report, coed rooms improve the experiences of both male and female soldiers, and claims of harassment are down

Forcing female and male soldiers to sleep in the same room may sound like an odd way to improve the military’s notoriously poor gender relations, but the Norwegian Ministry of Defense has found success with a pilot program.

According to a new report, coed living arrangements actually facilitate “degenderization,” which helps to de-emphasize gender clichés and improve team morale. “There is no gender in the army. There is only green,” said one of the subjects in the study, “The Army: The Vanguard, Rear Guard and Battlefield of Equality.”

To obtain their findings, researchers Ulla-Britt Lilleaas and Dag Ellingsen looked at a base in northern Norway where unisex dorms were given a trial run—two women and four men to each room. According to Ellingsen, same-sex sleeping arrangements tend to pit one gender against the other. “We create stereotypes about each other,” he says. “But these mechanisms become less obvious with the unisex rooms.”

(Torgeir Haugaard/Norwegian Armed)

The report also claims that incidents of sexual harassment decreased as a result of the new policy—a finding the U.S. armed forces could take to heart. But are unisex dorm rooms really a viable solution for a country like the U.S., whose military experiences 19,000 sexual assaults per year?

Col. Ellen Haring, a 28-year veteran with the U.S. Army, believes such an easy fix sounds a bit too good to be true. “I suspect something else is going on culturally,” she says. “Like better training.”

In the U.S., nearly all barracks are coed, though individual bedrooms are still segregated. Once you are deployed, however, men and women often share the same quarters, especially if the base is in a remote location like Afghanistan. Recently, Haring’s own daughter slept in a room with her male colleagues when she was stationed abroad. “She had to change inside of her sleeping bag,” Haring says. Still, she didn’t seem to mind. As Haring explains, “It’s about being one of the team, rather than one of the boys.”

In fact, she claims that nearly every female soldier she has ever spoken to does not like to be separated from her fellow soldiers simply for the sake of privacy or safety. “It’s a degradation of team cohesion,” Haring says. “And when you’re staying with your whole team, what’s the likelihood of one man acting inappropriately?”

As promising as the Norwegian example may seem, it’s hard to say if the U.S. military will actually tackle the bedroom issue anytime soon, especially when it’s only just desegregating direct combat units. But if it does, let’s hope all male soldiers receive training in the most important of cohabitation protocols: putting down the seat.

 

Respond Now
  • During the initial invasion of Iraq we were co-ed all the way. I was with units that were between 2 and 20 percent female. There was no separation of genders and it wasn’t even an issue. People were respectful to each other, we were all just trying to get through and make it home. When you’re in a tough situation you’re not thinking about who’s hot and who’s not. A few years later I worked on a Duch base in Afghanistan. Things were more settled, there were “bathrooms” rather than holes in the ground etc, and of course being Dutch, it was all unisex. Again … no issues, though that WAS harder for me to get used to, probably because the veneer of civilization was greater there, and for me as an American female, civilization = gender segregation. (which I realize makes minimal sense).

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    • that dash was supposed to be an “equals” sign.

  • … Israel has tried this in 1948 … they soon abandoned it …

  • Bark like a dog.

  • Thanks for ending an otherwise interesting article with a very lame joke stereotypical joke.Sorry, but you’ve got to admit it was really not needed.

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  • Thank god or dog if you prefer for women soldiers. They at least never ever have sexual thoughts about their fellow male comrades and would never ever think to make a sexual inuendo. 

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    • An inuendo is an Italian suppository.

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  • Hitler tried the same thing. Most of the lady soldiers ended up pregnant within six months.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • that was probably the purpose in the first place.

  • Women should be banned from military service. They are sub-par soldiers, and inferior to men in every way. Get them out of the military!

  • Women do not belong in the army other than as clerks, nurses, or week-end hoes.

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    • Have you served? 

  • Take Note Elizabeth Kulze: A few years back, America had a Commander in Chief who couldn’t keep it in his pants when it came to one lowly intern.  You think mixing the sexes of Americans be it in a military dorm, college dorm or where ever, will not be without sexual consequences?!?  We’re talking about Americans for Heaven’s sake.  You know, the kind the Brits described as ‘over sexed, over paid, and over here’!  (of course to which Americans said of the Brits that they were ‘under sexed, under paid, and under Eisenhour’!Also, if ‘There is no gender in the army.’ as is stated in your article.  Why does the American politician continue it’s invasive behavior in forcing their social experiments within the military regarding homosexuals and appeasing atheists?  That’s not cohesion!  That is Liberal policies of so called Progressive politicians who are cramming their world view into the confines of a strict architecture that is the US military.  I’d hate to think what America will have the next time it goes off to war.

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