[Flower & Bee, 2015]
The Honorable Ray Maybus, Secretary of the Navy has issued a memo calling for an "update" on how to make titles and ratings in the US Navy more gender neutral. [See HERE]
The status of "Midshipman" may very well be on its way out - as well as "Bosun's Mate" ( I assume), and all the other time honored, traditional titles by which men and women have been classified for hundreds of years.
It's actually been underway for quite a while. As technology has progressed some ratings that I knew as a junior enlisted man prior to commissioning have been replaced by other titles that are completely genderless, thus "Radarman" (which is what I was) is lumped into the category "Electronics Technician."
Quite frankly, in the overwhelming majority of these cases I don't much care. But when it comes to certain ones - among which are Midshipman & Bosun's Mate - I consider it just plain wrong to let them go.
These titles are tradition bound and history provoking categories that tie the present to the past in a good sense. Midshipmen in the 1600's & 1700's could be as young as 10 or 12. They were bunked in the "mid-ship" region of the ship just as the "top-men" (sailors who handled the very top sails on the old square riggers) bunked with the other sail handlers in the "fore-ship" berthing. These young midshipmen were commissioned as such and entitled to their own "mess" but they were not truly officers and ate in the officers' mess only by invitation. They were "officers in training" and for some of them that was an elusive goal. It was possible for a man to be a midshipman for his entire career.
But the incredible thing was that these young boys were often put in charge of boarding parties, leading swarthy bosun's mates, armed to the teeth with cutlasses and dirks, to take possession of enemy vessels.
The point is, the title is not tied to a technical skill, it is tied to traditional military capacity or classification and to the honor, service and duty that was required in it. There comes a point when changing stuff just to be changing it looses, in a barely perceived manner, a knot that holds fighting units together. Traditions are important - the sense of continuity in a centuries old history is important - the pride of standing where men and women, just like you, have stood and doing your job as they did it - is important.
Breaking links with the past, especially when there is no urgent necessity to do so, should simply not be undertaken lightly for sometimes, when the crisis hits, honor and tradition make the difference between victory and defeat, life and death.
Leave the Mids alone... and give the Bosun's back their cutlasses. Enough of this crazy idea that "now" is the only thing we have, that "yesterday" is forgotten and "tomorrow" is not guaranteed.