Female midshipmen will be required to wear pants at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation this year, in a departure from the policy of previous years.
Cmdr. John Schofield, the public affairs officer at the Naval Academy, told the Washington Free Beacon that the policy change was made to ensure “uniformity across the board” among both male and female graduates. Previously, women were allowed to wear skirts.
“The Naval Academy uniform policy for 2016 graduation is pants and chokers for all graduating midshipmen regardless of gender. Skirts, which were a uniform option for female graduates in the past, will not be authorized this year,” Schofield said in an email.
“Uniform policy for female graduates in the past mandated the wearing of skirts. This policy for the 2016 graduation reflects more adherence to uniformity,” he further stated.
The policy change was decided by the leadership at the Naval Academy in close coordination with leaders at the Department of the Navy.
Such a policy is not “uncommon,” Schofield said, as there have been precedents set by other uniform policies at the Naval Academy. He cited the identical class uniforms, Navy Working Uniforms, and Parade Dress Uniforms mandated for both men and women.
“Additionally, genderless uniformity exists with several uniforms in the fleet to include flight suits, coveralls and field camouflage. A uniform policy mandating the exclusion of skirts is not new,” Schofield added.
Female midshipmen will still be permitted to wear skirts at other events, except those where they are already required to dress like their male counterparts in pants and regular uniform shoes, such as at parades and football games.
The policy change comes on the heels of other attempts to ensure gender neutrality in the military, and particularly the Navy. Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered that the military open up all combat roles to women in December, a change that gained support from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
Mabus moved in January to ban Marine Corps’ position titles with the word “man” in them to ensure gender neutrality.
“As we achieve full integration of the force … this is an opportunity to update the position titles and descriptions themselves to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these MOSs,” Mabus wrote in a memo to Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.
“Please review the position titles throughout the Marine Corps and ensure that they are gender-integrated as well, removing ‘man’ from the titles and provide a report to me as soon as is practicable and no later than April 1, 2016.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the integration of women at the Naval Academy. Currently, female midshipmen account for over a quarter of the officers in training at the Academy, the Capital Gazette reported, citing school officials.