Attract military women

Women in the army have so far been seen as a disruptive factor; they provoke sexist slogans and give up earlier on cross-country runs - as far as the prejudice. However, Norway has now found a solution to conflicts between soldiers: They are allowed to sleep in the same room. This ensures relaxation and less sexual harassment. The woman is no longer a woman, but a roommate. Gender is becoming less important - and less attractive, according to a study commissioned by the Norwegian army.

"We were very surprised. We didn't think that the unisex rooms would be okay for the girls," says sociologist Ulla-Britt Lilleaas from the University of Oslo. For the military, she compared two units, one in the north of the country with mixed bedrooms, one in the south with separate rooms. She interviewed ten women and ten men several times. Result: Where the sexes live together, women are more accepted and the team spirit is greater.

The soldiers usually join the army after school at the age of 19, when the men’s one-year military service begins. You run voluntarily, every tenth recruit in Norway is female. Many units now have unisex rooms, but if desired, the soldiers can also move into a man-free room. "But nobody wants that," says Lilleaas. This would make women outsiders themselves. "The unisex spaces make gender stereotypes disappear or become less obvious." The uniform does the rest: "There is no gender in the army," said one of the interviewees. "There is only green."

Sex with each other is forbidden

That could be one reason why there is no sexual contact despite neighboring beds - at least as far as Lilleaas could determine. The soldiers are forbidden to have sex with one another. Anyone who violates this will be transferred. The first shared dormitories have existed since 2008; the northern unit of the study was one of the first. Co-author Dag Ellingsen observed that men's behavior has changed. They were more careful about showering and cleaning regularly, he says. In the only instance of harassment that was noticed in this unit, the soldiers immediately sided with the woman.

The results of the naval unit in the south are completely different. According to Lilleaas, such crude sexist slogans were made here that women soldiers fell ill and two wanted to quit their service. In the all-women room they were isolated from the rest of the troop, they gossiped and argued a lot. Once a female recruit allowed herself to be carried around the lake while running because she could no longer. Another posted a photo of herself in a swimsuit with a soldier helmet on Facebook. Such behavior harms the reputation of all women in the unit, explains Lilleaas.

She believes that unisex rooms will prevail in Norway. They are already standard in neighboring Sweden. But while Sweden has abolished conscription, Norway plans to extend it to women in 2016. Oslo also ensures more equality in other respects: Male soldiers are now allowed to have long hair.