cover image Tailspin


Jean Zimmerman. Doubleday Books, $24.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-385-47789-5

Zimmerman (Breaking with Tradition) recounts how the proud tradition of American seafaring men has been usurped by the strutting, party-animal naval aviator popularized by the movie Top Gun. ``They claim to love women but what the pilots really get off on is the image of themselves they see in each other.'' Her analysis of women's struggle to gain a foothold in the military and her examination of the Navy fighter-pilot culture leads toward the conclusion that the Tailhook scandal was all but inevitable. Her account of events on the third floor of the Las Vegas Hilton over the 1991 Labor Day weekend, when sexual harassment and gang-rape became virtually indistinguishable at the Tailhook convention, is comprehensive and authoritative. She follows this with an inquiry into the legal and personal ramifications for those involved. Using Tailhook as the central event of her argument, she lays bare the antipathy of military men to women in the ranks. Her provocative inquiry into women's efforts to gain acceptance in the military concludes with an optimistic assessment of their likely future in the ongoing struggle. This is an angry book by a freelance investigative journalist of the first rank. Photos. Author tour. (May)