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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Good piece on women and gender discrimination in the military

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Author Topic: Good piece on women and gender discrimination in the military
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I just finished, and really appreciated, this piece at RH Reality Check discussing some critical issues and imbalances for women in the military around gender, reproductive health and justice, birth control and general safety.

A couple of the comments on that page though? Shudder.

[ 06-24-2009, 11:56 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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That is a very difficult-but-important piece. Thank you for sharing.

I come from a military family and very seriously considered joining the Army when I was 16/17, although my current political beliefs closely resemble pacifism. (However, I would not call myself a pacifist.) I believe this has afforded me a unique opportunity to see both sides. (Of course, there are certainly many more than just two!) I am not going to outline my beliefs but I'll say that they're complicated and not easily put into boxes by either side.

The close family member who was in the military had extremely positive experiences, such as in furthering her education and traveling around the world. My understanding is that she did not face the things mentioned in the article, but I will talk to her about it more. Born in the early-mid forties, she was served mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, when so few career opportunities were available for women: teacher, nurse, secretary, flight attendant... she didn't want to do any of those (with full respect to the women who did choose those paths.) Ironically, gender equality at that time was much stronger in the military than out (as was integration in the military was better than in some parts of the US.) Therefore, you could say that the situation was almost opposite of what the articles describes. However, I know the times have changed and situations different; absolutely, I believe everything in the article and hope, no, demand that things change. That said, I also can see benefits of military service to those women who choose that route; arguably, that means that I *especially* want that fixing.

I think the dialogue necessary for these changes, both in terms of female soldiers speaking out as well as non-military people being heard, is extremely difficult. On one hand, the military doesn't want to lend an ear to naysayers. On the other hand, female servicemembers and their supporters, myself included, often feel very unwelcome and even attacked in discussions with anti-military folk. I have seen online and in-person how a female soldier will speak up and try to represent her experiences in a honest-but-fair light only to have assumptions and stereotypes thrown at them ("You don't seem stupid so why are you in the military?" "How can you stand to be there when bad things happen to you?") so that the discussion strays from the original topic and that person leaves feeling judged and disrespected. Of course, the opposite can happen in more pro-military forums, as you can see from some of those bad comments.

That said, I do hope such positive dialogue occurs; however, I feel we have a long way to go when there is so much distrust and dissonance on both sides, and even demonizing of women soldiers at times. I hope this changes because I would seek to be allies. Still, I cannot say there is a common goal, as in so many causes, which makes action harder to achieve.

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I recently discontinued my training in a military scholarship program.

I didn't know any of the challenges I would have faced trying to obtain adequate contraception, especially since my job would have required me to be overseas for significant periods of times (one of the many reasons I was not thrilled about the program, actually). Since I'm on the pill already, the only reason I would probably take EC is rape...and it just boggles my mind that with that high a risk of rape and, consequently, that much risk of unwanted pregnancy, EC wouldn't be available to me.

For the short time I was in, the sexism did bother me. I was just in training, but over the summer I would have gone out and trained with an actual unit and actual enlisted and officers. Before the end of the school year, the female officers in our battalion sat all the first year female students down and told us how it would be in the fleet. It honestly sounded completely unappealing. Basically, as women, our reputation would be mud the first time we screwed up - or even LOOKED like we screwed up. If we showed interest in anyone, or too many men showed interest in us, we'd probably be labeled as a slut. One of the unit's favorite phrases was 'appearance is reality,' and they'd use it over and over again whenever we talked about fraternization. It was just so...weird.

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[Hey StrangePudding, I'm sorry to hear about your experiences in the scholarship program; upon hearing this, I'm especially glad you were able to get out. (For some reason, I had thought it was something like free tuition for a few years at a civil service job or teaching in an at-risk area but I now understand what type and level of commitment it was asking for.)]
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I dunno if this counts; it's kinda localized. Uhm. I come from a military family as well; back in the day (uh, around 1930-50, so waaaaay back in the day; before I was a gleam in the gleam in my grandparents eyes), Alaska had gender equality for a lot of professions that don't have such a good rep now; mining, heavy engineering, and weirdly enough the military; I think the best sharpshooter to come out of the state until 1964 or so was not only a woman, but also the local prom and square dance queen, and Alaska also was the only state that I know that had a complete unit of women guerilla's that assisted the territorial guard in the battle for the Aleutian Islands.

That being said, times have changed, and from what I've heard from a friend and what the article up above reinforced, now is a really bad time to be in the military, especially for women. A friend of mine told me that the lower ranks don't start off segregated or anti-female; that it's mostly a rigorous period of abuse and distrust drilled into their heads by their superiors, even female(!) superiors who, having reached a place of safety in the hierarchy, no longer have to abide by normal rules.

My grandfather always used to say that the worse part of the military was the chain of command, and as long as we have a deeply set-in-their-ways chain of command (or even a chain of command at all), the ability for women to succeed in the military seems pretty limited, to say nothing about basic rights, unit integration, and equality. I'm glad you could get out, StrangePudding, and hope things take a turn for the better for ya in the future.

Posts: 7 | From: Аляска | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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