Dear Female Service Member: We are Better than THIS!

Foreword by Babette Maxwell, Founder and Executive Editor

Now, I’m going to warn you, as I did earlier this week…this will get your juices going.  I’d bet every person will read this and takeaway some version of being pissed off.  And, that’s ok.  We expect it. 
 
But, I urge each of you to REALLY think, as you are reading.  Think hard about this one.  Is it true?  Is the comment you are wanting to post honestly what you mean?  I would ask you to read this whole article.  Then, think about it.  And, then?  Read it one more time.   Slowly.  There will be points where you will want to stop reading, scream at your laptop and utter a few unsavory things.  DO. NOT. STOP!  KEEP READING. 
 
When you get to the end…be honest.  Be truthful with yourself and with everyone else. 
 
This is not an attack on men or service members, male OR female.  This is a take on stereotypes, what it feels like to be on both sides of it, and whether or not it even has a place in today’s community. 
 
I don’t think it does.  Remember:  Part of fixing a problem is first identifying it, giving it a name.  We have to let it breathe…in order for it to heal. 
 
We MUST fix this…it is up to you and to us. 

 


 

Author: An Anonymous Military Wife

We are not your enemy. And you are not ours.

And yet, there seems to be this hate/hate thing going on between us – “us” being women in uniform and military wives like me. Funny thing is, I don’t see the same tension between male service members and military husbands. They seem to be able to live and let live. But we go all “mean girls” on each other, don’t we?

Every. Chance. We. Get.

Maybe it’s because we’re a young population and many of us are fresh out of high school, that proving ground where American women first learn how to sharpen our spears. But I suspect it’s deeper than that. I think it’s because we’re all girls living in a boy’s world, and none of our positions are secure.

Put two of us in a room together, even two wonderful examples of us – two delightful, accomplished, respectful, lovely women wearing civilian clothes –  and, still, the tension becomes palpable from the moment that we learn of the others connection to the military. It’s even the case within the wife-world when those of us who have only been married to the military learn that a fellow wife used to, herself, serve. That admission of a previous life in uniform is nearly a conversation ender. And why is that?

Sex – both the act and the gender term – is powerful. And in our Lord-of-the-Flies universe, sex is used against us, sometimes even by us.


 

I’ve never been in the military so I’ve never been privy to the discussions that I assume take place in your ranks about military wives. I can only guess at why our simple existence seems so offensive to some of you. But I know that many of you view many of us with hostility; I know this because many of you don’t even try to hide it.

We go to a unit picnic and your shoulders are colder than the drinks. We don’t get that from the men in uniform there. Online you label us as “Dependapotamus”” and you mock us for our weight, our clothes, our kids – for the sometimes painfully and, admittedly, sometimes small lives that we’ve managed to cobble together with the scraps that are left from all the moves and deployments. You ridicule us for not having careers of our own – the one thing many of us would desperately love to have. But our weight seems to be your favorite topic, the same pounds we’d love to shed if we could figure out how to exercise with little children in tow. We’re doing the best we can do, and that puts us right at the center of your crosshairs.

I won’t lie. We are no better. We talk bad about you, too, and I suspect that our shoulders seem just as icy when you meet us. Our favorite refrain is that you are all either lesbians or lazy sluts. And the lesbians we don’t mind so much…We delight when the male service members around us talk negatively about you. We hang on their every word. We egg them on when they complain that a female shammed out on duties or used femininity to get her way. (With no mention, of course, of the males who sham or use masculinity to bully their way through.) We relish every story of females being sent home from deployments for getting pregnant. They call you “Walking Mattresses”, you know – and we love that. We encourage that.


 

Some of us have behaved in ways that rightfully deserve your scorn. There’s a popular stereotype of a loud-mouthed, bossy military wife who tries to use her husband’s rank to get her way. I can understand why that would put you off, it puts me off, too.  And then the  “Jody” stories and the tales of mops on balconies signaling that an Army wife is alone and available … (And, really, how does that even work? And who still has a mop? Does a Swiffer mean the same thing? And considering the nosy nature of military bases, who would even dare?) Or the ugly stories of “tag chasers” – women who see a soldier as nothing more than a payday. (That one always amuses me, considering that many in the junior enlisted ranks qualify for WIC and even senior officers would earn far more in a comparable civilian job. With a whole world of men to choose from, only an absolute failure of a gold-digger would set her sights on someone who makes just $24,000 a year.)  There must be some truth to the myths, though, else they wouldn’t be so prevalent. But most of us aren’t like that. Most of us are nice women, just trying to live our own lives and take care of our families. Most of us are in this life because we married a man we love, a man who happened to be in the military. Most of us had no clue what we were signing up for when we said “I do,” and we would opt out of military life in a heartbeat – except for the fact that we love that man who loves to serve.

And, in my heart-of-hearts, I really believe that most of you are nice people, too. Every time – without exception – I’ve been able to talk and get to know one of you, we’ve found common ground. Some of you are my very dear and treasured friends. No, I believe that you signed up because you wanted to serve your country, wanted college money, or you were enamored with the type of career the military would allow you to have – or some combination of the three. I really, deep down, believe that you didn’t set your entire life on such a chaotic, dangerous, unwelcoming course simply to sleep around and to con people into doing your work for you.

You’re smarter than that. I’m smarter than that. And yet we’ve all been acting so … dumb.


 

But here’s the one brutal fact we all know: The military doesn’t really want or need any of us, any women, that is. This is what makes all of us so insecure. On my end, people still like to say that if military wives had been needed, we would have been issued. And, regardless of your effort, professionalism and sacrifice,  your merits and contributions as service members get debated on national TV and around water coolers. I can only imagine that it stings to finish a hard day – a hard deployment – and hear people questioning if your presence is even necessary. Actually, I don’t have to imagine how that feels – I live it, too.

Fact is, the military could exist without any of us – something we are all constantly reminded of and belittled by. That’s the irony, really, isn’t it? The boys have found one simple weapon that works against all of us and, like the good soldiers they are, they’ve weakened us by dividing and conquering. They’ve kept us all in check by keeping us all insecure. And, ignorantly, we’ve gone right along with them, handing them the very ammunition they needed – to use against other women, other women who really should be our allies.

The history books are full of women who used sex as a weapon: Delilah, Cleopatra, Mata-Hari… But here and now, we’ve let the boys use our sex against us. They’ve reduced us all to being just our sex. To them, you are just a girl, just good for sex, just in the military because political correctness demands it. Your presence is accommodated and tolerated, but not welcomed. And we wives cheer them on every time they say it.

And to them, we are just wives, just good for sex, child-rearing and housekeeping, just here because soldiers wouldn’t reenlist if doing so meant foregoing family life. We are accommodated and tolerated, but we are not welcomed. And you, their co-workers, thrill in these comments and delight in keeping us down.


 

No credit is extended to you for the nuances and strengths that you bring to a modern military tasked with nation-building missions that are much different than the scorched earth missions of the past. Little acknowledgment is extended to the masses of you who perform professionally and honorably, who chose to use your considerable intelligence in the service of your country, instead of for personal gain in the private sector.

Likewise, no credit is given to us for sacrificing our own personal and professional ambitions in order to buttress an all-volunteer military during our nation’s longest war. Little acknowledgement is made for the 20 – or more – years of our lives many of us have agreed to allow the Department of Defense to dictate, with no expectation of receiving any retirement benefits of our own. Little respect is extended for those of us who manage these challenges well, who raise children worthy of the sacrifices we all are making. No one applauds us in the airport, because no one even knows who we are.

The only winners in this war within the sex are the men, those men who would prefer to exist forever in that Lord-of-the-Flies, state. They get to sit back, enjoy the catfight, and laugh at – but not with – us all.

It’s as if we think that our own positions will be more respected and secure by denying respect and security to the other. And aren’t we all smarter than that?

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