Women have fought alongside the US military for generations. However, it wasn’t long ago that women started getting recognition for the work they have contributed during their time serving the country. This Women Veterans Day, we want to highlight some of the challenges and how women have overcome these hurdles throughout the years.
Early days of women in the military
From taking on the male roles in WWI as farmers, ranchers, and drivers to making names for themselves as soldiers themselves in WWII and beyond, women have played a considerable part in the success of our country and its battles. Male counterparts and civilians often mocked and dismissed women soldiers’ contributions to WWII. However, they also ended up as prisoners of war and medal recipients. These brave women were not respected or taken seriously as soldiers. Many of them found it difficult to find work upon returning home.
Furthermore, their toughness, skills, and performance convinced military officials that women were a great asset to the armed forces. Women’s role in the US military has evolved immensely over the years. They now account for over 15% of the branches. It has become more common to see women in uniform, but they still face many challenges.
Challenges women face in the military.
While sexual harassment isn’t solely an issue women in the military face, they make up for a significant amount of the reports made over the years. Unfortunately, there are far more cases of sexual harassment than reported. According to the 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members Overview Report, an estimated 12,927 anonymous active-duty women reported sexual assault within that year caused by other service members. In contrast, about 7,546 men were sexually assaulted in the military that same year. Given women only make up a little over 15% of our armed forces, these numbers are enough to give you chills. VA.gov (2019) reported that women in the military that encountered MST are five to eight times more likely to develop PTSD than their male counterparts.
Sexism is an ongoing issue in everyday civilian life- and it’s no better in the military. Women serving in the armed forces have often reported different types of sexism. There is, of course, more easily recognized sexism where women are discriminated against blatantly. On the other hand, there is benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism, disguised as concern and cradling, is equally harmful as you can imagine. Women in the military enlist to become soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors.
The DACOWITS has recommended changes in parental leave for both men and women in the military. While there is currently active movement on the matter, there’s still a lot of work. Mothers or expecting mothers in the military reported that they are treated differently compared to fathers or expecting fathers. This issue leaves women more vulnerable to exiting their service more commonly than men.
Thank a female veteran!
Our service members deserve our respect and easy access to resources, especially women veterans! If you meet a woman veteran, be sure to say thank you. Thank them for their service and show them the admiration they rightfully deserve. Life in the military, in general, isn’t easy, and women especially face significant challenges while active-duty and retired. Our women veterans have paved a path for our future female service members with scars and blisters on their feet. Those serving now continue to set a standard and change the narrative. We honor you. We thank you.
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