Did Ms. Vicki Column Just Spread Bad Stereotypes?


By now I’m sure you’ve read or at least heard about Military.com’s recent “Ask Ms. Vicki” advice column “Where Is My Army Wife Pay?”. In case you haven’t, the short (less whiny) version is this: a woman claiming to be married to an Army officer wants to know why she hasn’t received her spousal stipend for the length of their marriage (four years) and griped how its absence was contributing to their inability to live a lifestyle that she was accustomed.

While many people felt it was a hoax, Ms. Vicki’s editors and Ms. Vicki have said they believe the woman’s email to be genuine. But the editors declaring the letter’s writer to be legitimate has fueled the fires once again for the military wives stereotypes to make the rounds.

If you’re a military wife (odd how none of these are ever applied to husbands), I’m sure you’ve heard all the stereotypes before:

We feed on drama and gossip

We’re lazy and stupid

We’re entitled and gold diggers

We get married for the benefits

We’ll cheat on our husbands before the plane to Afghanistan leaves the runway.

All stereotypes are bred in fact: there are some lazy, gossipy, entitled, cheating spouses in the military community. There are some spouses that may not be stupid but certainly lack even the smallest degree of common sense and maturity.

But just like any other stereotype, this is the exception not the rule. The drama queens are certainly not a myth - I’ve met many. But the numbers of sensible, mature spouses far outweigh them.

And it should be pointed out that the same types of people can be found outside the confines of the military, heck there are many reality TV shows about these real housewives.

Some have argued that Ms. Vicki and her editors shouldn’t have publicly answered the email, that they are perpetuating the stereotypes, encouraging the attention seekers a sought after spotlight.

But in this instance, this woman needed to be informed of the facts. That, for example, there is no spousal stipend.

In my five years as a spouse (not counting the two years we dated), I have heard first hand some pretty outrageous misinformation. If I was told I was to receive a stipend for the entire length of my marriage and hadn’t, I’d be upset as well. Would a quick search through Google have told this woman that there is no such thing as a spousal stipend? Absolutely! But you certainly can’t teach common sense.

I’m all in favor of Ms. Vicki and her editors continuing to answer some of the more dramatic spouses.  Sure the attention seekers are getting their fifteen minutes in the spotlight but they’re also getting a healthy dose of factual information and a reality check.  Ms. Vicki was polite but told this woman she needed to stop playing the martyr and grow up, marriage is so much more than a fairy-tale wedding day.

Ms. Vicki’s words may just fall on this woman’s deaf ears but they make speak to another person considering becoming a military spouse.

Ultimately it comes down to using the drama for the good of others and ignoring those who believe the stereotypes are true of all of us.

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