What’s the biggest stereotype about military spouses?
That we are all female. We totally missed it in our list of Military Spouse Stereotypes We Hate Most.
Sociologists would have a field day with that one (not to mention the assumption that all milspouses are straight). They would probably say that unconscious social rules like these are the ones that have the most power over us-- simply because we fail to see them.
So, of course, our male spouse readers called us on it. They told us about feeling marginalized and ignored and shut out. They told us about invitations to social events that were open to everyone yet closed with “See you ladies soon!”
Our female service member readers agreed with them. They told us about going to a job fair and having everyone assume that the male was the service member. And how they felt that the women who are at home get all the accolades and help while their own husbands got nothing.
Why are male spouses so underserved?Why are male spouses so underserved anyway? Don’t they have the same rights and privileges as female spouses? Didn’t we change the name to “military spouse” instead of “military wife?”
Sure. But as our readers are telling us, the stereotype persists that all spouses are female and that male spouses are unnecessary or even unwelcome. How does that happen? Let us count the ways....
1. The numbers are against them.To start with, the sheer numbers are against male spouses. According to the Department of Defense, about 15% of active duty members are female and about half of them are married. Of the married female service members, nearly half of them are in dual military marriages. In the Air Force especially, nearly a two thirds of all females are in a dual military marriages. Those couples count themselves as two active duty members, not as spouses--male or female.
That leaves very few male civilian spouses. Of 726,500 active duty spouses, 50,104 are male. And only 26,304 are male civilians. If you brought all of male spouses together in Yankee Stadium, you could fill every seat and still have plenty of room for each man to put his nachos and beer on the empty seat next to him.
2. Stay-at-home dads are a rare species.According to the Census Bureau, about 23 percent of married couple families with children under 15 years old have a stay at home parent. Only three percent of those SAHP are male.
In the military, we have a much higher percentage of SAHPs. In my research on long married military families, 64 percent of Navy wives and 68 percent of Army wives married more than 15 years agreed that their primary role in the family was to be a Stay At Home Mom.
When so many friendships are between members of the same gender, this limits possible contacts for male spouses that much more. (Male spouse Dave Etter has a hilarious take on this that will come up on SpouseBuzz this Saturday--look for it!)
3. Getting “help” is not based on skill.One of the complaints we often hear is that male spouses don’t get the same help as female spouses. It could be that there just isn’t that much help available out there for military famlies. No one is calling around offering free babysitting these days—to males or females.
Moms tell us that when it comes to getting that necessary help, it is often a case of beg, barter or blackmail. They have to work their relationships to find someone who wants to trade or someone who will share the name of the only available sitter in town.
It isn’t easy. But you could make an argument that working these kinds of relationships is one of the things women are trained to do from the cradle. Male society doesn’t work the same way. So when males are working that same network across genders, it is harder.
So what is the solution?Most of our male spouses, while annoyed by the all-female stereotype, are pretty good sports about the whole thing.
“Y'all always forget about us men,” said Rodney, a SpouseBuzz reader. “It's okay though. I always get this. Especially because I, a man, must be able to do all the men things including learning to do a girls hair and cut a boys hair. I've burned up quite a few Super Dad capes in my day, but it's all good. I got over it really quick and adapted. Moving on.”
And they do move on. Move forward. Keep going. I respect that.
But I can also see that no matter what the numbers say, that one male spouse you have in your unit counts as one. His one is just as important as my one and your one.
So maybe when we can see how the numbers are not working in favor of the male spouse, we could be a little more generous in inviting them to events. We could see them and know they even more on their own than we females are. We could watch our assumptions.
I promise that I will. And when I don’t, I count on our readers to keep me honest.