Being a female service member can come with a lot of baggage. People, including your male counterparts, expect you to act a certain way or fulfill certain roles.
The problem? The stereotypes aren't universally true. And now it's time to debunk them.
Top Ten Stereotypes Active Duty Females Hate
1. We are physically inferior to the men. During the physical fitness test, I often beat the men in my unit. I may not be stronger than many men, but I can hold my own-- thank-you-very-much. Though I am no longer active duty, as a 40-year-old female, I can still pass the Air Force Physical Fitness Men’s test.
2. We get pregnant on purpose to get out of deployments. When I was active duty, to make sure there was no impropriety I made sure that my commanders knew when I was going to try to get pregnant. I waited until we were done deploying before I announced to the command staff that I was no longer on birth control pills.
3. We should get out when we have children. Children and military service is not mutually exclusive. I know several active duty women, who have had children and are perfectly happy serving their country and being a mother. It is like telling women who are working that they should not work. I elected to get out of active duty, and when my son was diagnosed with autism, I resigned my commission. But I, personally, would never judge female personnel for staying in. The military may be a lifestyle, but it’s also first and foremost A JOB
4. We are all gay. Yes, my former career was a male-dominated field, but I am NOT gay. Some service members -- both male and female -- are gay. But saying every female service member is gay is like saying every well-groomed male on earth is gay. It's simply not true. If I am nice to a person that’s the same sex that does not mean I’m flirting with her. If I am nice to a female, who happens to be gay, who wears the uniform, it’s because we have things in common -- we are in the military and female!
5. We all want to have sex with your man. If I am not gay, then I must want to have sex with other married military men. Sorry, the sole reason I joined the military was not to get it on with your husband. I have a one husband limit. Though I have a lot of male friends still in the military, I am not interested in sleeping with them.
6. Military women get raped all the time. I have personally never been raped while serving in the military. I have not been sexually assaulted. The men I have worked with have been (for the most part) very professional, and I would have trusted them with my life. I have no qualms recommending service to my daughter, my nieces, or any other woman who asks me my opinion.
7. Military women cry sexual harassment. Have I experienced sexual discrimination and harassment? Yes. I can name several occasions where I have had experienced different treatment because of my sex (or so I thought it was because it was because of my sex). This happens in almost every career field. Have I ever reported it? No. I should have, but I didn’t think it was worth it. There is a negative connotation toward women who report harassment and discrimination. People find out that you report things, even though it’s supposed to be anonymous, and I didn’t want the negative perception.
8. We don’t need help during deployments. When my husband deployed and I was still stateside, there was a train accident near my home. No one called and checked on me. I ended up being evacuated, and I was sent to the hospital because of breathing issues. I didn't get support or help from either units. Other spouses who lived farther away from the accident got help and support, but because I was active duty, I felt like I was forgotten.
9. When we get out we lose all of our experience and knowledge. As soon as I took off my uniform I became a village idiot. I was treated like a moron by active duty military, and was treated like an outsider by spouses.
10. We don’t like participating in spouse socials. I never got many invitations to socials when I was active duty. The ones I went to, I had a great time. It was nice to get to know the other spouses in the unit (either mine or my husband). I obviously could not go to spouse meetings during the day when I worked, but at night, I would have liked to participate in the unit.
Jodi Vetter is 38 (shh don’t tell anyone, her kids still think she’s 21), a veteran and military spouse. She is the coordinating editor for American Military Autism Support blog, a semi-professional author, a mom to two children, an advocate for adults and children on the spectrum and an avid runner. In her spare time she sleeps and eats.
Photos courtesy of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps.