Sunday, November 01, 2009

Helen Benedict Made Me Think.

A few weeks ago I went to a book reading by Helen Benedict, author of, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq. And I can't stop thinking about a few statements that were made.

One out of three females will be raped during their time in the military. Shocking? Yes. Then this fact was stated, one is six females will be raped during their lifetime. Following these statements were a few gasps. This led into a discussion about sexual harassment and assault. Do female soldiers get sexually harassed? Of course. Is that surprising? Not to anyone who has served. Is it surprising to civilians? I guess so. A lady raised her hand and asked, "do the women who join think they won't be sexually harassed or assaulted?" Benedict responded with exactly what I was thinking, "No." When I thought about joining, it never crossed my mind that I was about to enter a world where I would be sexually harassed or that rape, according to that statistic might be inevitable. Was I naive? I'm not sure. The year was 2001 when I joined not 1943. I thought I was entering into a world of equality. Regardless of sex, we were all there to do a job. I honestly didn’t even think of male soldiers before joining. I never thought, “hmm…maybe I won’t purpose a goal because some scumbag will make comments about my ass.” I thought, “basic training is going to suck.”

Any females out there think about being sexually harassed or assaulted before they joined?

Fast-forward ten minutes. Benedict talked about a female she had interviewed. The female soldier made a comment that the male soldiers who sexually harassed her tended to be older and higher ranking. The male soldiers who were her age and close in rank treated her with respect. This got me thinking. Who has continued to drive me nuts in my unit? Oh, yes. A staff sergeant that I repeatedly tell to fuck off. Who hit on my roommate and I overseas? A major, warrant officer, a first sergeant…how was I suppose to tell a major that my roommate wasn’t interested? The same major who was in charge of the Civil Affairs unit I went out on missions with? Completely Awkward.

The soldiers who were close to us in age and rank we were friends with. If they hit on us, we told them we weren’t interested and that was the end of it. I’m not saying this is how it always is. I had a tight group of friends overseas who wanted the least amount of drama and to get home.

Have any of you experienced the same problems with higher ranking? But got respect from those of the same rank?

Fast-forward twenty minutes. Benedict talked about how it’s hard for female to be friends with other female soldiers. It’s the same old story, females find it difficult to trust other females and females have jealousy issues…all the same bullshit that goes on in the real world. A comment was made about females not trusting one another because they think the other one wants their boyfriend. If I could remove part of the female brain it would be the, “I’m crazy and dramatic” part. I’ve seen this a lot in my unit and during my time overseas. This one’s sleeping with that one, but that one is looking at this one. I can not grasp how some soldiers sleep with multiple people in their unit. It’s disgusting. This is where the rumors starts, distrust starts, and division within a unit can occur. I know that if Elaine Donnelly stumbled upon this, she’d be screaming at her computer, “I told you so! Women don’t belong in combat! And I know this because I’ve toured 10 Army bases and three Navy ships in my life! I don‘t even know why people listen to me, I‘ve never served!” So, to the Donnelly’s out there: there are amazing men and women who serve who don’t partake in these outrageous activities. There are some who find their soul mates and stays completely faithful. There are some who never have a relationship with anyone in their unit. It’s just like in the real world. Every society has their fuck ups…don’t punish the others for their whorish actions.

I suppose this was just me thinking out loud. I’m curious if any of you have run into the same problems. The more I read about the perception of women in the military the more I get discouraged. There seems to be an overall thought that women are disrespected, without camaraderie, and end up damaged. Benedict said it best, women are proud of their service to their country. I am proud to have been part of the Army for eight years. I’ve been hit on while serving in the Army. I’ve been hit on as a civilian. Am I suppose to denounce life? The issues that the military has, are the same issues the real world has. I don’t understand why this is still shocking.

(Thank you Helen for allowing me speak at your reading. It means a lot that you want female service members voices to be heard.)


Blogger Akinoluna - a female Marine said...

I complained once on one website because ALL they talk about when it comes to military women is rape and sexual harassment. Yes, it happens. But not to everyone and not all the time. Only focusing on those issues takes attention away from the fact that LOTS of military women enjoy their jobs and enjoy/ed being in the military.

11/01/2009 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger TheAlbrechtSquad said...

I surely didn't come into the military thinking about either one. But I did have to deal with it, many times throughout the 11 years I served. I dealt with so much sexual harassment I spent a lot of time angry. And most of it came from senior leadership. In fact, I can't think of one instance that it came from any of my peers.

It does happen but I will agree with the previous poster, the constant focus takes away from the pride women have in serving. You do have the few that ruin it for everyone, but in my experience, females who serve are pretty happy in their jobs.

I was blessed to meet my husband in the military, and even after getting married, I dealt with so much sexual harassment it put a strain on our marriage at some points, but we are stronger then ever now.

11/02/2009 03:48:00 PM  

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