Monday, October 08, 2007

Life as an American Female Soldier

It's not often that we hear first-person accounts of war from women in the military, so my interest was definitely piqued when my friend Neil sent me this Marie Claire article featuring three female Iraq war veterans talking about their experience as soldiers.

After reading it the first time, I had to read it a second, and then a third time, as I found their stories to be so moving. It's so easy to watch the news, listen to the political rhetoric and read the death tolls and not think about the individuals involved, but reading this reminded me that the women in our military aren't just soldiers, they're daughters, girlfriends, wives, moms, best friends...real people with lives outside of war.

I wish the article had been longer, that more women were able to voice their experiences, but being a typical women's magazine, it's not surprising that only a couple pages would be devoted to a subject that won't boost advertising sales. This, and the fact that this is an unpleasant, uncomfortable and politically fraught topic, are the reasons that more women's magazines don't shed light on how women are impacted by the war.

But I'm frustrated that the more progressive women's magazines, websites, blogs and feminist organizations are not doing more to address the concerns and publicize the stories of female soldiers and veterans. As if fighting overseas wasn't difficult enough, female soldiers have a boatload of additional issues resulting from their gender, and someone needs to help them get their voices heard and advocate for them. Sadly, soldiers are too often associated with the politicians who sent them to war, and progressive and feminist groups can't get past their political single-mindedness to help the people who need it.


Deja Pseu said...

I have to take issue a bit with your last paragraph. The progressive and feminist bloggers I read are talking about the soldiers (male and female), the impact of the war, and how those who yell loudest about "supporting the troops" are often the ones willing to do the least to actually, well, support the troops.

Don't buy the Rush/Republican spin on this one. From what I've seen, the progressives care more about the soldiers as people than many who see them as just a symbol.

Here's one example:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, don't just swallow the NBC propoganda, either. Get truly informed. "Progressive" is pretty inaccurate, and bleeding-heart hippies don't have a monopoly on emotional awareness. Which has to be moderated with actual thought.

Anonymous said...

...but, Of course, I care what soldiers and vets are experiencing. I know at least 20 personally. They don't talk like the liberal haters--oops, I mean "progressives"--that I see on television. Even if they disagree with certain elements of the current military campaign, they almost always can see the larger picture. Their experiences have forever changed them, but almost never for the worse. One young man lost both legs, and part of one arm. This is horrible, but maybe God has a purpose for allowing this challenge in his life. He says he'll be enrolling in medical school soon, just as he had planned, but now with greater empathy and compassion than he ever previously possessed. The soldiers appreciate being cared aout "as people", but most of them also appreciate that we're engaged in th ideological struggle of a lifetime, with no quick or easy answers.

Deja Pseu said...

Also meant to add that if you don't know anyone currently serving, but want to do something direct to help soldiers in the field, go to . You can arrange to send care packages to specific members of the armed services, based on what they need and want. It's a great way to help!

Kelly Mahoney said...

There was recently an article about how women at the academies has reached an all-time high.

Abbey said...

What feminist groups are you talking to, the Humourless Feminist Stereotypes Society? Feminists care about making life better for women AND men through gender equality - and that includes soldiers. Just because you don't support the war or wars doesn't mean you don't support soldiers.

Feminist bloggers seem to be the only ones talking about the appallingly high rates of sexual abuse in the military - which mostly comes from their fellow soldiers. Democrats tried to pass legislation that would give female military members reliable access to emergency contraception - but the Bush administration overruled it. Feminist bloggers were talking about the hypocrisy of discharging a female Air Force member who posed for Playboy, but giving male military members found guilty of sexual assault only a reduction in pay and/or rank.

I'd suggest picking up the fabulous "Full Frontal Feminism" by Jessica Valenti (it's in trade paperback and is fairly inexpensive) and getting exposure to real feminists - start on . The author of Full Frontal Feminism is one of the writers on the site, and they focus on a wide variety of issues related to women.

Anonymous said...

why are people so obtuse that they can't understand that wanting our troops out of iraq doesn't make someone a hater? if i were a hater, i could give a crap what happens to people in the military. as it happens, i hope they come back alive and well, and soon. this war is meaningless to everyone but someone who's making money off of it. i believe in fighting when there is something worth fighting for. we are doing more harm than good in iraq -- to our soldiers as well as to iraqis.

Anonymous said...

Meg, did you read this? It ran months ago in the New York Times.