The Slow Suffocation of Femininity
Disclaimer: This topic is in no way related to homesteading. If you are reading this blog solely for homesteading goodness, then this topic might not be for you. It’s an expression of my opinion about a controversial issue I’ve been watching unfold over the past decade.
Okay! With that out of the way, let’s dive right in. I recently stumbled across an article discussing how a federal judge in Texas ruled that a male-only draft violated the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. In 2013, the Department of Defense officially lifted the ban on women in combat, and in 2015 it lifted all gender-based restrictions. In the wake of these historical decisions we are now faced with the issue that the male-only draft is considered a form of gender-based discrimination against men. My emotional response to reading this article was anger. You’re probably thinking how shitty! She‘s supporting women dodging the draft! Tsk tsk that’s not the case here, so hold onto your protest signs a bit longer.
One of the most influential experiences in my life was my military service. I joined as a young woman with a fire to become more and to see remote corners of the world. When selecting my Military Occupational Speciality (MOS) during enlistment I knew I wanted to be challenged and had an interest in law enforcement, so I went on to become Military Police (MP). The Military Police Corps is the uniformed law enforcement branch of the Army and we also carry combat responsibilities performing duties like mounted and dismounted patrols, response force operations, route reconnaissance, cordon and search operations, critical site security, and convoy and personnel escorts. The long and the short of it is that an MP is a combat role in the Army and that duty brought me to Afghanistan not long after enlisting.
The purpose in me sharing this trip down memory lane is to convey that I know exactly what it means to be a woman in uniform and the sacrifices that service demands of you. When I left for Afghanistan my infant daughter was eight months old. My unit had been notified of our impending deployment when I was four months pregnant, so I spent the vast majority of my pregnancy and her life as an infant carrying the knowledge that I would soon be leaving her. It was my duty and I would answer the call. That was what I signed up for. Where is this all going you might wonder and how does it relate to women being drafted? Alright, alright I’ll get to the point. As I’ve watched the issue of gender-based discrimination unfold I have seen women making incredible strides to breakthrough glass ceilings and take up powerful positions in places they were once excluded from. We are living in an age of dramatic change. It’s happening so rapidly that it is difficult to digest one leap forward before suddenly there’s another and we’re throwing open doors in all kinds of places without taking the time to truly reflect on what this new accessibility means for us or asks of us.
Do I think that it's fair that women should be subject to the draft now that laws have changed about women's roles in the military? Absolutely! I'm not disputing that. I'm concerned with how we got here. I'm concerned with the way society is promoting the gradual dissolution of what it means to be a woman. In women’s pursuit to continue to break down barriers and be treated equally we are gradually losing sight of the value of our femininity. It scares me that so much of this movement to be treated equal is based upon the ideal that we have to do anything a man can do. In striving with such fervor to be treated as equal to man are we losing sight of what it means to embrace our femininity as women? Aspects of our gender that were once considered desirable are now shunned in favor of being more like a man. Stay-at-home mother’s are becoming social pariahs in the wake of career driven singles. The first question people ask in small talk is always "What do you do?" Full time mothers are then faced with jeers about what they even do all day or how good they have it. Little value is placed on the significant impact a mother has on the shaping of her young children into successful adults. But people are quick to turn around and slay the parents when a child acts out. Well, where were their parents???? Funny, you should ask that! You shamed them into working full time and now the daycare system pretty much raises societies youth, so there's your answer. Women are waiting longer and longer to settle down and start a family in favor of pursuing professional gains because pregnancy and the demands of new motherhood would put a strain on career progression. Listen, I get it! I remember being that woman.
Ten years ago I didn’t have any desire to have children or settle down. I perceived that lifestyle as an anchor that would prevent me from reaching my goals. I worked 12 hours day, brought my work home, and drank the damn kool-aid. I sacrificed a year of my child's life and my first marriage to my career. Fast forward a few years and holy cow have my eyes opened. A decade has taught me to view the world through a completely different lens. I now take great pride in serving my family. Yes, I will use that word. Serving. I don't feel demeaned making my husband's lunch or shooing my kids out the door for school. My dedication to my children and devotion to my husband are an integral part of who I am as a woman. I take great pride in the young adults that I am shaping my children to become. I am incredibly grateful for the connection I have with my husband because we cultivate our love, the roots of our family. These are choices that I've made as a woman. No one is forcing me into the kitchen, choking me with an apron and I do not feel repressed. In this simple life I find such purpose and fulfillment. Every small gesture in a seemingly mundane day has vast impact on our future as a family and as individuals. It has enabled me to settle into the women I always wanted to become in the most unexpected way. But that path wasn’t easy to find.
When I wore a uniform and demanded that I be treated the same as my male counterparts it asked me to suppress aspects of my femininity. There is no place for softness at war. There is no place for hesitation born from compassion. There is no place for distraction in your mind because of your relationships back home. When I put on my uniform I became a different version of myself. I’m proud of that person. She was tough as nails and got the job done every time. She made hard decisions and clawed her way to the top. I’m grateful to have that survivor, that fighter, inside me, but that version of me wasn’t complete. That was who I am as a soldier. When I shed that uniform and started a new chapter in my life it took me years to discover who I truly was as a woman and to embrace her when I started peeling back those layers.
I don't want my daughters to struggle on their path to deciding who they will be as women. I am raising them to be strong and resilient because the world can be a brutal place at times, but I won't stifle the parts of them that are gentle or delicate in favor of being more like a man. You can be a raging storm and also have empathy. You can take no shit and be a hard charger, but have the capacity for compassion and forgiveness. You don't have to become one of the guys to be considered "equal". My point here is that we don't have to be men to be enough. You. Sitting right there...you are good enough. Exactly as you are. Powerful. Brave. Tender with an indomitable will. You are woman. You are breathtaking.