The Double Standard of Military Life

military life

I don’t think it’s news to any of us that women are treated a bit differently than our male counterparts. Throughout my whole life I noticed little instances where I was not respected, trusted, or perceived as being as capable as my male counterparts.

As a college student, I can notably remember times where I walked into a car service repair place, questioning their arguments as to why I needed $400 worth of work after a simple oil change. They thought I wouldn’t know any different, and that I would blindly sign my life away.

As a married woman, I have experienced situations in which I try to resolve an issue with the phone company or a store, either over the phone or in person, with no avail. But as soon as my husband steps in the matter is settled. 

So you’d think I’d be used to it by now.

Yet, even as a grown woman with an advanced college degree, I still *gasp* expect to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity as my husband. Now, I’m not talking about anyone being outright disrespectful to me. Most people are kind and courteous, but they tend to stand their ground when I question something.

And in the military things are much the same- people are respectful towards me, but I can’t seem to get anything done unless my husband appears. 

I don’t know when I first noticed it, but over time the subtleties became more obvious: when my husband was with me in uniform, stuff got done. Here are just a few examples:

  • Something happened with the scheduling system during one of my first routine prenatal appointments. I had a printed appointment sheet with one time, and the office had a time 4 hours later. I was working full-time and I had taken a half day off for this appointment, and I begged for them to see me since it wasn’t my error. They refused. But in walks my husband with his uniform, and after a few minute discussion, I was heading to the examination room. 
  • I was discussing some issues we had had with our moving company with our Travel Management Office. The receptionist, although very polite, told me there was nothing she could do to help us. I asked my husband to go see if he could resolve the issue after work, and within ten minutes he had it settled- with the same receptionist I spoke with.
  • I had signed up to complete the Marine Corps Marathon but late into the training season I had was injured. I called the office to see if they would place me on the deferment list. As they were checking on it, another military spouse expressed that she may need to defer, and I suggested that she call the marathon office. In the meantime, I received a call back from the marathon office stating that they could not defer me since it was past the deadline and if they did it for me they “would have to do it for everyone.” I messaged the spouse who had inquired about deferment to tell her we were out of luck, and she told me that her husband had just walked into the office and gotten her deferred while I was waiting for my call back. Even when I called to dispute, the Marathon office would not budge on my deferment.

So, is it that society just has an unconscious prejudice for females so much so that our male counterparts are more effective in settling certain matters? Or is it the uniform?

To touch on this I asked a neighbor, who happens to be active duty, if she noticed a difference when she is in uniform versus out of uniform. She voiced a resilient “Absolutely!” stating that if she is in civilian attire and her hair is not pulled in a tight bun, she notices a marked difference in how people treat her while on base. 

Of course the notion that women are of a lower standard than men is not something new in our country. It is reflected in job placement, pay, and expectations in the workplace. But why does the uniform make such a difference when it comes to dealing with military-related issues or issues on base? 

As military spouses we take care of a majority of things while our service members are away. Not only are we managing families and households but we are also mowing lawns, fixing cars, dealing with phone companies, and repairing broken toilets.

We are holding down the home front and taking care of things that may be our spouse’s “job” because, for a time, we are the only ones here to do it.

And even though everyone in the military community knows this, we are still treated as if we aren’t capable of handling certain tasks or we cannot get matters settled simply because we aren’t in uniform.

It baffles me that a group of women who so wholeheartedly hold everything together despite the long nights alone, the broken refrigerators, and the 2 flat tires in 4 months, are still not seen as capable as our service men and women. 

Some will say that it is because it is every person’s job to make sure that the service members are “mission ready.” They are to do whatever possible to ensure that they can efficiently solve a servicemember’s issue so they can return to their regular posting.

Some will say that, for civilians, it’s a general respect of the person wearing the uniform.

Others will tell you that rank plays a part, especially when working with other service members directly.

In the end, though, knowledge is power. I know that if I need to get something done and my husband is available, I will use him and his uniform to persuade a settlement. If he is not available, I know that I have to do my research backwards and forwards regarding the situation so that I am prepared when *they* (whoever they may be) try to shut me down. And I’ll just continue to be that pain in the butt military spouse who won’t back down, because that’s how we roll. 

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