Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Women Veterans

Just yesterday I began writing an article in an attempt to shed some light for you, the reader, on the life of female veterans. Today I scrapped that article. I was struggling in my attempt to qualify and group us because we can’t be grouped. There is no such thing as a stereotypical female veteran, just as there is no such thing as a stereotypical person. We may hold idealized images of this group but those ideas are not universally applicable; that is to say, our stereotypes have no footing in reality (they rarely do in fact). My struggle to classify an unclassifiable group of women is justified; in my attempt to bring our small group to you I initially resorted to describing statistical analyses. There are hundreds, thousands, maybe even a million numbers available to describe women who serve. For instance, did you know that the military as a whole consists of 14.3% women? Some branches of the military contain as few as 4% female personnel (Source: http://explore.data.gov/Population/Personnel-Trends-by-Gender-Race/zqae-ad8k). The likelihood that a woman will be the sole member of her sex represented at a duty location is high, creating unique dynamics for women who serve and a unique situation when they return from service.

My article rambled on and on about numbers and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
military sexual trauma (MST), women’s health, and more. Eventually I was just spouting numbers, and that isn’t useful to anyone. It might be enlightening, but does it realistically bring the issue down to earth in a way that is easy to comprehend? Not unless you are statistician. Not only are these raw numbers not informative, but it paints women vets as helpless victims of abuse, as outcasts. This is not the case! Women veterans are empowered. They are beyond strong, they are a force in their own right.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is beginning to hear our collective voices after years of notoriously poor recognition of women’s health issues. The VA recently started a (belated) campaign called She Wore These to increase women’s health services at VA hospitals. You can read the PSA here http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2181 and watch the commercial here http://youtu.be/BOP5DCgjxPE. If you’re interested in getting involved with
the Women Veteran Outreach Action Team, contact the chairperson Angie Hartlove at angie.hartlove@gmail.com or the outreach coordinator Britni Mimms at bmimms@pdx.edu.

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