From the beginning, women were part of the U.S. Military. The Molly Pitchers of the American Revolution took water to the soldiers on the battlefield and often stood side by side with their men. Women often dressed up as men so that they could serve as soldiers, and this is a tradition that began with the American Revolution.
Women served in the Civil War as men and fought side by side with the men. Seven women earned the Distinguished Service Cross in World War I, and there is even a woman Medal of Honor recipient, Dr. Mary Walker, who served on the battlefields of the Civil War. Women also landed on the beaches at D-Day, and they have served in every war since. In the current war, over 10,000 women have earned the CAB, the combat action badge, there has been at least one Distinguished Service Cross, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and a Silver Star. Over 400 women were awarded medals for valor, and they have served honorably.
I could write a book on this topic. It wouldn’t be hard. After all, women have served honorably throughout the history of this country. One percent of American women have served since the American Revolution. Currently eight percent of our veterans are women. So why are we treated like second class citizens? Why are we often called sluts and whores and told that our service is worth nothing, that we are worth nothing?
Women veterans deserve better. We deserve to be treated with the honor and respect that we earned. Today we celebrate America’s Independence Day, the day our Declaration of Independence was signed. It is a celebration of the birth of America, and that celebration led to the writing of the greatest constitution in history, The U.S. Constitution. The cornerstone of this document is the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment gives us all the right to have whatever opinion we want. It does not say that we have the right to libel, slander, ridicule, defame, and hold other people up to public hate. We do not have a right to trash the reputations of other veterans simply because we don’t agree with them. To call a woman veteran, an honorably discharged veteran, a slut, or a whore in order to humiliate her and set her up for public ridicule is one of the most vile things a male veteran can do especially when it isn’t true.
According to Veterans Affairs, one in five women is a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. That means that there is a one in five chance that the woman being called a whore is a rape victim. I have to ask, what kind of male veteran would do that? Women veterans have longer wait times at the VA. We are more likely to be homeless, and even though we are only eight percent of the veterans’ population, we are on par to commit suicide almost as often as the men. For every 32 male veterans who commit suicide, 28 women veterans will commit suicide.
I was once proud to be a veteran. I served my country, and I was proud of that. I’m not proud of it anymore. Why would I want to be a part of a community where I have been repeatedly called a slut and a whore for reasons unknown to me? Most veterans didn’t serve in combat. Most veterans didn’t serve in combat arms either, and yet, as a woman, I can honestly say that I have been singled out over and over for abuse. Why? Is it because of my opinions? Do I not have a right to my opinion because I am a woman? Does the same Constitution not apply to me because I am a woman?
These are questions that need to be answered. Male veterans who seek to demean and humiliate honorably discharged women veterans need to be held accountable for their actions. Women veterans already have enough problems to deal with. We don’t need anymore, and we deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect.
In 2010 I got involved in the veterans’ community for the sole purpose of helping veterans. Had I known the abuse I would face, I would have never gotten involved. I now no longer want to be a part of a community where there is a vicious double standard that says when women don’t toe the line that we are somehow inferior and we are nothing but whores and sluts. I have never discussed my sex life with others. That’s because it is private. It is no one’s business, and I have never held male veterans up to ridicule and hate when they bragged about the women they were having sex with. Why is a woman who doesn’t sleep around a slut and a whore but a man who sleeps around isn’t? A man who sleeps around isn’t the kind of man I’d want to be involved with anyway. To a man like that, I would be just another conquest. I deserve better than that, and I don’t deserve to be held up to ridicule, humiliation, and hate for things that have absolutely nothing to do with my honorable service as both a soldier and a veteran. Until we clean up the veterans’ community, I see no reason to be there. Women veterans deserve respect. We earned our seat too, and we do not deserve to be treated like we are less than and told our service is worth nothing and we are worth nothing because some male has an ax to grind.
How we treat others is a reflection of who we are, not the person we are mistreating. I had rather renounce my veteran status and no longer be a part of the veterans’ community than be abused. I deserve better and women veterans deserve better.
Photo by The U.S. National Archives