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‘My Laundry Better be Done When I Get Back from this Mission’ and Other Tales of Sexism in the Green Berets

Women in the United States military have a long way to go to achieve true equality with their male counterparts according to Jackie Munn, who served with the Green Berets as the leader of the Cultural Support Team.

Munn and two other females had passed rigorous physical, mental, and intellectual evaluations as well as completed necessary training before being chosen to work with Special Forces or the Green Berets.

For six months, Munn’s experience with the Green Berets was exciting and rewarding. The women taught medical seminars, brought school supplies to villages, and did all the same work as men. American and Afghan soldiers were supportive, spending time in camp after hours eating and getting to know one another.

However, this treatment would soon change. When the new team of Green Berets arrived, attitudes shifted. The women were excluded from important meetings as well as instructed by the sergeant to do his laundry. Munn writes of her first reaction to his comments: “My first reaction was an urge to find a pair of scissors, retrieve his laundry and cut it to pieces, but I knew better.” While some men in this unit did stick up for the women, they didn’t share this news until after the women had left the post.

Over the course of the next few months, Munn and her female counterparts would leave the base less and less, driving vehicles and managing radios. As they were leaving the base, some male soldiers were even demolishing the huts the women had lived in, erasing every trace of their presence with smiles on their faces.

This kind of sexism is not new for women in the military today. In fact, a voluntary survey sent to 7,600 of America’s special operations forces resulted in many men agreeing that women should not be allowed into commando units. Many of these men cited their belief that women weren’t mentally or physically strong enough for the job at hand, despite various physical and intellectual tests stating otherwise.

These attitudes contribute to servicewomen not feeling valued or respected in the military, as well as increasing the suicide rates for these women. Female veterans’ suicide risk is more than double that of the American woman who haven’t served in the military. Female veterans face the same trauma as men, yet the VA is still mostly tailored for men.

Female soldiers also face higher rates of sexual trauma than male soldiers. As of 2017, sexual assault reports in the U.S. military were at an all-time high, up 10 percent from the previous year. About one in three military members come forward with sexual assault reports, most of them female.

While the military has gone to certain lengths to make more of the language in the military gender-neutral, as well as allowing more women into leadership positions, there is still much to be done to make women feel valued and respected in their positions. In recent years, servicemen have even manipulated servicewomen’s careers for their personal benefit, changing evaluation scores so that these women can never advance. These examples of discrimination need to be stopped.

Featured Image by Maria L. Taylor on Wikimedia
Public Domain Mark 1.0

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