Graphic from the UN Women Twitter Feed for International Women's Day
A few years ago I was at a evening party with my husband. It was like any military community party--we were at the home of a military couple, surrounded by other military couples. All of the couples at the party were the statistical norm, the man was the military member, and his wife, the female military spouse, was there with him. I'd known everyone there for all of maybe a year. As postings tend to do, we had been thrown together with people who worked with my hubby, and somehow I had built friendships with complete strangers.
I'm an extroverted introvert, and this particular party was just at the point in my life when I was starting to recognize that I can enjoy these events best by finding the people (generally women) I connect with, and not worrying so much about 'working the room'. In a small, loud house party, this is hard...and in this particular party, I found myself stuck, completely sober (as the DD) standing in the kitchen beside an older man who was there without his spouse and was already quite drunk.
With very little preamble he commenced a long and loud monologue, expounding on how good it was that I was there, supporting my husband at this party. And then, slurring his words as he spoke, he told me that every military leader he knows (himself included) has a supportive wife, and that was the secret of their success. The man succeeds because his wife keeps the home fires burning.
He was not wrong. I am one hundred percent sure that military leaders do better with a supportive, loving family beside them.
What rapidly turned the party from one that was enjoyable to one that I was ready to leave was the patronizing man-speak he used--completely oblivious to the fact that I had worn a uniform myself and was a professional in my own right--to let me know that I was in my place and should stay there.
I was the wife. He cared not one whit who I was, but was more than willing, as he swilled back another swig of whatever pompous drink he was swirling in his glass, to congratulate himself for being forward thinking (bravo! military spouse!) while he was, in fact, being just another chauvinistic man in a male-dominated world.
I listened, looking frantically for a way out of the conversation, nodding in the correct places (not that he would have noticed), and basically just taking his offensive tone until the opportunity arose to politely move away.
I was so angry. And so polite.
So politely angry.
And because I truly am a supportive spouse, I made no scene. I attempted to continue on with the party like I was fine. I drank my fancy soda and moved on.
It is time for me to stop being politely angry.
I love my husband. So very much. I've loved ninety percent of my journey as a military spouse. As mentioned in my previous blog, no one forced me to wear my many hats. I chose them. I chose to be a military spouse, and every step of my husband's military journey has been a partnership between us. I have profited in so many ways from the military lifestyle and I own it as part of what has made me who I am today.
But that man at that party is one of hundreds who've come along in my journey. I'm weary of the one-sided conversations at events, where the questions are focused on what my husband does and the conversation is basically mansplaining about the world I live, work and and breathe in...and have done so for most of my life. I'm weary of standing and smiling and listening politely while my insides are boiling with rage.
Thankfully there have also been many male friends at many events that were and are not that drunken jerk. If you are a man and have made it this far in this blog, thank you. On this International Women's Day I salute you for being open minded.
I challenge those few of you here to think about the small talk you make with female military spouses. Ask them about their work. Ask them about their aspirations. Discuss their leadership and their worlds. You'll find that they are fascinating. They are passionate and hard-working and worth your effort.
And for my female readers, military spouses and otherwise, you have every right to be angry--without politeness. It's time to challenge the misogyny. You deserve respect. Your service does help your spouse to succeed but the converse is also true--their support helps you to be successful in your own endeavors.
Being a military spouse does not give anyone the right to treat you without decency.
And be proud of who you are.