BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Sorority or Support Group?

Posted by 365SoulNotes on April 14, 2010

The VA hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah has several programs created to serve the state's 12,000 women veterans.

We hear it over and over  again from folks at the highest levels in the military, “A soldier, is a soldier, is a soldier…”

While this might be true in some ways, it’s certainly not true in EVERY way.

Yes, military women are spared the issue of a gender wage gap since the military uses set pay based on rank & time in service (in this case, the “soldier is a soldier” mantra works).   But women often get the same treatment in a lot of other areas too–such as available medical care while in the service or after-service care once they are out–and that just doesn’t make sense.

According to BPW Foundation’s 2007 Women Veterans in Transition Research Project, women face a multi-dimensional transition after getting out of the military that can last as long as seven years for some.  The issues they face are different from those of their male counterparts and a single-gender focus just won’t work to help them address their needs.  

Thankfully, many agencies and service organizations are starting to recognize this.  Enter a new program at the VA Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.   One part girls’ club, one part sorority and one part support group– this program is taking steps to meet the specific needs of women veterans.  The group is for women vets only and allows them to connect with one another about past experiences, current challenges, and yes…even make-up and beauty secrets. They talk about issues from homelessness to military sexual trauma and everything in between.

Participants in the program say it has helped them realize they are not alone.  They acknowledge that interacting in a group of women is much different from a group open to all veterans as they can be themselves and not have to worry that the guys are thinking, “Oh yeah…it’s women.”

As a vet myself I would LOVE to see this program expanded to other parts of the country.  While I do love connecting with my army buddies (both men and women) it is a very different dynamic when I get together with the girls.  We’re much more at ease, let our guards down, and are able to be a bit more vulnerable…something I can’t imagine we’d ever fully do in front of the guys as it would kind of ruin all the work we put into being one of the boys.

So, while I appreciate the “soldier is a soldier” ideal when it comes to doing the job of a soldier, I believe the military could benefit greatly from more programs that allowed women the chance to connect and share their experiences as women in uniform with each other.

Who’s with me?

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