“Is your husband in the military?” My Experience with Gender Bias

A repairman came to fix our fridge today, and I knew what was coming as he glanced at the military pictures and framed documents that dominate our decor. Hey, flight school was f*cking hard; damn right I’m gonna show that sh*t off! Wouldn’t you? Anyway, I knew that he was going to ask the question, and sure enough, there it was.

“Oh, is your husband in the military?”

I smiled, thinking I know you didn’t mean to sound like a sexist jackass, and I said “we both are.” Then came the usual ill-concealed surprise. But this time, he shook my hand and thanked me for my service. Which I appreciated.

But I’m sick of it.

It’s a question I get every time we move, or every time a stranger is in our home. And it’s not just from old men; guys in their twenties and thirties see our “We love us” wall covered with various mementos of our years in Naval aviation and just automatically assume it all belongs to my husband. It was kind of fun ten years ago when I still liked surprising people, but now? I’m an accomplished veteran, mother of two, and forty(-ish) year old woman.

I’m sick of being underestimated just because of my gender.

Well-meaning people make excuses for the question. They talk about how female military members are still a new thing.

No, we’re not.

There aren’t enough of us, but it is not a new thing. Women were finally allowed (on paper) to fly into combat in 1993. Over two decades ago. That’s like saying the CD is a new thing. (Aside: my daughter asked me the other day, “What’s a CD?” We stream a lot of music.)

Here’s why I think some people “just need time to get used to it,” a phrase I detest when it comes to women in historically male roles.

We don’t need time to adjust. Men need our help to catch up.

Oh, great, another woman saying that men can’t help it because they’re men and it’s up to us to do the work and change the world.

Well, yeah. Kind of. I believe that men tend to resist change more than women. It’s in their DNA. The primal hunter needs to be in control of his environment and surroundings so he can adequately protect his mate and offspring from enemies or predators. He needs time to suss things out and make the cave defensible. Absolutely fair. The problem is that we are not in caves anymore.

I’m not saying men should change, nor am I saying that it’s on women to speed things up.

What I am asking women to do is stop giving a sh*t what people think of who you really are. And I aim this challenge at myself, too. I’m constantly working on letting my true colors fly.

It’s my life, and I’m the one that has to live it as authentically as I can.

How many of us have backed away from our goals because of too much flack or negativity from people? I know that I have silenced myself for fear of offending someone who probably ends up offended anyway. I have listened too often to the inner critic saying shut up shut up. How often have we not spoken our mind because we don’t want to be called bossy or bitchy? And here’s a thing:

There is no male equivalent to the word “bossy.” A man can be “boss” but that is considered a compliment. That’s f*cked up, y’all. Not right at all.

I wish that I had said “in the future, you might not want to assume that the man is the military member.” Because if we don’t start calling out the gender bias that is endemic in our society, it will continue. Yes, we have made progress. But not enough. And definitely not fast enough.

I’d love to kick things up a notch. Who’s with me? Are you sick of staying quiet to avoid pissing anyone off? Are you fed up with being called bitchy or egotistical because you’re good at your job? I’d love to hear your stories!

Love and purple,



5 thoughts on ““Is your husband in the military?” My Experience with Gender Bias”

  1. Okay, so many things, I need to itemize.

    1. That kid is too damned cute. You are in serious trouble. Brace for the teens, that’s when cuteness rebounds.

    2. As a purple aficionado (okay, magenta, same family), I completely approve of your closing signature line. I’ve decided I need a buttload more magenta in my life. I’d been sort of saving it for special occasions and dress-up, but screw that. Bring it on!

    3. How many times have you wanted to punch someone right in the nasal cavity for stupid Tom Cruise/Top Gun jokes and references? (I’d enjoy punching Cruise directly, but that’s a whole ‘nother Oprah. He’s the anti-Christ.)

    4. This post is dead on.

    5. I grew up around pilots, think a visit to the airport is a treat, and get all twitchy and excited when the F-15s go overhead. Sternum-thumping afterburner goodness, baby. The last book I read for pleasure was “Cockpit Confidential” (hilarious and disturbingly informative, I highly recommend).

    6. You look so much like somebody I know in that photo that it’s gonna haunt my mind until I recall who it is. Probably a massage therapist from ’06.

    7. I wanna flight suit.

    1. I love lists.

      1. Both of my kids are empirically cute. I have done lots of research, Yes, I am yet another parent that thinks their kids will rule the world one day with their awesomeness. But I’m right.

      2. Ok whoa whoa whoa. I already love you to the moon and back, but magenta is not purple. Noooooo way. But I do own a few magenta pieces, so you’re not in trouble. Yet.

      3. The Tom Cruise/Top Gun is actually mentioned more IN the military than out! It’s one of those weird things that you wouldn’t think would be, but is.

      4. Thank you!

      5. My ideal date used to be on the hood of a car under the approach end of the runway. Every single catapult shot off the carrier deck was as good as the first, and I have 200. Zero to 120 in under three seconds. Soooooo sternum-thumpingly good.

      6. I wish I had been a massage therapist in 06.

      7. Message me your clothing sizes. I’ll bet I have a flight suit that would fit you. Seriously.

      1. 1. There needs to be a family shot on here somewhere. Or did I miss it.

        2. Purple is what I settle for when I can’t get magenta. When people offer me a list of colors to choose from and magenta isn’t on there, I’m pissed. If purple was a family, magenta would be the super-gorgeous, ultra-sexy young aunt who wails on cousins pink and mauve when nobody’s lookin’. And kicks her crazy brother, burgundy’s, ass. And seduces emerald green on a park bench outside his boss’s office window at lunch. Because kinky.

        3. Take him with my blessing. I’ll let you remove the duct tape and hand cuffs if you want but I kinda like them on.

        4. You bet.

        5. Oh, god. That scene in Wayne’s World where they are doing just that, I hope to find people who still want to do that–if we can. 9/11 had many repercussions, not least among them being that I can’t just lay out a picnic blanket and have lunch at the edge of the airport anymore. What do they think I’m going to do? Lob potato salad into an intake from three thousand feet away? (sigh)

        6. I’m counting on my future love affair being 6’5″ of brown-haired, green-eyed, fusion cook/massage artist. But he’s got to have a big…truck.

        7. Thanks, but nobody wants to see a potato in traction. Even with cool zippers.

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