Sunday, February 25, 2007

Briefings, Sexism, Homophobia and Stereotypes

Tomorrow is my last day of inprocessing! Only one more day of boring briefings before I have to go face the reality of being a platoon leader. At least, I should be getting my hands on a training schedule this way so I'll know more about the day to day plans of the unit rather than simply, "we're going to the field on these dates."

For the most part, the briefings were just boring but there were a few that also managed to piss me off - coincidentally, these all took place on Thursday. As part of the family advocacy brief, a couples' therapist spoke to the room and mentioned the difficulty men and women occasionally have communicating with each other. He discussed a scenario, and tried to explain it from the man and the woman's side, but somehow in both cases he managed to paraphrase the wife's comments as "blah, blah, blah." Gee, thanks. Apparently, the problem between men and women is a difference of testosterone and estrogen. Seriously, we're going to reduce this to something as simple hormones? What next, a comment as brilliant as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus because we are all inherently different. How about talking about the societal construction of gender, and how this affects the way people act? Oh, by the way, the situation: man comes home from work and doesn't put up his boots, woman nags about how she's worked all day to keep the house clean and he can't help out. Wait - so does this mean all Army wives (let's not even get started on the idea that there might be - gasp - Army husbands) are just naturally assumed to be stay at home moms? And even if they aren't, the house is their responsibility?

He also had great advice for us single folk - avoid those gold diggers. All women are just after one thing when it comes to Army guys -a pay check. Or to quote one fellow audience member, "if she can read an LES, stay away." Why is there such a negative view of women? The therapist also had some great tidbits for the women in the military, and went on about avoiding "playas" because they all just have mommy issues - they treat women like crap because their mothers either spoiled them too much or neglected them. I love how we can find a way to blame women no matter what. According to him, these men feel entitled, and might read passing out as consent to sex. The therapist actually made the comment that raping their mothers or sisters as revenge might get through to them - did you seriously just say that, even in jest to make a point?

Luckily, I have a pamphlet so if I ever feel the need for couple's therapy, I can contact this guy. My favorite quote: "Men in the first 10 years of marriage are particularly disrupted in their work productivity by marital conflicts and distress (emphasis as made in the pamphlet)." It's from an article called, "Associations Between Marital Distress and Work Loss in a National Sample" and while I have no clue as to the original article's intent or tone, I love how the pamphlet is completely focused on the men's productivity. Who cares if the wife gets stressed! They also offer a program for better parenting called Boys Town, and the pamphlet concludes with a drawing of the perfect family - a dad, a mom (in a dress of course), and two boys. We don't need girls or daughters in a military family - they'll just become gold diggers after all!

One speaker also shared some stories about her experiences as a family advocate. In one case, after her husband's deployment, a young mother of five (all of which were under 5) stopped taking care of the house - audience response: what nationality was this woman? Yes, obviously, she couldn't be an American because only foreigners are dirty. It was an American (hah!), but I was surprised there wasn't a follow-up question: well then, what ethnicity was she? She also told us about this guy who'd kept the fact that he got paid hidden from his wife for five years. She was foreign and spoke very little English so he told her that the Army provided housing but he didn't actually get paid. Who does that?

I also found out that even though I'm in Germany, I can still enjoy syndicated radio talk shows, specifically Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura on the American station. Great. Good thing I never listened to talk radio to begin with. I'm going to be ordering a lot of DVDs online in the future - I currently have a huge movies and TV show wishlist on Amazon so I can just click and order as I go.

I have to say that I enjoyed the community health nurse a lot, though. She was very open, and entertaining even while discussing STIs. She gave out flavored condoms to the audience for participating and answering questions (she gave me a chocolate one), and even explained how they could be cut open and used in ways that men, too, could taste them (as I said, very open). At one point she asked for a definition of sex, and one guy said, "intercourse between a man and a woman." She quickly put him in his place about sex being able to take place between two men or two women and not just between a man and a woman. She even made sure to point out that there are gays in the military because the policy is don't ask, don't tell, not don't join. Way to put those homophobes in their place.

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