The Women's War
By Sara Corbett
The New York Times Magazine
Sunday 18 March 2007
...Many of the women I spoke with said they felt the burden of having to represent their sex - to defy stereotypes about women somehow being too weak for military duty in a war zone by displaying more resiliency and showing less emotion than they otherwise might. There appears to have been little, too, in the way of female bonding in the war zone: most reported that they avoided friendships with other women during the deployment, in part because of the fact that there were fewer women to choose from and in part because of the ridicule that came with having a close friend.
"You're one of three things in the military - a bitch, a whore or a dyke," says Abbie Pickett, who is 24 and a combat-support specialist with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "As a female, you get classified pretty quickly."
Many women mentioned being the subject of crass jokes told by male soldiers. Some said that they used sarcasm to deflect the attention but that privately the ridicule wore them down. Others described warding off sexual advances again and again.
"They basically assume that because you're a girl in the Army, you're obligated to have sex with them," Suzanne Swift told me at one point.
There were women, it should be noted, who spoke of feeling at ease among the men in their platoons, who said their male peers treated them respectfully. Anecdotally, this seemed most common among reserve and medical units, where the sex ratios tended to be more even. Several women credited their commanders for establishing and enforcing a more egalitarian climate, where sexual remarks were not tolerated.