The “Lower” Standard

We took a “Command Climate Survey” at work the other day. The objective of this survey is to determine organizational strengths and deficiencies- primarily in regards to equal opportunity and communication, within a unit.

I went into the survey super annoyed. Pretty much exclusively about things going ON at work though and not our general treatment. A bunch of things were going on with work that made me cranky, for sure… but overall I still would have said, without a doubt, that we all are treated equally within our unit. We’re all subject to the same frustrations, workload, and equally supported or unsupported based on work-ethic and general personality traits….and not anything outside of our control at least.

When our command team shared our results with us, I was unsurprised by most of them. Typical work stuff, honestly. Nothing crazy. Every job has its stuff.

You know what did surprise me?

That when asked about the treatment of females within the unit, someone responded with

“Females are held to lower standard than males.”

As in- they’re treated “better” or less is expected of them.

Twentyish people took this survey out of a unit of about forty soldiers. So about half. Of the forty people in the unit- FIVE of us are female. 88% of our unit is male. One of these males (at LEAST- because only half of the unit took the test) thinks that females are treated better than males.

And what I would really like to share in this post is how awful that made me feel and why.

Like I said- there are five women in our unit. So there’s no wiggle room for me to say or think “hey- maybe he didn’t mean ALL females…maybe he didn’t mean ME” or something like that. Which STILL wouldn’t make it right, by the way….but this was like handing a specific list of names, mine included, to our leadership and saying “you are giving them special treatment.”

Let me tell you about the five of us. Two of us are the hardest workers you will ever meet. One of us is a single mother who, YES, sometimes needs some flexibility, but that’s not because she’s a female- it’s because she’s a single parent. A single father would be treated the same. (I know, because that WAS the case with another soldier at one point). The other two are just normal soldiers.

If any of us are ever treated “differently” it’s due to our personalities, work-ethic, and personal circumstances…NOT because of our sex.

But someone I work with thinks that IS the reason. I can safely assume this person feels jilted at not receiving the same, perceived, “special treatment”.

So I’d like to explicitly state:

Being treated ANY differently because of being a female in the Army, even if it’s being treated “better”, is NOT a compliment. It’s not a benefit. It’s not a perk.

I didn’t ask for that, I’m not asking for it, and I don’t want it- because I don’t ever want to question if I got where I am because of that, instead of because of working hard. I work my ass off, okay?

I honestly don’t know who in my unit responded that way, but I really hope he reads this- because here’s what I want him to know about my experience in the Army, while being held to a “lower” standard.

  • I have been sexually harassed at every single duty station I’ve been at.
  • I have been told countless times that I only was as successful as I was, “because I was a girl”… Completely devaluing the insane amount of work I had put in during each particular instance.
  • My back is permanently damaged because they don’t make equipment- specifically rucksacks- that conform to female bodies in the Army AND because, despite women typically having 52-66% the strength of the average male, I have been expected to carry the same weight when ruck-marching on every single march I have gone on. I am in significant pain daily due to those requirements, coupled with the fact that I always forced myself to complete those marches, because I didn’t want anyone to attribute my inability to do so with my sex, instead of my injuries.
  • I stopped breastfeeding my son early, because I needed to pump every two hours to keep producing enough, but I was so afraid of being perceived as “taking advantage” of being a female, that I only did it every four hours, which led to my supply tanking and then going away completely.
  • While most men get dressing rooms at our events, I end up changing in a bathroom, because there aren’t “enough” of us to merit a room.
  • I have had to carry on with work and extreme physical activity, often, while battling severe pain and/or exhaustion due to having a period (AND while I was pregnant). Sometimes that was due to not wanting to be perceived as a weak or lazy female, or to avoid embarrassment (as opposed to being outright told I couldn’t be excused), but even so….no male ever has to deal with that. Let alone monthly.
  • I have never been in a squad that is all women, although I know most males in the Army have been in squads that are all men. (And my leadership is almost always male).
  • Incompetency in the males in my field is almost always attributed to their personalities, instead of their sex, as has been the case for me multiple times.
  • Being treated “nicer” has often been synonymous with being treated less seriously, younger than I am, or less capable than my male peers, despite my history of dependability and overall competence. (AND despite my time as a successful music educator for years prior to the Army).

There are more, but those are all I’ll share for now. And I know that I’ve had a way better experience than MOST females in the Army, if that tells you anything.

I am extremely thankful that when this survey was taken, no significant racial issues were revealed and that only one person responded with something like this in regards to sex. However; even ONE is too many when we’re shooting for equity. So I really hope we will continue to head in a direction where people view us more by our personal merit/conduct and less by any identity label or differentiating feature.

Thanks for reading ❤ Stay safe, happy, and healthy everyone ❤

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