An Excellent Reason Not to Join the Military
By Aimee Allison, AlterNet. Posted May 5, 2006.
I was shocked to discover the realities of being a female minority in uniform.
The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military to be published on May 18, 2006 by The New Press.
AimeeAllison served as a medic in the Army Reserves and received anhonorable discharge as a conscientious objector during the Persian GulfWar.
I desperately wanted out of my small-minded hometownof Antioch, California, and the military recruiter on my high schoolcampus promised me an escape hatch. The family that my white mother andAfrican American father created was based on the belief that the hardwork and democratic values of 1960s activists made equality mybirthright.
But my day-to-day experience was full of evidencethat racism was alive and well. High school classmates would chant then-word when our team played its biggest rival the next town over. Slursagainst gay people were so accepted that teachers used them withoutthought. And after winning a local Junior Miss competition, a first fora black contestant, I was excluded from the local news and town parade.When I brought my Ivy League college acceptance letter into the careercenter, a counselor suggested that I got in because of my race.
SoI rushed to sign up for the Army Reserves, in part because it was theonly place I knew of that promised I wouldn't be judged or limited bymy race or gender. We women, people of color, and immigrants areespecially attracted by the idea that we could live our lives on equalfooting with other Americans. But the military isn't the egalitariannirvana that its multi-billion dollar advertising blitz -- with abudget of almost $4 billion in 2003 -- claims.
Like most femalesoldiers, I learned the hard way that men dominate military culture. Weare stuck in a system that makes it difficult to report abuse becauseof fear of reprisal. Even the military itself admitted in a June 2005report by the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence atthe Military Service Academies, "harassment is the more prevalent andcorrosive problem, creating an environment in which sexual assault ismore likely to occur."