Articles

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

Being in the military means keeping up with grooming standards. Being a woman in the military means keeping up with grooming standards of the military and society. While there is a lot of press around sexual harassment and assault in the military, and it is a real problem, there are plenty of other aspects to being a female in uniform. It also means plenty of trash talk, confusion, and humorous adventures dealing with men in the line of duty.


Throughout any career in the military, there are plenty of gripes that come from the lowest of privates to the highest of generals. Females, though, have a special set of complaints which develop over the course of their careers. Here are seven basic things women learn during their service.

1. Keeping your hair in regs is harder than it looks

(U.S. Coast Guard Training Video)

While the buzzcuts and high-and-tights adorn the heads of many men in the military, attempting to keep long, thick hair in a perfect sockbun is hardly the equivalent. Gel, hairspray, bobby pins, socks, hair ties, and prayers go into each bun, which often has to be fixed throughout the day.

2. Morale items can end up sapping your morale

Female drill instructors at a Marine Corps basic training graduation practice (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vincent White)

Many woman in the military own a ton of t-shirts and sweatshirts bearing branches and units, just like their male counterparts. Wearing these in public, women will often get asked if their boyfriend is in the military. The look on people's faces when you politely correct them is always priceless.

3. Haters gonna hate

Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

Snide comments come with being a woman in the military, but sometimes the questions leave you speechless. Things like "Aren't women in the Army lesbians?" or "They let you fire a real gun?" or even "Green and tan aren't really flattering on you." The questions are rooted in discrimination against women who serve, but many women take the questions in stride and use it as a way to teach someone about what it's really like to serve.

4. There are many, many more grooming standards

Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Joslyn Kelly from Fairfax, Virginia, shares her #WhyIServe statement from USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro/Released)

Makeup is accepted throughout the military, but regulations demand a "natural look." Servicewomen across the branches become experts at the "no-makeup makeup," with natural lips, eyes, and cheeks. Even if no one can tell, keeping a bit of your femininity in uniform is crucial to staying sane, especially on long duty weekends. Along with extreme makeup, nail color on the hands is not authorized, many relish in pedicures with beautiful colors. Even behind heavy combat boots, a rainbow of shades of nail polish can be found.

5. You never stop proving your value

Maj. Lisa A. Jaster carries a fellow soldier during the Darby Queen obstacle course at the U.S. Army's Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo)

Every new person has to prove themselves but now that combat roles are open to women, there is a new level of proving yourself as the first generation of women in jobs that have been exclusively for men over the last hundred years. Trying to prove yourself as a .50 cal gunner as a petite woman is hardly easy, but the women who do it will pave the way.

6. Nothing issued off the rack actually fits

Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski at Fort Campbell, Ky. (U.S. Army photo)

Combat equipment, such as body armor, was developed and sized with men in mind. Many women have found themselves unable to fit in the smallest sizes of some flak jackets and bulletproof vests, not to mention the uncomfortable fits that were meant for more square body types.

7. "If the military wanted you to have kids . . ."

Women with children are often faced with criticism, accused of abandoning their children while deployed or being unfit parents for choosing work over families. One writer went so far as to say that women in the military were punished for being both mothers and serving in the military. The stigma of a woman not staying home with her husband and children is more visible in the military than anywhere else, with pressure from both civilians and from their own peers.

Jeannie Leavitt, the first U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in 1993 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite all of the challenges, it is rewarding to be a part of the proud line of women who have served in the military, whether as a part of the WAVES, WAGS, and SPARS of WWII or today as sailors, soldiers, Marines, coasties, and airmen.

Military Life

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

"Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel," said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $58,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans' healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you...he really nailed it.


Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, "It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring."

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

"I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master's Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization."

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

"Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn't pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!"

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

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