Being a woman in the US Navy was actually one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, looking back.
I had a small taste of how difficult my life was going to be right away in “A” School as a woman surrounded by men, some who were pissed-off they had to compete with me and that I was beating them, even as they bitched that they as men were held to higher standards than women are.
I’ll never forget my shock realizing that the standards were much lower for me because I was a female. I remember hearing the guys complain when they all found out that there are two different standards on body fat ratio, and physical fitness standards.
The Navy’s old policy allowed for 22% body fat for males ages 17-39, and 33% body fat for females ages 17-39.
Males are also expected to do way more on the physical fitness tests: 46 push-ups, 46 situps, and run the 1.5 mile run within 13 minutes.
But females only have to do a minimum of 16 pushups, and have 15:30 to run the 1.5 miles.
The two lines were neatly drawn in the dirt, and I hated it, realizing it made me stick out. I never thought my gender made doing my job any different. It never had in the civilian world. However, here in the military, I was in a small margin and everything that brought attention to that either directly or indirectly, I sought to flee from. I wanted to be one of the guys, to just blend in and survive.
So I made up my mind to be beyond reproach; I kept up with the guys in class, I kept up with them on the physical standards, I outran and outdid most of them on pushups and situps and pull-ups and I definitely kept up with them in the gym and the pool. I rounded it out by looking smart in my uniforms, and also by minding my own damn business and keeping my damn mouth shut. I had a 17% body-fat ratio, ran 1.5 miles in 9 minutes, and could easily do over a hundred pushups and situps.
But it didn’t make anything easier I found out. Sometimes I beat the wrong guys and they hated me for it.
As a class leader, I was expected to take charge, and I realized how hard it was, especially when I had one particular kid in class who refused to listen to me, because I was a female. And he made it abundantly known to me.
One day I asked him to begin helping us clean up, and he decided to sit and make small comments under his breath about my being a “fucking bitch.”
I ignored him, and pretended I didn’t hear it. But the tall instructor with the soft rolling Louisiana accent obviously heard him because he stopped everything to tear this kid a new ass in front of everyone.
“This is a class leader in YOUR CHAIN OF COMMAND! You will respect her as you respect me! She just gave you an order, didn’t she?”
The kid, with a downturned face red from his embarrassment of having been so publicly chewed on, nodded.
The instructor got impatient and yelled louder “Well, WHAT?!” which seemed to work as the kid promptly elicited a reply.
He muttered“Yes, she did, DC1.”
“Well, then,” the instructor yelled. “Get your ass up and get to work!”
The kid shuffled out of his chair, giving me an ugly look after the instructor had turned his back.
After that this kid was no longer so disobedient, but he didn’t have to say anything. His body language screamed anger at seeing a small female beat him in physical fitness, in class, on tests, or in being the first to volunteer for any work that needed doing. He stood around me in silence, his eyes telling me how pissed he was to be outrun, outclassed, lead or beaten in any way by a “girl.” I think he took it as an insult against his ego that he wasn’t man enough to beat me.
I just saw myself as one of the guys, and I didn’t want the negative attention it brought me. But there was no changing what was going on here; some guys were happy to see me keep up. Others would be pissed I was better than them. There was no winning, so I just kept going.
No whiners allowed!