I normally do not call people out by name but this time I think the situation warrants it. I have to put the Camp Arifjan USO on blast for what I felt was some kind of discrimination. I absolutely hate going that route because I feel like the word is thrown around far too much these days, and it has lost significant value. When you say discrimination, other people roll their eyes and automatically dismiss you as a complainer. Just hear me out.
I’ve been in to football since my college days. Don’t expect me to walk around quoting stats, or anything but I have love for the game. I’ve only missed one Super Bowl since 1997, and that was in 2012 when I was too lazy to get up at 330AM for kickoff, while deployed. Last week, 47 and I decided that we should go out to watch the games because we really can’t enjoy them here in the PCB. Because of quiet hours, we can’t have the TVs up on full blast, and neither can we start screaming when our fantasy football quarterback throws a pick. We tried the Zone 1 Community Center first, but they were having Oktoberfest. As a last resort, we headed to the Zone 6 USO.
Personally, I don’t enjoy going to the USO in a deployment area. The USOs at airports are great, but when you’re downrange the place is usually full of young male Soldiers. It smells like cigarettes (even though you’re not allowed to smoke indoors) and there are dip cans everywhere. The USO really is a place for everyone, but every time I go to the one on Buehring or Arifjan, I feel like I’m in a locker room with popcorn.
It’s really hard to enjoy football while you’re deployed. AFN can’t play every game. They have this voting system on Facebook. Whichever game with the most votes get airtime. You kind of have to cross your fingers and pray that your team will get airtime. Then you want your team to have the early game. If you want to watch the game live, be prepared to get up at 3AM for kickoff. If you love the game, well, this is what you have to do. We lucked out because both our teams had an early game, and both our teams won the vote and got AFN airtime. However, when we got to the USO we discovered that some parts were males only. No, seriously, you read this correct. There was a sign up outside one of the rooms that declared it to be a “broasis,” a place where the fellas can hang out without women. Excuse me, isn’t that the vast majority of the Army? The room was all set up with football stuff and I was like, “Oooh, awesome place to watch the game,” but since we are not male, well, I guess we can go watch the game out there with the rest of the unwashed masses.
We were very rudely informed that the room was for males only and we were asked to leave. I really was offended. I did find another spot to watch the game, but the whole time I was thinking about this “broasis.” I thought to myself, well, what if I just set up a Vag Cave and declared it off-limits to all males. Isn’t that exclusionary? I feel like I should have Black Power night. No white people can come. I dislike any event that excludes any group of people based on factors they cannot change.
It bothered me so much that after the game was over I went to talk to one of the USO volunteers. I do not know why I even bothered. It was like talking to a stone wall. His response was, “Well, we have ladies night.” That is not a justification. It is an excuse. One wrong does not correct another wrong. The USO does indeed sponsor a ladies night once a month. I’ve never been but I saw the pictures on Facebook. Ladies night was a group of women sitting around making soap. If you would like to make soap, that is awesome. I don’t want to make soap. I want to watch football. Who decided that soap-making is for women and football is for men? Apparently, the USO volunteer. He said, “Well, this was for the guys because football is mainly for men.”
Football is mainly for men. I guess millions of female football fans did not get the memo.
When someone comes at you with such an irrational argument, it is better to walk away. Knowing that I could persuade him, I chose to end the conversation. He asked me not to leave but I could not stay there any longer. He just did not understand how offensive the whole thing is. Ladies night, broasis, all that stuff. There is a huge problem in the military that is based on gender. We should not have events that exacerbates that problem. While the USO is not a military organization, it does support Service Members. We belong to an organization that has historically excluded females. The military’s answer to that problem was to include females, but only in certain capacities, as if we are somehow incapable of doing anything a man can.
Camp Arifjan USO basically perpetuated stereotypes that women are only interested in domestic activities and beauty tips. Football is mainly for men, and manicures are mainly for women. If you escalate that further, that is the same line of thought that states women cannot be combat arms or do any type of work outside of nursing or human resources. You might feel like I’m over-exaggerating, but really, let’s look at the numbers. Camp Arifjan USO, in case you did not know, women make up a mere 13.6 per cent of the active Army. The military is an environment that has been dominated by men. Until recently, women were excluded from certain positions based solely on gender. Although the military has made great strides to be inclusive, there are still some positions not available to women. Women could not permanently enlist in the Army until 1948. As of January 2013, of 976 generals and admirals only 69 are female and none of them are in charge of anything combat-related.
Some days it is an uphill battle being a female in the military. Camp Arifjan USO is having a Princess Party for the next ladies’ night. A princess party. If I ever had to lead troops into battle, or get a male to follow my orders I first have to erase the perception that I am a delicate flower. If I get hurt or I can’t do the job same as a man, it’s okay, I’m a princess. I don’t want to be a princess. I’m not a princess. I’m a Soldier. And it works both ways. All stereotypes are damaging. If a male wanted to make soap or get a manicure, then he is denigrated as gay, or somehow less than a man–when really, he’s just interested in those things. If he doesn’t like football or sports, something is wrong with him. I wish Camp Arifjan USO would move away from these stereotypes. I doubt they will end Ladies’ Night or Guys’ Night, but maybe they might have events that are gender neutral, or sponsor activities that are more appropriate for this location and our occupation. This month’s Guys’ Night is a Scavenger Hunt, which really sounds awesome. Unfortunately, the ladies are having a Princess Party, which sounds like something a six year old would be interested in. (I have since learned that the USO did indeed have a scavenger hunt for ladies’ night. No word on a Princess Party for men, though.) I don’t speak for all women. There are some ladies who feel like they are princesses. What I’m asking is that we shake things up a bit. Let me know when there is a ladies only cornhole tournament (actually, I suck at cornhole). It would be awesome if Ladies’ Night was game night, and I can sit in a Vag Cave and drink [near] beer. Oh, but I guess, since football is mainly for men, that might never ever happen.
I don’t want you to be confused. I’m not a hairy-legged, bra-burnin’, women’s libber. I just want to watch football.