Salute to Spouses Blog

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Dear Old Boys' Club, the Girls are Here to Stay

I had coffee with a friend last week.

She’s a lawyer, married to a businessman, but she grew up in the South just like I did. She was discussing how it feels working for the old boys’ club, as a woman.

Then she paused, and kinda laughed.

“No one has anything on the military when it comes to the old boys' club, though,” she said.

My husband is on submarines. If anyone is used to their husband working among a bunch of salty sailors, almost always male, I am.

But when we moved to Georgia, the base we were stationed at underwent a change. The base filled with salty male submariners added some female ones, too.

Not many. Just a few. A few submarines here added female officers to their staff.

And one of them is my sister –in-law.

Maybe it’s because she’s family. Maybe it’s because it didn’t directly affect my husband; he still goes to work on the boat just like he always did. Or maybe it’s because that after a few months, it just wasn’t that big a deal.

My husband gets asked about it sometimes. People wonder if it’s odd to have women in what was once a man’s world. And I get the furtive glances and thinly veiled statements from other women, wondering what I think; wondering if I’m worried (as if women haven’t been deploying with men elsewhere in the military for a while.)

My husband always shrugs. I like to think of him as an enlightened male, but honestly, I don’t think he has an opinion. If it works, it works. Even in the old boy’s club.

And as for me, I find myself immediately on the defensive.

My sister-in-law is incredibly competent. She’s smart and capable and performs her job to the best of her ability. She’s an excellent example of what a submariner should and could be.

And she’s a woman.

And so am I. I’m a girl mom, too. I only have little girls, in fact. Little girls who I want to be able to do whatever they want to the best of their ability.

For me, any newly open avenue for women is another open avenue for my children.

So it almost pains me when other women – military wives, especially – cluck-cluck and outright dismiss the idea of women being on submarines. Not because some concerns weren’t valid. After all, change comes with some growing pains. But because some find it so hard to understand that their fellow woman would want to do this job.

Yes, some women want to be on submarines. Some women want to work in the old boys' club.

My family looks traditional. My role in my family looks traditional. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect women who do things differently. 

Because my daughters may be just like me: a military spouse who works from home and cares for her babies. Or they may be lawyers. Or businesswomen. Or submariners.

Today, the old boys' club may still exist. But thanks to people like my sister-in-law, that no longer means it’s still no girls allowed.


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