Sometimes a column deserves a follow-up, especially when I did not deliver it well the first time. Although I usually try to write about politics without emotion, sometimes personal frustration and misunderstanding creeps in.

Last week was one of those times, and responses to my column prove that I did not make the point I intended to make. When you’re publishing 800 words every week for 15 years, it happens. So I’m giving it another shot today.

I was frustrated with the “Day Without a Woman” march, expected to happen March 8, because I (mistakenly, it turns out) believed it only serves women who have the luxury and privilege of taking a day off, and I believed it ignores many groups who cannot (will not or don’t care to) participate. However, last week, someone who disagreed with me (respectfully and constructively, I should add) convinced me of this important point: women who do march do it for those who cannot. That makes sense.

Still, the list of women who are excluded by reality, if not intention, is long, and it includes female service members, police officers, firefighters, teachers, doctors, single mothers and on and on. But as this is a personal column and written through the lens of my experiences, my focus is military wives.

I’ve been a military dependent since the day I was born, and for as long as I can remember, military wives have been viewed as ultraconservative followers who move in lockstep with their husbands and the government. For sure, many military wives are conservative, and some of them are very traditional, too.

For the most part, however, some of the most politically progressive and liberal women I know are military wives. It is the military system itself that is a bit stuck in the 1950s, but the women married into it usually are not. And even the conservative ones, by way of their circumstances, are leading lives for which most feminist women would approve.

From the time I was a little girl, I always thought “the mom,” not “the dad,” mowed the lawn, fixed the washing machine, boarded up windows for a hurricane, bought and sold cars, paid the mortgage, filed the taxes and took care of general home repairs. Because from the time I was a little girl, most of the men I knew were deployed and their wives did all of the above. Some of those women were conservative. Some of them were liberal. But very few of them could have dropped everything to participate in a “Day Without a Woman.” There was too much to get done.

So, part of my point last week was that some women can’t march because they are busy leading the kind of lives that feminists want them to have: independent, self-determined, important.

Of course, my (civil, respectful) debater last week pointed out that the women who are marching are doing it for all the underprivileged women who aren’t leading these kinds of lives and also can’t participate in the march. Touche.

But last week’s discussion brought up another old, familiar complaint about military wives: We chose this lifestyle, so we should stop complaining.

There is no other demographic of people for which such a characterization would be tolerated. Do we tell mothers who are tired from lack of sleep, “You chose to have a baby, so suck it up”? Do we tell law enforcement, “You chose your career, so suck it up”? Do we say this to firefighters? Do we say it to women who are single mothers because they chose to get divorced? Do we say it to the active-duty military members themselves? Do we say it to drug addicts when they are suffering from withdrawal? (“You chose to do drugs, so stop complaining.”) Do we say it to smokers who get lung cancer?

By no means am I putting military wives’ sacrifices on the level of service members, firefighters or police officers. I’m also not equating military wives to drug addicts. Maybe it seems silly to stop and point that out, but trust me, people will draw those conclusions.

What I am saying is that telling someone “shut up, you chose this” is pretty much not acceptable in any other situation, except in response to a military wife. That’s interesting to me.

Most people have choice in the things they do, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t sacrificed. And just because a military wife married into a system that is sort of “Leave it to Beaver” and doesn’t necessarily leave room for her to leave for the day to go to a march, that doesn’t mean she isn’t also independent and progressive.

In retrospect, however, I’m glad that there are women who can and will march, and that they give voice and light to others who cannot.


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