From Fierce to Feminine

My mom was a ‘50s bride and wanna be feminist. She was attracted by the women’s movement and envious of the feminists when they came on the scene. My Dad was an Army veteran and had PTSD from serving in 2 wars, WW2 and Korea, and Vietnam reserves. Although I didn’t realize he had PTSD. He had a black cloud of anger over him. My mom wasn’t very nurturing. Perhaps it was because of the stress of living with my Dad and his moods. At 30 years old I realized I had that same black cloud of anger over me. And I now see that Feminism is a very angry movement.

In the 1970s, military careers began opening up to women. Prior to that, women in the military were an anomaly but then it became the norm. The year 1976 military academies began accepting women and the first woman became an Air Force pilot. They began actively recruiting women for ROTC on college campuses. As a military kid, I was inspired by this.

Staking out my ground in high school

1974-1978 were my high school years. I joined the Junior ROTC in high school, which meant I wore a uniform. Boys in high school were threatened by this because of the exposure of the ugliness of war in Vietnam. They really were not keen on the military because of the antiwar movement. The boys in my class did not understand why I would want such a career. They were also not attracted to me because of this.

It made me tough.

Most of my classmates moms were stay at home wives. The shifting times of the 1970s! Many women in my high school class still had modest ambitions and were content to aim for secretarial positions, dental assistants which were careers conducive to transitioning to full time wife and mother. “If I don’t make it in my career, I can always be a homemaker.”

I then finished a 4 year degree at a Arizona State University, where I majored in print journalism with an emphasis in public relations. After graduation, with the support of my parents, I joined the Air Force in 1983.

Trying to be a woman in a man’s world

I was running away from my crazy family situation. I had to get away from that. But then I had to be a woman in a man’s world. War is tough and you don’t want to feminize it. Thinking of targets and dislocating the enemy is not soft and feminine. I was not raped in the military. I had to be smart and aware to survive.

You are a kind of a psychotic mess when you are a feminist. When I was on active duty, I noticed a lot of women started to peel off. The ones that persisted in climbing the ranks were lesbians. I did not want to identify myself that way. It seemed that is what it took to make it to the upper ranks of the military. These women were butch. I did not see myself like that. This was a crisis for me as I wanted to have a husband and children.

Both my mom and dad encouraged my ambitions to join the military. They were supportive of the feminist idea of ‘career woman’. I called myself, “the accidental career woman.” But it wasn’t making me happy.

So I switched to the Air Force Reserves. It was a lot better for me. I could be stationed in one location and not transferred around. If I wanted to start a family being in one place would be helpful.

When I switched to the reserves in 1992, I was still wearing a uniform. But, finally, I was doing reserve duty one weekend a month and two weeks a year. I was much more available to a relationship. Attending church, building friendships was possible.

No functional man is attracted to an angry, fierce, woman. I had to jettison that anger in my 30s working through the bad emotions and let them go. I clung to the truth of who I was, and through spiritual growth overcame the black cloud.

Recognizing what I was missing in life

In addition to the spiritual growth I remembered how genuinely happy my grandmother was as a homemaker. I could go into our family’s past and see a shining example to emulate. What resources do you have that can help you find your way out of the feminist mode?

I left behind my full retirement and took a job in the private sector with a defense contractor. Even though I still had a hectic pace, I could leave work at the office and enjoy a personal life. I started to reflect and be more feminine, let my hair grow long, wear makeup and enjoy girlfriends. When I was in the Air Force I was unable to have female friends.

I wanted to shift and change. I wanted to get rid of the things that were holding me back. I thought of the part of my mom that I admired. I remembered her canning food for our pantry. I started canning and baking and working on my domestic skills. She would have supper on the table for us. She did it out of a sense of duty, not from the heart, but my memory of that made me appreciate my mom.

I began to develop the feminine attributes that I love in my mom. I also started to model my behavior after other women who were fantastic homemakers.

Life with my new, softer self

When I first met my future husband, a cattle rancher, in 1991, it was through a college friend of mine. The rigid military woman he met back then was a turn off. In early 2000, we met again and he noticed how I had softened, and he was attracted to my new feminine self. By August of 2000, we were married.

Career doesn’t love and accept you for who you are. A career doesn’t give you a child that you can nurture and pour yourself into. Having the opportunity to live with a man who is your best friend, who loves you and you love him and that love produces a child, is a blessing. At the end of my life I will have no regrets over the choices I’ve made because I love and I am loved. I walked away from the military, left behind a substantial pension to be a helpmate to my husband, to raise our son and to be an owner of a family ranching business.

The challenge we now have is to prepare our future daughter-in-law. Our teenage son wants to take over the ranch someday. My advice to her will be to find a balance between home and work but to make home the priority which will ultimately lead to the most happiness. I advise our son to encourage his future wife’s ambitions but to wait until the children are grown before encouraging her to pursue any career outside the home.

Anna is a rancher’s wife and mother in South Dakota. Had she still been a single professional, she most certainly would have been hurt or killed in the terrorist attack on September 11th. Her desk had been in the E-ring of the Pentagon.

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