The New Generation of Women Veteran Activists

I had the total honor of attending a Congressional meeting yesterday called “The Growing Needs of Women Veterans: Is the VA Ready?” It was hosted by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and widely attended by a variety of women veterans’ groups who each had a chance to testify about what they see as the growing and unique needs for women veterans (who are currently about 15% of our military).
I plan on writing extensively about some of the issues that were brought up (including childcare, VA climate, cultural shifts, and of course, sexual assault), but what I really wanted to emphasize here at feministing was how inspired I was by the presence of young, fearless women activists yesterday. The stand outs were Anuradha K. Bhagwati, Executive Director of the Service Women’s Action Network (which I’ve written about before), Kayla Williams, author of Love My Rifle More Than You, and Dawn Halfaker (pictured here), of Wounded Warriors.
They each spoke with such passion, clarity, and authenticity at the hearing. As the various leaders and ED’s of organizations made their remarks, I was thrilled to hear these young women’s voices, which truly stood out as professional, but also unequivocally real. They didn’t let the official nature of the meeting or the onslaught of statistics overshadow the fact that women are suffering unimaginable pain because of sexual harassment and assault experiences, inadequate access to reproductive and mental health care at the VA centers through out the nation, and a sense of invisibility in a country that still assumes women don’t see combat or get PTSD. Though the day was overwhelming, and the sense of glacial movement in our legislative branch palpable, I left with this rock solid confidence that this generation of women vet activists are going to make things right. They’re too strong and bold and eloquent and convicted not to.
P.S. SWAN’s site went live today, so be sure to go over and check it out.

Join the Conversation

  • anitasaber

    So glad women veterans are speaking up and are being listened to!
    On a slightly different note, with my choir I was preparing for the Memorial Day program, and there are a couple readings during it. Of course, those readings refer to soldiers as men, and of course I had a problem with that…one of my stubborn friends wouldn’t change her reading, but at a different rehearsal my mom changed hers, as she told me, because of my influence :). Just goes to show that talking about women’s rights with the people around you can be effective in affecting their awareness.

  • dawn_of_the_bread

    Good for you. What did you decide to change it to: men and women? Or just soldiers/people?

  • anitasaber

    It was changed from “sons, fathers and husbands” to “sons, daughters and parents”.

  • Ivory

    Always bugs me that childcare is seen as a women’t issue. Never the less, this conversation is long overdue.

  • Ivory

    It always bugs me that childcare is framed as a women’s issue – never the less, this conversation is long overdue.

  • swsimons

    This post reminds me of a performance I saw several months ago called “The Lonely Soldier Monologues” based on the book THE LONELY SOLDIER by Helen Benedict.
    The book is based on 40 in-depth interviews with female veterans while the performance took several of the narratives captured up onto the stage. Stories were told about education, racism, rape, sexual harassment, tradition, religion…. The performance made me cry, not only because of the deep pain of those female veterans made manifest on stage, but also out of guilt for being represented by a military I don’t actively know anything about.
    Representatives of SWAN were at the performance. While it sounds like there is a lot of work to be done, it also sounds as though there is a growing coalition of people who are starting to do that good work.