Women in the Military -- Aug. 28, 2005

A weekly feature on This Week.

Voices/Images

Our voice this week is Kayla Williams, an Army sergeant just back from combat in Iraq who struggled with the macho culture of the military. After this week's Pentagon report that half the women in our military academies say they have been sexually harassed, Williams' book, "Love My Rifle More Than You," shows how far the military has come for women, how much more it needs to do, and what life is really like for a woman at war.

Kayla Williams: You are carrying a weapon. You are wearing a Kevlar [body armor]. You're filthy. You stink. And all of that sense of femininity that you may be able to hold onto in the States disappears in that situation.

The women are stared at constantly in any non-work situation -- in line for food [or during a] workout at the sad, little gyms they set up. Guys would come up constantly and come up and talk to me. A lot of it is loneliness There's no female companionship at all, and gentleness is something that is really lacking. Even to smell a girl is something that they seem to really want.

One night, Bruce Willis and his band came to play as part of a USO tour, and I thought, you know, it's a special occasion. Why not? So I put on some mascara for that night, and people noticed and commented on it and even weeks later.

I was not surprised to hear that the culture at military academies almost sets the climate for abuse by almost devaluing women, because there is still such a struggle going on.

I don't know if I have met a woman in the military that has not had something said or done to her that she has not liked as a woman as a female solider.

When it comes to men and women being the same in uniform, I think that many soldiers are still really put off by the differences in the physical fitness standards -- the fact that men have to do significantly more push-ups and have to run faster than women.

I don't know how you get over that perception of difference. When I served with people who brought it up, I tried to help put it in a bigger context and say, 'Look, I may not be able to carry the same amount of weight that you can for the same distance, but I speak Arabic and you don't.' We have our own skills. Everybody has their own strengths.

Funnies

Weekends at the D.L.:

D.L. Hughley: President Bush said that anti-war protesters like Cindy Sheehan are advocating a policy that weakens the United States. Let me tell you what weakens that United States: The most powerful man on the planet scared of meeting with a middle-aged white woman. That is what weakens this country.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Stewart: The president is launching a brand-new defensive over Iraq, hitting the road in response to criticism on the weekend's news talk shows from the usual band of peaceniks -- like Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Aug. 21, on ABC News' "This Week": Any measure and any standard you apply to this, we're not winning. Now what's the definition of not winning? I think if you could just, for example, say that you could secure the road from the Baghdad airport to downtown Baghdad. …

Stewart: Oh my God. We've gone from promising to democratize the Middle East to hoping to secure a quick ride the airport.

Real Time with Bill Maher:

Maher: Hurricane Katrina looked like it was bad in Florida. The other day, law enforcement officials went around telling residents to stay in their homes, and black people thought it was Election Day.

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