1. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Female Service Member's Considerations

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by zoupskim, Jan 13, 2016.

    I am writing a female character serving in the military. She is on a ten day mission into neutral/hostile territory: Five days to search out, five days to return. She is part of a ten man infantry squad with three vehicles in support. They saddle most of their gear on the vehicles. Their mission is to locate isolated pockets of civilians to secure until rear units can move up to evacuate them. She has field-stripped her load-out so that she only carries the following items on her person. These weights are estimates.

    Body:
    -Fatigues, 2lbs
    -Sweat soaking jumpsuit, 1lb
    -Boots, 5 lbs
    -Web gear with pouches for magazines
    -Body armor, 10 lbs
    -Weapon, 10lbs
    -240 rounds of 10mm rounds in magazines, 10lbs
    -Ballistic mask/helmet, 5lbs
    -Tarpaulin, 3lbs
    -Wireless transmitter with radio, 10 lbs

    -In small pack on back:
    -Microfibre sleeping bag in compression sack, 5lbs
    -Underwear, 1lbs
    -480 rounds of 10mm, 20 lbs
    -Cell phone, few oz
    -Oilskin notebook, few oz
    -Ointment, few oz
    -Assorted dehydrated food bars, 1 lbs

    I am wondering what sort of considerations a female would have to take to embark on a push like this. I want authenticity in my setting, which I usually try to provide from my own experiences hiking, working out, etc. I know what little areas will chafe, what parts of my foot will ache, what parts of gear would be the most cumbersome, and all the minutia to deal with these little pains. I am a male, however, and lack an understanding of the considerations a female would take, if any.

    I can read about these things in coaching books or Wikipedia all day. This won't do. I need to feel it, but I can't. Please tell me about it.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Assuming she's a fit, well-trained soldier with properly fitted gear, I can't see why she'd need much of anything extra.

    The only addition I can think of would be birth control pills gradated to prevent menstruation, if she would normally have menstruated during this time period. But a lot of hyper-fit women don't get their periods anyway, so if she's a super-soldier, it might not be an issue.
     
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  3. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I don't know exactly what universe you are writing in but it'll be a tight rope walk trying to portray her well if it's a 'real world, modern day' setting.

    Women in combat (not in uniform; in combat units) is a contentious issue. Off the top of my head I don't believe there is anywhere in the world where women are routinely allowed into combat units. Even in Israel they are put into roles like artillery and light infanty instead of units who are expected to be in intimate contact with enemy forces.

    This is a strongly politicised issue.

    And that's a bit of a problem for a writer unless you are very deliberately trying to make a point about women in combat. If that's what you want to do, no problems. Have at it. But if not, if you just want to tell an authentic feeling army story you'll need to answer why she's there without it appearing 'because I can!'.

    Here's the thing - If she holds up just fine then why particularly does she need to be a woman? If her being a woman doesn't make her stand out more than getting slightly different aches then you run the risk of writing a token woman. If she can't hold up and her being a woman is a big deal then what is she doing there?

    Don't let any of this stop you at all. It wouldn't stop me. If you think you have to great story and a great character that needs to be told then just do it. But if she's just a woman so she stands out of all the men then i'd think hard.
     
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  4. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Didn't the US military recently decide to allow women into basically any role (including combat)? And didn't some women recently graduate from Ranger school or BUD/S or some other elite training program?

    I am not/haven't been in the military so no idea how this is playing out in practice, but it was all over the news recently and seems like a meaningful change. And, if your story isn't set in the present but the near (even very near) future, I don't think it would strain credibility to have women in combat roles, as regardless of what is currently going on that seems to be the way things are moving.
     
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  5. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I came up with the idea for my story about a few soldiers struggling, I always envisioned one as a woman. I can't explain why, but the character is just there in my head. I can see her now, fiddling with her weapon, worrying about her reassignment orders, then all that fading when she sees a vehicle blow up. She becomes exceptionally quick to engage with deadly force after witnessing how quickly something like a tank can be turned to slag. In a battle inside a friendly city with allies and civilians everywhere, is this really the best response?

    As I research and write I have become extremely aware of all the sensitivities surrounding females in combat. My story is not about females in combat, there just happens to be a female... In combat. There's a scene where someone comments on how they like how her voice is different, because they can tell when she is talking to them on the radio. That's really the only time someone mentions her gender at all.
     
  6. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    The "consideration" will probably depend on the time period this story takes place; what the actual mission is, and where the story takes place.
     
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  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Well for a start she's gonna want tampons. Sometimes for herself in case of lady days, but combat ops have found that there really isn't anything better for plugging a bullet hole.

    I also don't see anything about her bra on there. I'm not sure what kind of combat bra there is, but I would look into that.

    Edited to add: She also has to keep her hair regulation, so that means hair ties and probably a brush.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I more or less agree with the rest, but I'd think that if she does this sort of thing regularly, she'd just have very short hair.
     
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  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Maybe?
    From the military regulations on women's hair:
     
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  10. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I don't do a lot of physical activity, nor know people in the military. However, I am a woman, so here is what I think of when I think of strenuous exercise with not a lot of access to amenities. Maybe some of it will be useful for you?

    She's probably going to want a bra that will strap things down comfortably and securely. A sports bra? As far as aches and pains go - her boobs will probably hurt occasionally, and sweat is not uncommon and quite annoying underneath them.

    If she gets her period, she's going to need tampons. She could also possibly use a menstrual cup if she has access to clean water. You can insert a menstrual cup and leave it in for up to 12 hours safely, and there's no leaks and you can't really feel it. I don't know if women in the military use them (or even know about them) but it seems like something that could be useful. To take care of them, you just rinse them out when you empty it. They're reusable, but you can buy disposable ones.

    Chap stick? I have rather full lips and they get chapped easy (it really hurts). I don't know if that's a female thing or not, but you don't typically see men with chap stick (why not??).

    Possibly helpful link: http://lunapads.com/blog/2012/10/menstruation-military/
     
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't mean that she'd be required to have short hair, just that having long hair in those circumstances seems awfully impractical. Rather like bringing a skirt. :) But maybe she'd value long hair enough to go to the trouble.
     
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  12. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Her size and level of fitness will play a part, I'd imagine. You probably want to have an idea of what is required of your soldiers to make the cut. Clearly she's met the requirements, so she's strong enough to carry everything plus one of the guys if need be. Unless she made it in because some politician wanted quotas filled. Super fit women with a low body fat often have flattish chests, so wildly bouncing boobs are less of an issue.

    As proud as women are of menstruation (girl power!), it's super inconvenient, annoying, and can make your midriff cramp like nobody's business, so yeah, she'd postpone her period if she can (trickier if she suffers of migraine as some docs don't prescribe you the type of pill that allows you to do that -- something that makes me very bitter, but hey, beats that surprise blood clot in the brain I suppose).

    Wet wipes. Women are just as fine with no-shower environments as men, it turns out.

    Tampons are great for plugging all kinds of bleeding. Her male team mates might want to consider carrying a few as well. ;)

    She'd probably prefer short hair, especially if she's chosen an infantry combat role. Just much more convenient, even though inhaling a few tufts of hair while fighting bad guys is probably the least of her problems, but that'd be my preference.

    One problem that I have with military style backpacks is that they're too wide for my shoulders and don't quite fit me. This might not be a problem in your universe, but it's something I've noticed. Then again, my shoulders aren't super wide, although not particularly narrow either. Other than that, the chafes and aches in the back, shoulders, and feet are probably quite similar (I've never been a man, though, so...). While men generally outdo women strength and endurance wise, on an individual level these "shortcomings" won't have to play a significant part in your story. After all, like mentioned earlier, two women beat plenty of guys in the ranger school, so they happened to have the exceptional abilities required to pass muster (both men and women have to be exceptional to make it.)

    Other than that, you are free to write her as the kind of person she is with less focus on her sex and more on who she is and what she does. Sure, I'd expect there's going to be some banter between her and the boys, but probably nothing too serious? In the end I'm assuming they understand they have to be able to trust each other, so petty bitchiness and "battle of the sexes" type of bs would be absent.
     
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