I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you! By way of introduction, I am Callie Kerr. I'm the girl in both of those pictures. I'm a horse girl, turned pageant girl, turned rocker girl, turned attorney girl, turned Army girl. I am currently active duty in the US Army serving as a Judge Advocate. What does that mean? Basically, I am an attorney for the military. I am a military prosecutor and try criminal cases at courts-martial. (Have you seen Demi Moore in A Few Good Men? Yeah, that's me!) My hubby and I live in North Pole, Alaska. Yes, THE North Pole, I'll tell Santa you said hi. When I'm not in camo I enjoy pigging out on my chef-husband's cooking and drinking copious amounts of wine.
I want to share some of my thoughts with you about societal pressure to be a certain "kind" of woman. I have seen and felt this pressure at different times in my life. As a pageant girl, I embraced every ounce of estrogen, and hairspray in existence! It was all makeup, spray tan, teeth whitening, heels, and catwalk strutting, all the time. After placing in the Top 10 at Miss Houston USA, I started training the Miss Texas USA pageant. I would wake up in the morning and put on a pair of high heels, eat my Nutrisystem breakfast (in my heels) and then head to the gym to do nothing by cardio. I practiced applying my makeup, over and over again. I teased and sprayed my hair as big as Texas expected. I walked for hours in heels, turning this way, and spinning that way. After all, sporty girls who get on stage and walk like a neanderthal in heels would never make it. And for a week, I competed at Miss Texas USA with almost 200 other girls. I'm sure some of you are wondering "are those pageant sabotage stories really true?" Let me just answer that now - Yes. I saw all kinds of woman-on-woman brutality (of course, nothing physical) but you know what I mean. If stealing that girl's teasing comb may make her hair look flat on stage, some women showed no mercy. We were all under the same pressure to be that perfect, crown-worthy, woman.
Flash forward five years, and I here I am marching in formation wearing a bullet proof vest, helmet, 45 pound rucksack, boots, and an M16 rifle. Our instructor would call cadence as we marched on for hours: "One mile, too easy, two miles, no sweat..." I marched for 6 miles in the 100 degree temperature at Fort Benning, Georgia. I nearly collapsed at the end - I was so dehydrated and exhausted. I fell to the ground, took my arms out of my rucksack, and rolled out of it. I face planted into the grass. I laid on the ground thinking "I hope none of the guys are watching me struggle right now....I will NOT let a man help me up." More pressure, to be a certain kind of woman. This time, a not-so-feminine woman.
You see, different life experiences can bring up different gender expectations. I'm 27 years old and I'm still trying to figure out how I define myself as a woman. One thing I'm sure about is that don't want to be ONE THING. I want to be pretty in heels, but fierce in combat boots. I want to jump out of airplanes and earn that coveted Airborne badge. I also want to be that fashion-loving girl my husband married, but I've figured out over the years that cooking is not my thing. I hate it, actually. I know so many of you lovely women are rocking it in your apron in the kitchen, pumping out some amazing dishes. For a while, I tried to be that woman, but the truth is I'd rather do that 6 mile ruck march in the boiling heat than try to cook dinner for my husband. I can't ignore the fact that there is a certain pressure not to be too feminine as a Soldier. I can't say I get this balance right or that I've even figured it out during my little over two years of service. But I have no shame in carrying around my giant pink water bottle at work and I proudly wear my bright pink running shoes to Physical Training formation every morning.
So the question is, am I too feminine or not feminine enough? I propose that maybe we shouldn't be asking ourselves that question at all...
My thought is, if you genuinely enjoying cooking, taking care of kiddos, and managing a home, then DO IT. Don't let society tell you that you are in some way not living up to your full woman potential, or that you are somehow supporting sexism. Of course, the reverse has to be true. If you enjoy being a power CEO, living on take out, or a man who loves to cook for you (gasp! A man cooking for a woman?!), then do that! Think about this: if we all did what we enjoyed doing, wouldn't the results we produce be better? Doesn't that create a positive and thriving environment for our nation? I propose that by doing you, by being you, you are helping the whole. How beautifully interesting it is that God made each of us with our unique abilities, likes and dislikes. We each add some color to the palette. And it goes without saying that if we are fully invested in something that we genuinely enjoy then we are more likely to succeed at THAT. I constantly pray that I would be like clay in God’s hands. That he would use me for his purpose and his purpose alone. And I accept that my way of serving may be different from moment to moment, or year to year. Just because you’ve always been one way doesn’t mean you can’t reinvent yourself and be something completely different the next. From being a pageant girl to a Solider; a homemaker to a small business owner... or WHATEVER! Do what makes you happy and you will without a doubt be helping another.
I'm grateful that my husband, not fearful of gender expectation himself, has taken on the role of homemaker for our little family. My husband’s friends here and there make comments about “oh you’re the dependent” or “I see you got yourself an officer” which of course, is code for "you found yourself a sugar mama". But he has accepted and even embraced his role within our family, because he is doing what he LOVES to do. He encourages me to do all those "Army Hooah" things I want to do. He would tell you that he worries about me while I'm out training, but he would never tell ME that. What we have works for us.
Bottom line, embrace your individuality without concern of societal norms for what you should be like as a woman. As another female Soldier reminds me almost daily: "Do You Boo Boo!"
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