McSally ‘Skirts’ Her Duty to Support Women By Buying Into Misogyny and Patriarchy

Shelly Burgoyne, an Arizonan, Combat Veteran, Former Army Officer, military spouse, parent, and advocate for full gender integration of all military combat jobs, says McSally’s recently unearthed 2007 lecture at the Duke University School of Law displays “backwards thinking that hurts us all.” In her talk, McSally accuses women of purposefully timing pregnancies to get out of serving on deployments. She said women were not being responsible in their sexual activity and that it caused others in the military to doubt that women would be able to deploy. You can see McSally’s full presentation here. Her comments about women and pregnancy begin about 45 minutes into the video. The Salon article about the speech and the academic paper it was based on, “Martha McSally: Women in the Military Get Pregnant To “Skirt” Deployment,” can be found here.

Burgoyne’s Statement:

McSally’s position on pregnancy and parenthood in our military is so radically out of step with the military’s thinking on this issue–even in 2007. In the early 2000s, our military began to make real steps forward, in terms of how they view pregnancy and family. All services (especially the Army) began to make childcare readily available and affordable for men and women who serve. They began to propose and even enact the idea of joint maternal leave (parental leave), and began to offer comprehensive prenatal healthcare for all servicewomen. 

It is a myth that soldiers and airmen that happen to be women ‘skirt’ deployment by purposely getting pregnant. Do men and women who serve choose to have families? Yes, of course they do. But do they intentionally choose pregnancy in a time of deployment? No. I served in Iraq twice, in the early period of the war–the most dangerous and frightening period. I served in a transportation unit, which was responsible for driving long convoys of critical supplies to forward units. This combat job was one of the most dangerous missions in the war effort. In my unit, which consisted of about 17% women, I do not remember any soldier purposely ‘getting’ pregnant in order to ‘skirt’ these combat deployments–not one. 

In her ‘thesis’, McSally states that it is “not appropriate” to have a child just because they [women in the military] want to. She states:

“The military must foster a culture in which military women understand that it is not appropriate to get pregnant whenever they desire. Instead, women need to realize their duties take precedence. They must take measures to prevent unplanned pregnancies and plan for pregnancies to occur only when they are in non-deployable situations.” 

No, she is flat wrong. Men and women in our military are American citizens and they can choose to have a family whenever they want to. Luckily for our nation’s security, our military is filled with some very smart and selfless people who almost always try to start a family outside of a deployment window. Much like the rest of working America, parents usually make smart choices on when to start a family, often based on the demands of their job.

In her ‘thesis’ McSally shockingly describes pregnancy as an injury or sickness. This idea is so backwards it is difficult to stomach, it is almost as if she wrote this in the early 1970s. American men and women of all professional backgrounds should be praised for their willingness to have a family–this should be seen as a patriotic and joint effort by both American men and women – especially military men and women. 

McSally talks a lot about how commanders should counsel their female service members on when to have a family. What other profession does this? Does a hospital administrator counsel their female doctors on when to have a family? No. The idea is frankly archaic–even laughable. 

Finally, her ‘thesis’ does not address any role that a male service member might play in a service woman’s parenthood or pregnancy. Both a man and woman are responsible for pregnancy and it is none of the military’s business if, when, or how that happens. The military is a profession of arms, not a gang. Professional men and women come together and decide to have a child, and they are just like any other critical first responder professions in our nation–they try very hard to ‘time’ parenthood during down times.

To argue every point of McSally’s ridiculous ‘thesis’, would be to give it legitimacy, and frankly her ideas are shockingly, self-hating, inexperienced, short sighted, desperate to fit in, vintage, and non-relevant. Her ideas are just simply not where the military is on this issue–not even in 2007–in fact they are light years away. I truly feel awful for any woman who had to serve under her shitty command.

McSally’s command philosophy was and remains a desperate attempt to parrot whatever she thinks men in the military want to hear. She may think joining in on misogynistic judgements against other women will protect her from mistreatment. Sadly, joining in on the misogyny, will not protect her from the harsh patriarchal system she is working to keep in place.

The men with these outdated views will never respect any woman. The men who are more enlightened, will just think McSally is nuts. 

I will work my ass off to ensure McSally loses her appointed Senate seat–and thus her seat on the Armed Services Committee. McSally’s presence in these powerful positions are a threat to every woman and man who serves this nation.