This Veteran's T-Shirt Calls Out The Sexism Experienced By Women Who Serve

"I need that shirt too."

One veteran's Memorial Day message is going viral as an example of the everyday sexism female service members continue to face. Former Navy service member JoAnn Ortloff took a moment last week to write a powerful post in the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. While the group is not public, Ortloff's message struck a chord and has been liked over 63,000 times and inspired thousands of comments.  

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"I was getting tired after 36 years of being asked for my husband's ID, or having retailers etc thank my husband for his service even though I was the one who showed my retired Military ID card," she wrote. "I appreciate our public support of our military, I hope some day soon the minority who always assume it is a male, gets educated."

In the photo accompanying the post, Ortloff is wearing a sweatshirt that reads, "I'm the veteran. Not the veteran's wife," and also noted in comments that her husband does his small part by wearing his own "Proud Navy Husband" shirt. In addition to the thousands who responded to the post, Ortloff told A Plus via email that when she wears the shirt to veterans' gatherings, female service members typically react immediately with exclamations of, "I need that shirt too."

"I thought it was time to spread the message as far as I could to other military women that you are not alone, let's correct this together," she said. 

Otloff's original post / Reprinted with permission 

Ortloff was inspired to write the post in order to politely remind others that there are female veterans out there. In the 33 years in which she served in the Navy, Ortloff said she has seen significant positive changes for both male and female service members but, in her experience, female veterans are still often overlooked. 

"I am so grateful for our public's support of our military," Ortloff told A Plus. "We couldn't do what we do as well without it.  It means so much to us to know when we come home, we are welcomed with respect and honor. 

"It hurts a bit though, when women come home from a deployment and have been through some pretty terrifying moments but remained tough and strong and successful, only to be treated as if we never were there, because we are initially overlooked, and often not approached as the actual veteran."

When she finds herself in the sort of situations that she says many female service members face when they return home — like being asked for their husband's ID when inquiring about a military discount or being yelled at in a parking lot for taking a spot designated for veterans —  Ortloff said she is inclined to take the time to correct them, a gesture that she hopes will result in other veterans not having to deal with the sexist assumption as frequently in the future. 

"I am just hoping to bring awareness that it is happening and to encourage women in the services to find the right way for them to correct the unconscious bias, and not just let it slide, or else our next generation of young women in the military will have to grow up with it too," she said. "I know no one is intentionally excluding female veterans, they don't know they are doing it, so a polite reminder that the woman wearing the military ball cap or shirt is likely the veteran helps better than embarrassing them by being rude or grandstanding.  My mother and the Navy raised me right."

(H/T: HuffPost)

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