Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Female Veterans' Involvement in Outdoor Sports and Recreation: A Theoretical Sample of Recreation Opportunity Structures

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Female Veterans' Involvement in Outdoor Sports and Recreation: A Theoretical Sample of Recreation Opportunity Structures

Article excerpt

Women have been a part of the armed forces since the creation of the United States military. Due to the United States' continued involvement in global military operations, women are increasingly utilized and recognized as an integral component of the armed forces. Additionally, the role of women in the military continues to evolve, as they participate in over 90% of all military occupations, including direct combat operations. Today, women serve in ever-increasing numbers, with over 280,000 having been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, representing 15% of the U.S. military force (Lyle, 2015). According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (2011), women currently comprise approximately 8% of the veteran population, totaling 1.5 million female veterans. In addition, the number of female veterans is projected to grow to nearly 20% by 2035 (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2011). Interestingly, while the overall veteran population has decreased by approximately 2.5 million since 1986, the number of female veterans has increased by just over half a million (Business and Professional Women's Foundation, 2012), suggesting females are one of the fastest growing demographics in the military.

In addition to the increasing presence of females in the military, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan mark the first time in history when women are being recognized for their critical involvement in combat operations. The nature of current military operations, including the asymmetric battlefields and the absence of clear lines between enemy and friendly territory, means that all military personnel, regardless of position or gender, could at any time be engaged in direct conflict with enemy forces. As a result, women are returning home with stereotypical "male" wounds, both physical and emotional (Street, Vogt, & Dutra, 2009), thus further necessitating and entitling them to expanded medical care.

Even with the expanding role of women in the military and the growing opportunities for women to participate in all facets of military life, some women report feeling unrecognized, dismissed, or even stigmatized due to their service in the armed forces (Benedict, 2009). Further, women frequently feel threatened, not only from common stressors, but also from a male-dominated military experience where sexual assault and harassment are commonplace (Mattocks et al., 2012; Street et al., 2009; U.S. Department of Defense, 2014). Among women receiving health care services in the Veterans Affairs System (VA), 1 in 4 report having experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) (Military Sexual Trauma, 2015). Other research suggests the incidence of MST is as high as 41% among female personnel involved in combat situations during their military involvement (Barth et al., 2016). Additionally, female veterans may experience high levels of stress due to their dual role as primary caregiver at home and service member. Nearly 40% of female veterans under the age of 65 years have children under the age of 17 still living at home (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2011). Caregiver stress is particularly heightened during times of deployment, especially considering some 30,000 women service members are single mothers (Department of Defense, 2010). It has been argued that the combination of these potential stressors, especially the potential for military sexual trauma (MST) among female service members (Boyd, Bradshaw, & Robinson, 2013), makes women more susceptible to posttraumatic stress (PTS) and other emotional disturbances than their male counterparts.

Considering these issues, the experience of women in the military differs significantly from that of men. Women continue to possess a minority status in the military. As mentioned, they regularly face the threat of sexual harassment and assault and potentially face additional stressors associated with caregiver roles where applicable. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.