*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Girls Need Not Apply: Field Notes from the Forces
Author: Kelly S. Thompson
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
At eighteen years old, Kelly Thompson enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. Despite growing up in a military family — she would, in fact, be a fourth-generation soldier — she couldn’t shake the feeling that she didn’t belong. From the moment she arrives for basic training at a Quebec military base, a young woman more interested in writing than weaponry, she quickly realizes that her conception of what being a soldier means, forged from a desire to serve her country after the 9/11 attacks, isn’t entirely accurate. A career as a female officer will involve navigating a masculinized culture and coming to grips with her burgeoning feminism.
I have to admit, with the baby due in a few short months, I haven’t had nearly as much energy these days and it’s been making it a bit more difficult to keep my eyes open while reading. That being said, Girls Need Not Apply was so fantastically written that I found myself pushing to stay up later and read longer just so I could consume more of Thompson’s story. I was totally taken with this book and found myself completely absorbed every time I sat down to read. My only real criticism is that it ended far too soon.
In Girls Need Not Apply, a military memoir, Thompson details her 8-year career in the military, from basic training to her promotion to Captain. Kelly is open and honest about the sexism and harassment that occurs both in training and in the workplace–issues that are often swept under the rug or disregarded because to speak up is considered a sign of weakness. To be a woman, or be thought of as having female emotions, is to be judged severely and without forgiveness. The harassment runs deep and is perpetuated by senior ranking instructors to new recruits and colleagues, male and female alike, to weed out “weakness” and build strength and character.
Rather than finding empowerment and strength in her femininity and sexuality, Thompson is objectified and disrespected continually by both friends and colleagues. She is judged for looking and behaving a certain way because it is seen as an invitation. To be friendly is to be flirty and that invites unwanted romantic and sexual attention. The other women warn her and judge her behaviour and then men take advantage whenever they can, when she is simply a young woman trying to understand who she is and how she fits into this strange world.
Thompson’s struggles highlight the inequality that exists in our world for women, particularly in male-dominated and traditionally “masculine” environments. Although her military career ended nearly 10 years ago, and I cannot speak to what the military is like for women in 2020, Thompson’s account draws attention to the fact that we need to be rethinking what our concept of strength and power actually is. Thompson is not the “traditional” soldier, with her degrees in writing and her struggles throughout to complete the physical aptitude requirements; however, she offers so much more as a critical thinker and compassionate human. Within her professional life, she excels, scoring at the top of her group. Through her memoir she finds her voice and speaks out the truth of her experiences. Without discussion, there cannot be change, and with this book, Thompson shows that there is so much room for growth and improvement in way that can only be beneficial to our country and society as a whole.