Whether it’s primal nature or simply learned behavior, humans tend to create and follow a pecking order. For military members and their families, it’s easy to fall victim to “rankism.” A service member’s rank can dictate much more than responsibilities they have at work; it can affect relationships and expectations among spouses as well.
If you’re curious as to whether you contribute to rankism or are interested in changing your perspective, here are some signs and solutions:
Military spouse soon find out that in the military rank can seep into everything in military communities, even when it shouldn’t.
New military spouses probably won’t find the term “rankism” in the dictionary. But many would argue it’s long been a part of military life. Consider it discrimination toward other military spouses based on the rank of their significant other. Discriminatory actions aren’t always done in an overt, drastic way.
Consider these examples:
Avoiding a friendship or military events because of rank
Expecting spouses of higher-ranked service members to take on more volunteer work and installation responsibilities.
Expecting spouses of lower-ranked service members to take a follower role without the ability to offer any input.
Only talking to spouses whose significant others are of the same rank.
Resentment toward more expensive clothing, cars, houses for the higher-paid spouses.
Conflict or anger toward high-rank perks such as certain parking spots or housing.
The concept of rankism has been noted in scores of fields and industries with any form of social hierarchy. Combating stereotypes and seeking multiple perspectives can be key when it comes to breaking through this invasive issue. Here are a few things to consider:
Nice and mean spouses come with every rank. Paying attention to rank can cause you to lose an opportunity for a great friend or force you into unhealthy relationships.
Higher-ranked service members may have a lengthier time spent in the military community and probably have taken on a lot of responsibilities in that time. Their spouse also likely supported them while attaining higher ranks. In a sense, they have earned the perks of the rank.
Assuming pretentious or jealous attitudes can be counterproductive until you actually meet and talk to the person.
Lower rank does not mean low class. Spouses should not pretend newly enlisted, or those with less time, are invisible and not an asset to the community.
While service members have to respect the meaning of ranks, their actions should not transfer to the character of their spouse. If a commander has to discipline personnel of a lower rank and causes a sense of belittling, that does not mean his or her spouse is the same.
Adrienne May is a military spouse. Her husband is an Army soldier and now is serving in the Army National Guard. Together they have three children from preschool to pre-teen. Adrienne is actively involved in family readiness and disaster preparedness on the state level and advocating for military family programs, homecoming transition programs and adequate veterans benefits.
Military Spouse Central aims to be a resource for military spouses as they deal with overseas deployment, sudden PCS orders and everything else that comes with marrying a member of the Armed Forces.
Adrienne May maintains Military Spouse Central for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation's leading VA-approved lender. Adrienne is wife to a National Guard solider and has built up a massive library of resources, tips, articles and contributors for military spouses from all branches!