June 1, 2014
The Stereotypes of a MILSO
Military families are respected around the world because of the sacrifices they have to make to live their specific lifestyle. Particularly, military spouses give up a lot to be with their loved ones. In the military world, military spouses are nicknamed “MILSOs” which stands for “Military Significant Other.” People define a MILSO as a boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé(e)/spouse who is in the military or someone who is with someone in the military. But looking more in depth into the military community, not all military spouses are respected. Many individuals (but not everyone) view MILSOs with a negative view. Common criticisms of a MILSO varies; “they marry too young,” “they are too young to be mothers,” “they are uneducated and stupid,” “they are lazy and want easy money.” It is a shame to see these criticisms because personally, I am a MILSO. Hearing these comments about other MILSOs is hurtful because I am currently going to school, not married, and have a plan for the future. I am not among the common stereotypes MILSOs face.
Many view Military Significant Others (MILSOs) as a stereotype. This stereotype includes that “they’re all lazy, all they do is pop out kids, none of them work, they’re bullies who hide behind their husband’s rank, or spend their days online picking on other girls, pretending to be something they’re not” (Clouse, 2011). Since the term, “MILSO” is not a term that is recognized or known by most, it is hard to really pinpoint what a MILSO really is. Many sources provide unrealistic characteristics of what a MILSO is and what their community represents. Not all MILSOs are portrayed as Clouse’s description. Many have aspirations, goals, and ambitions. Not all MILSOs are women either; some are men supporting their MILSO. Also, a MILSO can be any ethnicity, not just white. Being a MILSO myself, I know that these stereotypes are false. So how did these negative stereotypes come to be in today’s society?
One source that provides a general view/idea on what a Military Significant Other is and what their lifestyle is like is the television drama series, Army Wives. This Lifetime original series is about a group of Army spouses that come together by supporting one another through their hardships and successes. Each spouse has a unique story of how they met their military spouse and each spouse has their own personal background. What is unique about Army Wives is that they include a male MILSO. In the show, Roland Burton (played by Sterling K. Brown) is a full-time psychiatrist and full-time stay-at-home dad. His wife, Joan Burton (played by Wendy Davis) is a colonel in the United States Army. Their relationship is important for the purpose of this essay because it defies the characteristics of the MILSO stereotype. First, the MILSO (Roland Burton) is male and is not considered an “Army Wife” but an, “Army Husband.” Second, he is a full-time psychiatrist while also playing the “Mister Mom” role. Third, he is African American and so is his wife Joan.
Even though Army Wives has many positive characteristics of what a MILSO is about, these characteristics are only targeted for the general audience. In other words, this drama gives general examples of what a MILSO is, instead of really going into detail of what the typical MILSO has to go through. I think this is an important binary of this artifact. Individuals can view these general examples provided by this show and turn them into negative stereotypes. If this show could provide real-life situations/characteristics, people would not assume MILSOs as these stereotypes.
Social media is often a place where stereotypes are created, especially in today’s society. There are several blogs that are created and run by MILSOs dedicated to establish a caring and supportive environment for other MILSOs. There are several blogs that are dedicated to MILSOs. Some examples are “MilsoTherapy” (http://milsotherapy.tumblr.com), “The Air Force Wife” (http://www.theafwife.com), and “Loving From A Distance” (http://www.lovingfromadistance.com/index.html). These blogs are just among the hundreds that are out there. These blogs are interactive; they include advice columns where subscribers can ask questions, leave comments, and help others about the MILSO lifestyle. Since these blogs are interactive, everyone who is subscribed can comment and have the chance to criticize or judge the topic that is being discussed in the advice columns. Social media can give users the opportunity to alter their identity and become whomever they want. These false identities can be a negative element for these blogs. These users can ask questions or leave comments that are judgmental and unnecessary. It can be discouraging for other MILSOs to see these posts and believe the things that are being posted. An addition to this, most of these blogs are public to everyone online. If online users see these criticizing comments more then the real comments, people will think the hateful comments ARE the real comments.
There are also “confession” blogs where users anonymously post confessions about how they are feeling, their doubts, their hopes, etc. “Military SO Confessions” (http://militarysoconfessions.tumblr.com) and “Not Your Average Military Confessions” (http://n-y-a-militaryconfessions.tumblr.com) are the most popular military confession pages on Tumblr. A lot of the time, these confessions are honest and have well thought-out messages. However, some have content that are inappropriate, and should not be posted to the public. “Not Your Average Military Confessions” are full of discouraging posts made by MILSOs. Here is an example of one of these posts, “Confessions #2135: I hate it when people assume I’m a tag chaser. No, I wear his dog tags that he brought home to be from Afghanistan and he gave them to me when he proposed. I have been with him through one deployment to the Middle East, two years stationed in Guam and he’s deployed now. I am NOT a tag chaser. I have always love him and I always will” (Anonymous, 2014) In this confession, the term “tag chaser” refers to someone being with a person from the military to just receive their dog tags to look cool. This is an example of one of the MILSO stereotypes. For MILSOs, social media is very important because they can keep in content with their loved ones who might be deployed or with other MILSOs. It is ashamed that this source of communication is discouraging for some because of these stereotypes.
The MILSO community is a loving and supporting group of people. Since everyone has similar problems, everyone is willing to help one another. Some see this vulnerability as a chance to create unnecessary conflict. Looking deeper into this community, I have concluded that everyone a part of it has their own stressors to deal with and everyone has their own way of dealing with their stress. The typical MILSO has to raise a family, go to work, maintain their relationship with their loved, and keep everything in order all by themselves. The reason the MILSO community was formed was because everyone has those stressors and it is easier to deal with the stress if there are other people to connect with. “We’re all in this together” is a great quote that relates to this community.
Anonymous. (2014, May 25). Not Your Average Military Confessions. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://n-y-a-militaryconfessions.tumblr.com/post/86840764076
Clouse, H. (2011, June 11). Military Wife Stereotype? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://afosiwife.blogspot.com/2011/06/military-wife-stereotype.html
Fugate, Katherine. (Producer). (2007). Army Wives. [Television series]. ABC Studios.