Proud and Beautiful Despite Military #MeToo
I am looking for where to publish my book. If you know anyone looking for an author, please, send them my way! In the meantime, a blog it is! I was born on the beautiful Caribbean U.S. island of Puerto Rico (PR). My parents were all about being good, happy, and healthy. I went to private schools, and my “sports” were playing the violin and attending church. Growing up in Hispanic culture, I already knew about gender harassment. I mean, harassment is really about power and overpower versus (vs) empower. Typically, the male cock rules! I (might have) meant the bird…, right? It was “normal” for me to see men in power. Both my parents were professional, but my father “had to be” the one society would “really” recognize as the “breadwinner.” Did he do it on purpose? Did he want to oppress “Mami” (mom)? I don’t think so, but so it was. Upon graduation, I was the first in our family to enlist in the U.S. ARMY. Not sure what I was thinking. I guess I wanted to be my own person, vs. only “Dr. Flores’ daughter.” Well, living on the “mainland” was way colder than in PR; we could not speak Spanish, and I was a short, small, and not-that-strong recruit. I learned more about gender and sexual harassment. For example, while on enlisted basic training, several females were taking a break on the bleachers. All of a sudden, a female and her half-dozen followers started asking me about PR. She kept asking kind of-intimate stuff while getting closer to me. I did not feel that she wanted to hit me but hit on me. I was not used to a female doing that to me. I did not feel good about it. Therefore, I got off the bleachers and found my assigned “battle buddy,” who respected my personal space and beliefs. Later on, as a junior officer, one of the senior officers asked me to wear lipstick… By then, I was starting my Master’s in Industrial/Organizational (AKA: Work) Psychology. Therefore, in front of everyone, I “respectfully” told him that wearing lipstick was not in my job description. The Human Resources guy talked to him, and I was never asked for it again.
Another time, I was giving a conference about my Research Psychology work. I was wearing the expected uniform (see photo). A “gentleman (?)” staring at the ribbons on my chest asked me how I got “so far.” I replied with: “On my feet….” Leaving implied: “Not on my back!” Not sure how his pale skin got paler. I smiled, and I left him dumb-found, mumbling something. I had already been deployed to combat, where many get raped. The last one that comes to mind was when I was deployed/stationed in another country (I’d rather not disclose). I was not able to go there with my family. I was on my own. Little did I know that the “highest-brass” (officer) did not care to support fellow females. A few of us females who were not allowed to bring our families over had to work very long hours. One snowy evening, we had to report in uniform to some type of celebration (which I’d rather not disclose here). Have you heard the term you can take the girl out of wherever but can’t take that place out of the girl? Well, I am from PR and was previously living in (also hot-climate) Hawaii. Therefore, I put the pants (vs. the skirt) with warm leggings under. What happened? That individual did not lose one second to literally whisper in my ear, “Why are you wearing pants?” Again, harassment is about power and disempower. Needless to say that things were later on “addressed,” and between slander and libel, everything was put to rest. I was stronger and wiser.
Once I retired, I ended up having breast cancer. Again, I had to hear many “medical” opinions about removing only the tumor to “save my tetas.” That is, a part/ lumpectomy or the whole breast with the tumor. This happened right after I had chosen the radical double mastectomy (“dos, por favor”). Then, having to engage in a somewhat amicable discussion on the size of the implants, when, again, I had said, “Please, same or smaller!” Having to hear why it would be “a mistake.” How many women would love to have bigger breasts. To which I would then reply with, “Great, but I am not them!” My father was a sports-medicine doctor, and my mother had four kids. I know the number that a big weight on the front can do to our backs. Finally, more hours had to go by listening to them trying to “save my nipples and areolas.” I was a published Research Psychologist by then, so data was normal to me. “Can’t the cancer cells get into the nipples?” I asked. “Yes, but it is just a probability…” I would hear back. Well, I emphatically reminded them, next to my agreeing husband, that one prolific mutant cell was enough for “us;” To please, take them both out as well. Yes, for a few years, I had to endure multiple surgeries, chemotherapies, radiations, and implants. When I thought I was done, I got “capsular contraction,” which means that the tissue of the radiated former-cancer breast was wrapping/strangling the foreign object, AKA: implant. After one more smaller-sized try and a subsequent repeat, I asked them to “Please, just take everything off!” So they did, and I am now free. I guess the story never ends… One day, I wanted to take a photo of feeling: happy and free after four cancer treatments years (now only on the hormone-suppressing pill). That goal seemed to embarrass a few people (family as well), so I looked into legalities as I did not want to “flash” anyone. Gladly, since I only have scars where I had breasts, it is not considered “genitalia.” Therefore, there is nothing to “flash.” You can see more looking at a man’s bare chest or a mom milking her baby. A good friend and neighbor took me to the beach to “heal,” and you can see the photo here.
Believe in your truth. Remember your beauty. Stay happy and free. With love, Melba Stetz.
(Previously posted at one of my friend's awesome magazine/journal: https://mb-element.wixsite.com/element/post/proud-and-beautiful-despite-military-metoo).