Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Female Veterans See Red Over Terri Proud's Remarks on Women in Combat

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 9:15 AM

A former Tucson lawmaker just hired to coordinate a female veterans’ conference isn’t sure women belong on the front lines, at least partly because combat is no place to be dealing with menstrual cycle issues.

Terri Proud, a one-term state representative, was recently hired as an administrative assistant with the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services at a salary of roughly $40,000, said Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services spokesman Dave Hampton. The conference is one of several responsibilities she’ll be undertaking, he said.

When asked about women on the front lines, Proud said that is a tough issue she didn’t want to talk about.

She said her position is drawn partly from her family’s military background and partly from biology.

“It would have been hard for me if my mother had been in that position,” Proud said, referring to her mother's time as an emergency-room nurse in the Army. “I understand that women want to be on the front lines, and they want to do their service and women are very strong. We’ve really come far through the years. We’re extremely strong.”

Beyond that, she said, “Women have certain things during the month I’m not sure they should be out there dealing with. I don’t know how to address that topic in a very diplomatic manner.”

When asked what topics she hoped to address at this spring’s fifth annual women veterans conference, said she wants to look at the challenges female veterans face with homelessness.

Proud’s comments surprised many.

"It's amazing that a women would make that type of a statement," said Tara Jones, founder and president of the National Women Veterans Association of America. "She's a woman for Christ sake, does she not have one? Does that prevent her from being able to her job?"

Jones is familiar with the type of conference Proud would be coordinating, she used to work for Veterans Affairs and run similar conferences for women.

Jones said hearing a remark like this is disheartening and can delay changes that female veterans need to see happen, such as the expansion of gynecological care. Not all VA centers offer health care for women, meaning that someone could wait several months before getting life-saving care for disease such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer, she said. Veterans Services needs people who are savvy about those kinds of issues and the conversations that can hinder them, she said.

Jones said that comment makes her think Veterans Services needs to catch up to the women its serving. She noted that women who serve must contend with challenges that are much more complex and physically demanding than a monthly cycle and they’ve been doing that for hundreds of years.

"It seems as though she is about to get acclimated to an area that she has no knowledge of," Jones said.

Proud garnered national attention for her controversial takes on issues during her time at the Legislature. She had an email exchange where she wrote that women who want abortions should have to watch one first and was in the public eye for sponsoring a bill that put a high school elective course about the Bible on the books.

Proud noted that she knows the military environment well because she comes from a military family. She said she has a history of raising awareness about women in the military. During her time in the Legislature, she passed a bill creating a specialty license plate honoring female veterans.

Awareness is her big goal with the conference, Proud said.

“I think (the conference) is going to create a lot more awareness in the state about the women and their role,” Proud said. “It is definitely going to give a lot of exposure and support to the women vets in Arizona.”

Jones said she hopes the conference will give Proud a chance to become more aware about issues facing female veterans. She said it would be great if Proud could share her view at the conference and start a dialogue. She added that she hoped that conversation wouldn’t star a riot — something she said is a very real possibility. While Jones said she is aware of the importance of being political correct, that’s not typical of the female veterans’ movement. Proud can expect other female veterans to unabashedly counter her opinion, Jones said.

Hampton declined to comment on Proud’s remarks.

—Bethany Barnes is the Don Bolles Fellow for Arizona-Sonora News Service

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