Author Kelly Thompson will be at the Napanee Branch of the Lennox and Addington Library on Nov. 14 to speak candidly about her experiences as an Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.
She’ll talk about her story, which she chronicled in her book Girls Need Not Apply: Field Notes from the Forces. Her memoir delves into the sexism and misogyny she encountered while serving in the military.
“I thought I knew military life because I grew up in a military family,” said Thompson, who was a fourth generation soldier when she enlisted. “But what I knew was military life through the lens of men. My experience was very different.”
Thompson was 18-years-old when she enlisted, doing so after watching the events of 9/11 unfold. Her career took her to bases across the country, including nearby Kingston and Trenton. With each promotion however she says there was an underlying theme of gender based discrimination.
“I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was, but I also didn’t expect every success I had to be attributed to my body instead of my brain,” said Thompson.
After suffering a career-altering injury, she took a long hard look at her experience in the military and began to put pen to paper.
“It was partly a healing experience for me but it was partly a lot of guilt that came with the silence that I perpetuated in the military,” said Thompson. “It was mostly for the women I feel l left behind to fend for themselves and as a leader I should have been saying something.”
She hoped her book would bring about a positive change in the military. Since her book has been published, she’s seen steps in the right direction.
“Every single day I hear from a woman that says they had a similar experience, whether she was in the military or not,” said Thompson. “On the flip side, I’ve had former colleagues contact me and tell me nothing really happened, I’m throwing the military under the bus. I think most people who read the book come out on the other side seeing how much I still really love the military, I’m not out for revenge on anything or anyone.”
She references the fact her husband is still in the military as evidence she only wants to improve it.
“The military’s response has actually been quite wonderful,” she said. “Family resource centres have invited me to come out and speak and give lectures and come to different bases for their women’s day events. I think that’s a positive sign.”
Her talk in Napanee will begin at 7 p.m. at the library located at 25 River Road in Napanee. She’ll read a bit from her book and then open the floor to questions.
Through it all, she says she wouldn’t discourage fellow females from joining the Canadian Armed Forces.
“The title of my book is definitely meant to be a little tongue in cheek,” she says of Girls Need Not Apply. “I really believe that we don’t see change unless we’re more inclusive. That includes having women, people of colour, LGBQT people and Indigenous people. Once we appreciate what everyone brings to the table we become a medley. I would advise a woman to go in as a woman and not as a girl. Go into the military with her eyes open and really know what matters to her and what she wants to stand up for and how far she’s willing to take that stand.”