You might be asking, why are we writing another blog on women’s body armor? Haven’t we covered the issue already? Yes, but we haven’t solved the problem. We’re writing about the topic again because there’s a chance the issue might get solved quicker than we thought. And not just for women working in units who care enough to purchase body armor explicitly for them, but the entire military, all branches, all careers, all companies.
On Jan 1, the Senate passed a provision to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that encourages an expedited contract and procurement of equipment that fits all military members. And all means both men and women, not just the average-size man. While this has been a fight for far too long, the difference is that a report must be submitted to Congress (this year-2021) stating issues getting gear to its members. This will, hopefully, make sure the military isn’t just saying “no, we can’t,” but why they can’t.
Men and Women’s PPE
Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) as a whole is an issue in the military, even for men. For example, smaller men having access to equipment that fits them. Or if there are too many medium-size people (which is the most purchased size) and they run out. As a result, there may be men and women wearing gear that’s too small or too big. Basically, they get what’s left in the pile.
We can only hope that issue will be resolved due to the legislation, which encourages all branches to expedite, procure, and dispense protective equipment that fits all service members (including women). Of course, “encourage” doesn’t mean mandate. So, as always, it’s still a game we can only pray to one day win.
Body Armor for Women
I remember the day I got to wear soft armor cut specifically for women. I don’t know if it was the drastic change where I’d been so used to wearing a man’s vest, or it was just that awesome. But the comfort I felt slipping into a woman’s vest that was fitted to my body was like breathing fresh air after living inside a trash can for years.
Unfortunately, that was short-lived after transferring to a new unit only a few months later. Sadly, my new unit wasn’t like women’s body armor friendly, and I was back to wearing men’s gear. Which only made it feel that much more uncomfortable because now I knew what I was missing.
It’s how I imagine life before and then after eating cake. Until I ate cake, I only heard about how good it was. I didn’t crave the cake because my brain had never been introduced to the sweet decadence. But then, one day, I got a piece. Now, it’s the only thing I can think about, and I want it more as each day passes. But, here I am, stuck eating vegetables again. Thinking, if only I could have the cake again, how sweet life would be! That’s how I feel about getting stuck wearing men’s body armor again. It’s like eating cake, but after one bite, your mom brings you a big plate of raw broccoli; it sucks!
Why is Men’s Body Armor Bad for Women
Part of the problem with the cake theory, not everyone gets to taste it. So those who haven’t had to worry about gear not fitting them aren’t making any real effort in making sure those who don’t have what they need, get it. Just like I’m not going around making everyone cake. But cake isn’t the real problem. The problem is, not all branches or agencies purchase women’s body armor. And that’s just a reference to soft armor. Hard cut plates for women isn’t exactly a thing yet. Which at one point made sense because women haven’t always been in jobs or positions where they were encountering ballistic threats stopped only by plates.
But, those days are in the past. We need both soft and hard cut body armor for men AND women.
1. IT’S UNCOMFORTABLE
Men’s body armor is uncomfortable for women, it can even be uncomfortable for men. We have curves men don’t have, and it can cause a lot of unnecessary pain. If you can’t relate, this is how I like to think about it: men in skinny jeans that are two sizes too small. Or, if you’re a woman that can’t relate, but you happen to the one making the department-wide purchase: wearing heels a size too small. Yeah, maybe you can pull it off, but it requires dealing with unreasonable and unnecessary pain.
And while you might be able to pull it off, that’s not the point. It’s how most people respond to the discomfort that’s problematic. Because most react to pain by trying to alleviate it, and when it comes to body armor, that can mean not wearing it at all, which is even worse if you encounter a ballistic threat. Or wearing it improperly, which isn’t good either because it could prevent the armor from protecting vital organs, cause irritation elsewhere, or not be as effective in stopping the threat.
2. IT CAN CAUSE MORE HARM THAN GOOD
Discomfort is not the only issue. When the body feels pain, it typically reacts negatively. It can slow you down, wear you out, cause further damage (i.e., stress fractures), etc. Wearing body armor that doesn’t fit the body, man or woman, can do the same thing. It can prevent you from being able to do your job effectively and quickly. And if you are under attack or facing a potential threat, being slowed down or distracted by discomfort is not an option.
You’re more likely to be harmed if you can’t do your job, which is why some choose to alleviate their pain by not wearing body armor at all. Unfortunately, that’s not the answer either. If you aren’t wearing your PPE and something happens to you, no matter if you work in the civilian sector or for the federal government, you might be forfeiting your disability or life insurance benefits.
Lightweight Body Armor for Women
Coming from a woman who’s been wearing body armor cut for men for almost 13 years now, I understand the frustration of not having proper fitting gear and how uncomfortable that can be. Here at ShotStop®, we are making a conscious effort to provide hard plates cut for women.
While we still have a ways to go in being a part of the solution, know that we are making strides toward getting women the gear they need and deserve to do the mission. Until that day, we do offer the most comfortable, even for women, and the lightest armor in the industry.
If you are interested in learning more about our more superior, comfortable hard armored plates, or have questions about the right plates for your mission, check out our rifle plates or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.