Would male soldiers and the American public be more likely to accept women in combat jobs if the women were ugly?
That’s the assumption one Army colonel seems to be making, according to a report by Politico. The colonel sent an email to a Training and Doctrine Command public affairs spokesman, writing that “In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.”
Politico reported that Col. Lynette Arnhart, the woman leading the Army’s study on the impact the integration of women into combat arms would have on unit readiness and morale, advised against using “pretty” women for its communications.
“It might behoove us to select more average looking women,” the email said, according to Politico.
To illustrate her point, Arnhart cited a photo used with an article by Gen. Robert W. Cone in Army Magazine. Cone, the TRADOC commanding general, wrote about Soldier 2020, the Army’s effort to open up all Army jobs to women. But it seems that Arnhart thinks the point of the article was lost because of the photo of an attractive female soldier that was used with the article.
“For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty),” Arnhart wrote, according to Politico.
The email was forwarded to other spokespeople at TRADOC. According to Politico, the forwarded message included a comment asking the public affairs officials to avoid using photos that “glamorize” women and instead “use ‘real’ photos that are typical, not exceptional.”
It’s interesting to note that the photo of the “pretty woman” used in the article cited by Arnhart seems to have been slightly altered. In the original photo, the soldier’s lips are a neutral shade, while in the photo used in the magazine, the female soldier seems to have brighter pink lipstick. Maybe it’s the print job? Take a look at the two photos yourself.
Meanwhile, we want to hear your take. Are the folks at TRADOC undermining their efforts to integrate women into combat by focusing on the looks of female soldiers? Is Arnhart perpetuating a stereotype by writing that “ugly women are perceived as competent” but “pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead”? Or do you think TRADOC is sending the right message by wanting to only use “average looking” women? Leave your comments below.
UPDATE: Col. Christian Kubik, the TRADOC PAO, responded to a request for comment from Army Times. Kubik is the PAO who forwarded Arnhart’s email to other TRADOC spokespersons.
“The intent of the message was to help ensure that images depict professional female soldiers as they are, and to ensure they are recognized based on their hard-earned achievements as members of the profession of arms,” Kubik said. He said that the email in question “was an internal discussion” and that it did not reflect Army policy.