Circulating every news outlet is the leaked email from Colonel Lynette Arnhart, suggesting that the Army use “average-looking” women in its marketing efforts. Colonel Arnhart was in charge of gender-integration studies and how best to integrate women into combat roles. From her email she is quoted as saying, “In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.” She goes on to say, “It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy.”
In the days following this leaked email, Col. Arnhart received severe backlash for her words. My question is, why? What her critics fail to see is that she was only speaking the truth; the truth about our society as a whole. Does it make it right that the Army actually curtails its marketing to this? Of course not, and I’m as disappointed as anybody. BUT, the truth is, she’s right. Our society sees “pretty” women in high positions and assumes she’s slept her way to the top or used her looks in some facet. When are “attractive” women ever known for their brain?
Why do these stereotypes still exist? Because our society allows it! They have been ingrained in our youth, our media and, as is the case now, our advertising. Instead of bashing Col. Arnhart, what we need to be doing is changing HOW women are perceived and eradicating the stereotypes we’re held under.
Now, onto the problem at hand; why does it even matter what a woman looks like?! I am not here to stand up for “pretty” women or “average-looking” women. I am here to stand up for ALL women. We are talking about combat here. War does not care what you look like. The Army wants to say we’re all green but that email seriously undermines any effort to provide equal treatment to women. What it’s doing is driving that wedge between men and women further and further. Not only that, but it’s also separating us as women. It’s causing us to think that there actually is a hierarchy within our own gender. “Pretty vs. Ugly?” Come on! Give us more credit. We are intellects, we are creative, we are strong.
All we want is to be recognized for our qualifications and skill set. We want a fair shot of proving what we can bring to the table. Give us that.