You've heard that old saying about good intentions, right? The road to hell is paved with them. And that's exactly where Col. Lynette Arnhart is sitting right now -- in a hell of a lot of trouble. The high ranking Army officer is behind the US military's "war" on pretty soldiers.
To be honest, when I first heard that an Army officer had called for "more average-looking women" in public affairs materials, I figured it was a man. Perhaps that's sexist in and of itself, but as a woman, you'll excuse me for being a touch jaded about how often my gender is judged for our looks. When I found out Col. Arnhart was a female, her demands began to make more sense.
The Colonel referred to the image above of Cpl. Kristine Tejada of the 1st Cavalry division, who was photographed while on deployment in Iraq. Tejada is, no doubt, a beautiful woman. She's also pretty badass in her full regalia. But Arnhart worried about the message her gorgeous face would send to the masses. As she said of the ad:
[It] 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).
What's more, she continued:
In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead ... It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our [communications] strategy.
It's ... inappropriate and rude to women as a whole, but especially to Tejada. Judging "pretty" women based solely on their appearance is no less demeaning than doing so for women who don't fit society's beauty mold.
That said, I'm not quite as angry as the rest of the world at Anhart today. The Colonel isn't a monster. If anything, she sounds to me like a woman who is sick and tired of the notion that women need to be prettied up in order to appeal to the rest of the world.
It IS important for the Army, and for private companies too, to take a look at their "models" and the message that they're sending when they don't mix things up a bit by presenting women of different sizes, colors, and "beauty" standards.
And yet, the Army AND those companies need to recognize that all-inclusiveness truly means all.
If a "pretty" woman is out there busting her ass for her country, she certainly deserves JUST AS MUCH respect as any other soldier.
What do you think of Arnhart's comments? Did she mean well but come about it the wrong way, or is there no saving this?
Image via Association of the US Army