What Real Women In The Military Look Like

On November 9, four young women made history when they became the first enlisted females to complete the Marine Corps' infantry combat training regimen. The day before the Corps' 238th birthday, they took the above selfie, and uploaded it on Private Class Harlee "Rambo" Bradford’s Instagram account. They represent what real women in uniform really look like.

As Gawker points out:

These women have now definitively proven what fatuous Congressional oldsters for so long prevented other women from demonstrating: the ability to hump 90 pounds of gear over rough terrain for days; an aptitude for killing people with grenades, radioed-in air and artillery strikes, bare hands, and the M249 Light Machine Gun, which is not all that light; and a general comfort with serving at the tip of the spear, being first-in-last-out, and all the other man-meat-inspired metaphors for combat infantry service.

An internal Army email shared with Politico reveals that less than two weeks after this picture was taken, a PR strategist for the Army encouraged the use of “average-looking women” in promotional materials. Apparently, photos of women who are dolled up and look “too pretty” undermine the Army's commitment to integrating women in combat roles.

“In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead,” wrote Col. Lynette Arnhart. (Um...problematic, much?) Arnhart is spearheading a group of analysts studying how to integrate women into newly-permitted combat roles. Arnhart continued:

There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. 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).

Right now, images in Army promotional materials tend to look like this:

Perhaps the push to use fewer images of female models and to show "real" women in their intended roles could be a positive change for gender integration in the military — so long as the military’s PR goes about it in the right way. (To start, maybe they should head over to Bradford’s Instagram account.)

Of course, the United States military also has a major PR problem when it comes to women in the military and the rise of sexual assault. As Bustle reported:

After recent data saw a 50 percent jump in military sexual assault reports, the Defense Department contends more members are comfortable with the way cases are already being handled. But with an anonymous Pentagon survey stating that more than 26,000 people were sexually assaulted within the military last year, is it really enough?

The Senate this week is expected to vote on a revamped military [sexual assault] bill. Now, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal on how to proceed has divided the Senate. Eleven members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote a letter against Gillibrand’s bill Monday, saying that it would actually undermine victims.

The Democrat from New York wants to remove decisions about sexual assault and other serious crimes away from the military’s chain of command. The authority to prosecute sexual assault cases would be determined by impartial trial lawyers. Gillibrand already has support from about half of the Senate, but has not garnered enough votes — 60 — to prevent a filibuster.

(Photo via Instagram)