'Average Looking Women': The Army's Secret Scheme To Sell Gender Neutral Infantry



AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Beauty queen and U.S. Army Soldier Theresa Vail would apparently make a really bad spokesperson for women in combat.

Implementing women into combat roles, as was directed by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta earlier this year, has been a tough sell to the male-dominated military community.


Thankfully, the ace spinsters at the Army have the answer: just don't make the ladies too pretty.

According to internal emails obtained by Kate Brennan at Politico, Col. Lynette Arnhart, the head of a team studying how to best implement the changes, had this to say to Army spokesmen:

In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead. 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)

Col. Christian Kubik, chief of public affairs for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, was on the "To" line of Arnhart's email. Brennan reports that he forwarded on to all public affairs officers involved in the mission, with the instructions: "A valuable reminder from the TRADOC experts who are studying gender integration - when [public affairs officers] choose photos that glamorize women (such as in the attached article), we undermine our own efforts. Please use 'real' photos that are typical, not exceptional."


The implication here is that the less "pretty" a woman is, the more "tough" she is.

Naturally, people jumped all over this, and the Army backpedaled.