Army PR push: ‘Average-looking women’
The memo suggested avoiding photos that ‘glamorize’ women in combat. | US ARMY
The Army should use photos of “average-looking women” when it needs to illustrate stories about female soldiers, a specialist recommends — images of women who are too pretty undermine the communications strategy about introducing them into combat roles.
That’s the gist of an internal Army e-mail an Army source shared with POLITICO.
“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, who is leading a team of analysts studying how best to integrate women into combat roles that have previously been closed off to them. She sent her message to give guidance to Army spokesmen and spokeswomen about how they should tell the press and public about the Army’s integration of women.
“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),” Arnhart said.
She wrote that a photo of a female soldier with mud on her face that news agencies used last spring “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”
Arnhart’s note was originally sent to two people, including Col. Christian Kubik, chief of public affairs for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. He forwarded the email to all public affairs officers supporting TRADOC with the note: “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.”
In a statement, Army spokesman George Wright said the comments “were an internal email conversation” and “not an Army position.”
After POLITICO first reported on the e-mail in Tuesday’s Morning Defense, critics seized upon Arnhart’s guidance as proof that today’s Army culture has a long way to go before women will be treated as equals.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) tweeted that it was “another example that @USArmy just doesn’t get it as it debates if pretty girls should be used in pamphlets.”
One Army source said, “It scares me to think that these are people involved in gender integration.”
As deputy director of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command’s Analysis Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Arnhart is helping lead “an extensive study of the institutional and cultural factors associated with integrating women into previously closed” positions.
In a story published by the Army earlier this month, Arnhart is quoted as saying, “As we move toward integrating women into previously closed occupations, we must do so with the understanding that the leadership and culture of a unit — the history, lineage and social dynamics — are crucial to successfully dealing with changes that will occur.”