Mary Sanchez

Too pretty for the Army? Leaders need to look past stereotypes

Updated: 2013-11-25T04:45:42Z


The Kansas City Star

The military’s latest snafu is assigning a fox to guard the henhouse.

Politico uncovered this one through a leaked email. A female colonel wrote that the Army should avoid using anything but photos that depict women who are average or even ugly in campaigns to draw more women into combat roles.

“Ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead,” a portion of the email reportedly said.

OK. No use denying that condescending views of women are rampant in U.S. society. Teenage girls feel pressured by it, resulting in serious medical issues of anorexia and bulimia. Older women shell out millions every year to have their faces and bodies surgically altered to fit an image that God did not intend for them.

It’s hardly news that the military succumbed along with everyone else.

It shouldn’t even cause much of a blink that this came from another woman.

Col. Lynette Arnhart, deputy director of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center at Fort Leavenworth, wrote it.

After all, the best way to keep the whole gender subservient to stereotypes is to get other women to buy into the crazy. (Works this way for men, too, lest we forget that outsized he-man masculinity stereotypes can be equally harmful.)

Here is what really galls: Arnhart is in charge of a study to figure out how to integrate more women into Army combat jobs.

She’s the go-to person for the Army on this task. And it’s an important one, because one way people move up to higher rank and pay is through some of the combat roles that have been previously closed to women.

Let there be no mistake on why this initiative will be difficult. If higher-ups didn’t have the sense to appoint someone a bit more open-minded to the job, they’ve set the campaign up for failure.

Arnhart was moved to pen her opinion in response to a photo of a female soldier that appeared in the November issue of Army Magazine. She thought Cpl. Kristine Tejada was too pretty to be an effective ad. As if it’s inconceivable that a soldier could be attractive by societal standards and also highly qualified and brave.

But even worse, the thinking is counterintuitive to the goal.

If the Army wants to attract more women, open up the imagery, go outside of easy stereotypes. Don’t argue to hold to one type.

That’s about as backward as thinking that only one gender need apply.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to

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