Monday Linkages: ugly women are more competent?

by on 2013-11-25 in Duck- 6 Comments

Two steps forward, two steps back. Just as three women completed training in the Marines for the first time- and as the US Military works to integrate women in to the combat arms, a top female US Colonel has lost her job because she asked for “average looking women” to be used in communications.
Col. Lynette Arnhart had been leading the effort to open more infantry roles for women in the army by January 1 2016. Politico first broke this story, noting that Arnhart had recommended avoiding using attractive women in communications because: “In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.” She dug herself deeper went on to say “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),”
After numerous media reports on the gaffe, Col. Arnhart was removed from her post and replaced.
Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, weighed in on this….wait what?…ok she is also a National Guard soldier- declaring that the comments about attractiveness are “the unfortunate reality.”

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6 CommentsAdd yours

  • J.L.H. - 2013-11-25

    Wait, she was fired for pointing out obvious bias among a potential audience? From her comments she seems to be making an observation, not personally reinforcing the stigma. And aren’t we feminist always raising hell about the constant depiction of the ideal woman as perfectly proportioned and generically attractive? Anyway- too many angles to tackle.

  • Megan H MacKenzie - 2013-11-25

    I think just because discrimination exists within the military (that’s what this is, not bias), doesn’t mean that someone in a position of leadership should cater to it. If that were the case, women would not be in the process of being integrated into combat in the first place. The assumption that ‘ugly’ women are more competent bleeds into notions that attractive women got their positions as a result of their looks. In other words, it is an iteration of sexism.

  • philp222 - 2013-11-25

    I think any high ranking officer in the military would probably be fired for that gaffe to be honest.

  • Hmmmm - 2013-11-26

    Its an odd incident to think about. The logical conclusion of the reaction to Amhart’s comments is that attractive, successful women suffer more discrimination (in this instance) relative to an equally successful woman who is less attractive. According to that line of reasoning the attractiveness is a hindrance.

    At the same time it seems pretty well documented that physical attractiveness – in both men and women – confers numerous advantages on an individual over the course of their lifetime (

    In an ideal world one’s level of attractiveness wouldn’t affect one’s success but it seems likely that its just part of biology. So do we feel sorry for these women for being both successful and attractive as opposed to just successful?

  • J.L.H. - 2013-11-26

    It seems to me that this is a bias, prejudice in favor of one group (the ugly) over another (the pretty) and not one that is Col. Arnhart’s. She assumes placing an attractive woman in a recruitment ad will signal to the audience that women in the military are for show (this is an assumption she makes about other’s perception). Therefore, she requests that a more representative sample be apart of the ad campaign. The use of only attractive, lipstick wearing GIs is just as sexist as the assumption that “ugly” women are more competent. Again, this story has too many angles. One of which, is that I doubt the man or woman who only used the “pretty” girls received any flack.

  • ThusBloggedAnderson - 2013-11-27

    Yep. This one’s easy. Change the facts so that she wants non-African-American soldiers assigned due to the perception of competency. See?

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