Women have been making great strides in the military. More than 200,000 serve actively as of 2008. And there are currently over 1.7 million veterans.
But there is still a long way to go. Becoming pregnant or getting a female soldier pregnant is now a possible court marshalling offense in Iraq, even if the commander says he’ll likely never use it. Sexual assault is still a widespread issue among military personnel.
So, like many feminists, I have a mixed reaction to the news of the “Female Care Packages” being sent to women soldiers. These packages include, among other things, issues of Cosmo and fully-filled pink camouflage make-up bags.
On the one hand, she is surrounded by men, in a male dominated profession, and especially out in the middle of the desert, finding lotions, lipsticks and the like probably is difficult. Just because they are soldiers doesn’t mean they might not enjoy their feminine side, too. And, to state that these things may be inappropriate also toes way too close to the line that women who “doll themselves up” are just asking for trouble.
But on the other hand, do the care packages have to be so frustratingly stereotypical? If I was given a choice between a “How Please Him in Bed” Cosmo and a copy of Ms., or even Newsweek, I know which I’d find more interesting.
Plus, don’t get me started on pink make-up bags.
I remember making care packages with my mother one Christmas during the Gulf War in the 90′s. We carefully put together boxes with gum, crossword puzzle books, cheap paperbacks ranging from Westerns to VC Andrews, whatever we could get our hands on. We never really thought about the gender of the recipients, just what could help them pass the time.
It’s good that more awareness is being raised for women serving in combat areas, and it’s especially good that Speaker Pelosi, Jill Biden, and other high profile women are helping to advance that cause. But does it have to be done with such a reinforcing of gender stereotypes?