This Is My Rifle, This is My Make-Up Gun

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?


Astrid B.
Astrid B8 years ago

Like many of you said before, I think care pakets in general are a good and nice thing. Leaving them a bit less gender-specific would be a plus.

Maria H.
Past Member 8 years ago

My aunt will tell you makeup just melts right off in the Middle East anyway- she'd rather have had a good novel!

Mervi R.
Mervi R8 years ago

I agree, the idae is good, but the gender-specific execution not that good...

Jessica S.
Jessica S8 years ago


Jenny O.
Jenny O8 years ago

I don't like to make distinctions by gender. I prefer to appeal to our shared humanity.

Gabi B.
Gabi B8 years ago

Michelle- You post shows how ignorant you are of the military and women in general. Firstly, "getting pregnant" may get you sent home, but not necessarily out of the military. Women who join the military during a war and choose their job specialty already know if they are going to be in the running for going to combat. Women aren't any more likely than men to attempt to con their way out of a combat zone or out of the military.

As previous Air Force myself, I can say that I wouldn't have wanted lipstick, but a pocketful of chapstick would have made my life have been a blessing in that environment. I don't read cosmo, but there would have had others I would have liked. The fact is under those circumstances, I would have loved and appreciated anything and the consideration of those sending.

I have personally sent care packages to both men and women and know that they are always appreciated if for no other reason than someone is thinking of them. Just because common sense does not always walk hand in hand with good intentions is no reason to berate the sender or target them as having an agenda. It is also not out of the question that a woman who spends most of her time being blasted by sand, wind, dirt, heat, mud and hostile forces would not like to have some semblance of normality or pampering, even for a moment. If a lipstick or magazine can accomplish that, awesome.

Same goes for the men.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W8 years ago


Carol Lyons
Carol sholly8 years ago

Yes, what's not mentioned here is that the women have to provide their own feminine hygeine products. So I'm good with the gender specific, but let's not have it be lipstick, let's try for something more practical.

Heather A.
Heather A8 years ago

I'd be quite offended it someone assumed that just because I'm a woman, I would want to read Cosmo. There are many heartwarming things you can send in a care package, some of which might be gender-specific, but to send such frivolous things as makeup and silly magazines to women who are roughing it in a war zone is ridiculous.
Michelle M. - Have you never heard of accidental pregnancies? They can happen to anyone, as can rape. Women are not dumb; they know what they are getting into when they join the military. I highly doubt that any one of them would purposefully compromise the next eighteen years of their lives in order to go back on a decision that they have already carefully made.

Zoi Ioz
Zoi Ioz8 years ago

Michelle M. wrote: "Getting pregnant is an easy way for female soldiers to weasel out of their duty."

... Wow, I missed the headlines saying the US had reinstated the draft.

Anyway... I'm really not sure what lipstick has to do with one's "feminine side"... As far as I know, lipstick contributes to appearance, not femininity. What characteristics and behaviours are considered "feminine"?

What are they sending the guys? Aftershave?