The Problem With These 'Sexy' Soldiers

February 28th 2017

Almie Rose

The official Twitter account for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) tweeted a photo of female soldiers on Tuesday — but their phrasing left many Twitter users cold.

"By popular demand, more photos of the female fighters of the Syrian anti-ISIS campaign," the tweet reads, which struck many as objectification of the Women's Protection Units (also known as YPJ), a group of female Kurdish soldiers who are fighting ISIS in Syria alongside U.S. special forces — not posing for a calendar.

This is not the first time female soldiers have been objectified.

In December 2016, Men's Health posted an article titled, "These Strong, Sexy Soldiers Are the Fittest Women In Their Country." Said the magazine: "They know their way around a firearm—and a bikini."

The article was about the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and referred to the female soldiers as "some of the strongest, savviest women in Israel ... But when they’re not handling heavy weapons, these young women are flaunting their fit bodies." The article consisted of photos from the Instagram account, Hot Israeli Army Girls.

That same month, The Daily Mail posted its own bit of military objectification, calling female Israeli soldiers "hot weaponry."

Beyond serving as propaganda for a military, these images feed into unhealthy stereotypes and contribute to the poor treatment of women in uniform.

A 2009 research paper, "The Sexualization of Female Soldiers in the Israeli Army: A Qualitative Analysis" by psychologist Dana Levin at the University of Windsor, explored the objectification of women in the IDF.

What Levin found was "participants experienced their army tenure as gendered and sexualized beings, and felt this could not be separated from the rest of their identities. Rather, they described this sexualization as the main, and sometimes only, category by which they were identified."

Levin continues:

"For these women, the Israeli army engendered a space in which both men and women were encouraged to act out gendered stereotypes: men were rewarded for being strong aggressors, and women were rewarded for being nurturing and pretty. This created two, very different, sets of hierarchies, and two separate currencies.

Results indicate that women experience differential treatment and devaluation compared to men in the Israeli army. Women are viewed primarily as feminized or sexual objects, and thus objectified and marginalized."

To quote one Twitter user (@AlizaMarcus) responding to CENTCOM, "please.... don't feed into the objectification."