“You girls are too pretty to be in the military,” was the backhanded compliment my friends and I would often receive. This always irritated me, and for good reason — but, when I thought about it, I believed it. I wanted to be a female who was too pretty to be a Naval officer. I wanted to wear my favorite Club Monaco pencil skirt instead of the high-waisted, polyblend pants that made my hips expand and my butt flatten.
But I couldn’t. For some reason, I had to admit, when I put on that unflattering uniform and forfeited my feminine fashion, I became more competent as a Naval officer. Still, the worst part of all this is that even though we give up our femininity as soon as we lace up those wretched combat boots, we still haven’t achieved equality — in the military or the civilian world. (Especially since women still aren’t allowed in special operations units, including the Navy SEALs.)
Consider: A friend of mine is a Marine Corps officer. She was a cross-country runner during college and a math major to boot. She’s the epitome of a strong, capable woman and what the Marine Corps looks for in its officers. But they are going to be losing her as soon as she can get out. “I just want a job where I can wear makeup and high heels everyday!” she told me. Not exactly a scene from “G.I. Jane,” is it?
However, it is a symptom of what’s wrong with attitudes toward what is feminine. What’s so wrong with high heels and makeup? Putting yourself together attractively is an exhibition of your self-respect and confidence. When she expresses her desire to do just that, she’s scoffed at. And yet she can do the job just as capably as her counterparts who don’t don threads that look like something out of InStyle.