Soldier beauty queen Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, has entered the fray created this week when a female Army colonel at Fort Leavenworth branded another female soldier too pretty to use in Army publicity photos.
In the leaked email exchange first reported by Politico, Col. Lynette Arnhart warned her colleagues that photos of “average-looking” and “ugly” women should be used in public relations campaigns to attract more women into combat roles.
“Unfortunately that is the sick reality and one of the many stereotypes I'm trying to break,” Vail, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
She added: “However, it is going to take an army of women to break that perception, not just myself.”
Politico reports that Arnhart is deputy director of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command’s Analysis Center at Fort Leavenworth. She’s heading a study looking into ways to integrate more women into Army combat jobs.
She reportedly took issue with a Pentagon photo that ran with an article in the November issue of Army Magazine about the Army’s efforts to attract more female soldiers.
The photo showed Cpl. Kristine Tejada of the 1st Cavalry division on security detail in Iraq.
In her email, Arnhart reportedly wrote that the photo “shows a pretty woman, wearing makeup 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).”
In general, Arnhart wrote, “ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead.”
According to Politico, she wrote that a photo of a female soldier with mud on her face used by news agencies last spring sent “a much different message — one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”
Like Miss Kansas, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), weighed in on Twitter, calling Arnhart’s comments “another example that @USArmy just doesn’t get it as it debates if pretty girls should be used in pamphlets.”
After the email leaked, Army spokesman George Wright issued a statement saying that Arnhart’s comments “were an internal email conversation” and “not an Army position.”