Inappropriate Attire

I was giving a friend a tour of the city in which I live when we happened by the Federal Army & Navy Surplus store. The display windows were decked out, naturally, with guys in BDUs and uniforms, all in combat positions and carrying fake weapons of various sizes. That wasn’t to be unexpected for the type of store, of course. What caught my attention, and my friend’s attention, was that the lone female mannequin was dressed in a camouflage-print string bikini, with a stars and stripes bandana on her head and a weapon dangling prettily from her hand. She wasn’t posed in a particularly combative position, but rather like a model at the end of the runway.

It’s fairly obvious a woman in the military wouldn’t be traipsing around a combat field wearing such an outfit, and yet the display clearly made it seem this way. The men were all appropriately dressed for the situation being portrayed, and the woman was most certainly not. It left me quite disgusted. The underlying message seemed to be that men will shop at Army/Navy surplus stores for military gear, and women will go there for…cute bikinis.

I know this isn’t taking notice of a media ad, per se, but I’m hoping someone will be able to come up with other examples of this type of thing, in advertising, television or movies. (Like, is it necessary for Jessica Simpson to be wearing her Daisy Duke outfit to sell pizza of all things?) It’s, I suppose, simply another case of the prettification of women, and it seemed even more blatant than usual to me and my rather non-feminist friend.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    Maybe if she was just in a bikini with no weapon, it would play like, “Here’s a bikini based on a military clothing theme, isn’t that cute?” It’s the weapon that makes it a little “too cute”.

    Meanwhile, the display offers no representation of the women who actually serve in the military and deserve some respect for that work.

  2. Maartje says

    What? A weapon makes things cute? Huh? Have I missed the part where weapons are no longer lethal killing machines and have become fluffy fashion accesories?

  3. Patrick says

    I actually know quite a few people (men and women) who seem to regard weapons as fluffy fashion accessories. They’re the people who buy all those replica swords that don’t even hold an edge.

  4. Gategrrl says

    Was it necessary for Claudia Black to be dressed like Daisy Duke/Dorothy in a recent Stargate episode, showing off all her “ass-ets”?

  5. sbg says

    Beta Candy said:

    Meanwhile, the display offers no representation of the women who actually serve in the military and deserve some respect for that work.

    Exactly. I was really disturbed by it. It was like the idea behind the display was that women aren’t legitimate soldiers, at least not legitimate enough to merit appropriate positioning and gear.

  6. sbg says

    Gategrrl said:

    Was it necessary for Claudia Black to be dressed like Daisy Duke/Dorothy in a recent Stargate episode, showing off all her “ass-ets”?

    I’d say absolutely not, but I know of quite a few people who’d excuse that away with “but that’s her character’s style!
    She’s always been that way!

    Personally, I’ve always wondered if part of TPTB’s reasoning for the character is so that they could have a female they could parade around like their own personal blow-up doll.

  7. Maartje says

    The point of Vala is that she never really fits in anywhere and so she uses the universal translater (read: sex.) Which actually fits because she was host to Qe’tesh. So not only has she had her mind raped by a goa’uld, she’s also had her body raped time and again. There are signs that this abuse started even before she was taken as a host.
    Sex is Vala’s defense mechanism so yes, dressing as Daisy Duke is in-character for her.

    However, I agree they don’t need to go on and on about it. Like the shot where half the screen was Vala’s butt and the other half was a man’s face. That was rather sad.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    Sex is Vala’s defense mechanism so yes, dressing as Daisy Duke is in-character for her.

    Yeah, but do you really think they’ve included an abused character with sexual defense mechanisms because that’s interesting to them, or because it’s titillating, as long as the character is a woman? More below…

    Like the shot where half the screen was Vala’s butt and the other half was a man’s face.

    …I think this exemplifies their real motivation. It’s not, “Let’s have a woman with abuse/sexual defense mechanism problems! We’ve never done that before, and it’ll contrast with both Sam and Janet!” No, their motivation is, “What’s a good excuse to have the new chick character, whatshername, parade around in sex doll wear a lot?”

    And I resent them for that. It makes me want to write a show and stick in a man who likes to be brutally dominated with whips and chains by his female lovers because he was horribly sexually abused as a child, and then use camera shots which show that to me, this subject matter is fun and frivolous and titillating.

  9. sbg says

    The point of Vala is that she never really fits in anywhere and so she uses the universal translater (read: sex.)

    Funny, though, that back in the early seasons the universal language was…science and the basic elements. *imagines the four great races communicating with sex instead…* ;)

    I’m with BetaCandy on this one – I highly doubt TPTB put that much thought into Vala’s background (fans seem to fill in the blanks like crazy), and wanted to use her simply as they did Anise way back in S4. 8 parts eye candy, 2 parts valid character. And with that ratio, I think I’m being generous.

  10. scarlett says

    In regards to the army bikini, I wouldn’t have minded if there had been several realistic outfits and poses from women, and that one had been thrown in when someone was being a bit silly. For for a woman in a string bikini to be the sole representative among men in realistic army uniforms doing realistic army things, well, that says a lot about what the d\window-dresser thinks about women in the army :(

  11. SunlessNick says

    What? A weapon makes things cute? Huh? Have I missed the part where weapons are no longer lethal killing machines and have become fluffy fashion accesories? - Maartje

    This part: “and a weapon dangling prettily from her hand” would suggest to me that the weapon is not posed in a ready-to-use way. Coupled with the bikini, it turns her from armed into playing dress-up. Like a child.

  12. Maartje says

    TV and film have a long history of bikini-clad murderers.
    And all dressed up dolls kind of suggest dress-up. I don’t completely understand your point, could you clarify?

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    Maartje, if I understand correctly, the male mannequins were posed in ways that passed credibly for military stances, holding weapons in ways that looked like real soldiers. Only the female mannequin was made to look “cute” instead of like a soldier.

    So while the male mannequins call to mind actual male soldiers, the female one does not call to mind female soldiers. It calls to mind Jane Fonda’s tour of goodwill for the troops, or something similar. As if that’s still the only function of a woman around the military: to look cute.

  14. Maartje says

    Yes but how does the ‘like a child’ fit in there? She’s playing dress-up because she isn’t holding a gun properly? That seems more like incompetence (and the assumption that women are incompetent as soldiers) with waepons. The assumption the store makes is that women go in there to buy outfits to make them look cute and blokes go in there to buy things to make them look tough. What I don’t get and expressed in the post that SunlessNick qouted is that guns are considered cute.

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    Okay, I may not be explaining this well, but I’ll try.

    By “cute” I didn’t mean like puppies are cute. I meant “smart ass”. You know how sometimes someone says something smart ass, and another person glares at them and says, sarcastically, “Cute” – like saying, “Oh, that’s real funny” sarcastically. That’s the nuance I was going for in my second usage of the word. Obviously, I gave up more clarity than I realized in order to keep word symmetry going. ;)

    No, I don’t think anyone considers guns cute in a puppy way (it was actually a knife the mannequin was holding, but the point still stands). I do think they’re being smart-ass with this mannequin, as if to say, “Haha, and here’s how a chick would hold a knife.”

  16. sbg says

    I, too, was being a bit flip. The whole display could be considered a game of dress-up. It’s just that the men were dressed up realistically for the “game” and the woman was eye candy.

    Unfortunately, there are still a lot of mock-weapons (not just guns) as children’s toys, and they look more and more realistic as the years go on.

  17. SunlessNick says

    By “cute” I didn’t mean like puppies are cute. - BetaCandy

    I thought you meant, like a little kid is cute. (Hence my citing of like a child, along with the dress up).

    So while the male mannequins call to mind actual male soldiers, the female one does not call to mind female soldiers.

    That’s what I was getting at: the male figures were designed to look like soldiers – at least that’s the impression I get from sbg’s post – while the female figure was designed to look like someone playing soldier.

  18. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, I do think there’s some infantilization of women going on here, too. It’s like that restaurant Revena posted about where the servers (all female) are dressing up like nurses but with a heavy sexual charge to their uniforms. There IS an element of someone infantile dressing up as something they could never be (hence the offense, since women most certainly can be soldiers and nurses). This is the element that makes it “adorable” for kids and a sort of sexualized version of adorable for women. If that makes any sense.

    I’m finding no word to describe something that infantilizes a woman, thereby rendering her harmless, thereby rendering her sexy, because surely only pedophiles find infantilization sexy, right? Very confusing.

    Also, the weapon held incorrectly only serves to reinforce the idea that she’s childlike as well as incompetent. This is where I can see Maartje’s read on it, too – I don’t think we’re really saying such different things in this thread. I’m just having trouble isolating what is specifically so offensive because to me it’s just so self-evident.

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