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Since When Does ‘Ugly’ Equate to ‘Competence’?

Ivan Chan

There exists in society an age old adage that “ugly women are perceived as competent whilst pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead”.

Utter rubbish if you ask me, but apparently such dated ways of thinking have permeated the consciousness of the United States Army. Don’t believe me? Well, an Army Colonel by the name of Lynette Arnhart has urged her public relations department to only use ‘ugly’ or ‘average’ looking women in its promotional photos. She argues that by using a ‘pretty’ female soldier, the “rest of the message” is lost. Instead, a woman whose only makeup consists of messy hair and mud slung all over her face “sends a different message” – that of a woman willing to do the dirty hard yards necessary to get the job done… Not very convincing PR if you ask me.

It seems that ever since the US (and Australian) Army decided to remove all combat restrictions for women and allow them to participate in combat roles, they’ve struggled to wrap their minds around gender integration. Being a soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside women in the Defence Force. Regardless of rank, appearance or ethnicity, they have all proven to be worthy compatriots. The aesthetic appeal of an individual should never be used as a yardstick for an individual’s ability and competence. An emphasis on merit above all else should be used instead.


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