Sunday, 24 September 2023

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Is Mindef highlighting the masculinity of men in the armed forces while reinforcing idea that a woman can still be beautiful despite being in the army?

I have certainly noticed the trend of promoting the image of the macho man in uniform. From the videos of police raids to the recruitment posters of the police force to the elevation of former army generals to the upper echelons of political power, the idea of the men with authority being in charge is definitely projected. When one looks at these pictures, it is easy to forget that we have women in uniform too. While this is, at the moment, in the minority, there is every indication that this may not remain so for very long. Women in Singapore have certainly given the impression that they too want to participate in these aspects of public life.

It is therefore very relevant for Military Expert 1 Gorgina Choo and Captain Sengie Chong, both from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to publicly state that more attention should be given to their military achievements rather than their looks. Women in uniform have been portrayed more softly while men in uniform have had their authority highlighted.

This is definitely an unfair and unequal image of women. Women in the force should be judged by their performance in the roles and not by their looks. Accordingly, their public image should be portrayed in accordance with their ranks, nothing more. Men in uniform should likewise be portrayed in accordance with their ranks. They shouldn’t automatically be portrayed with guns bigger than their arms just because they are male. In other words, the symbols of authority should not automatically be bestowed on the male sex.

In addressing this somewhat unfair portrayal of the sexes,  Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng has said that” for any organisation’s publicity efforts, they would definitely look for people who are pleasant-looking as one of the key factors, because that generally appeals to readers.” This is however not answering the question. The issue that has been highlighted is that women are singled out for their looks while men have had their authority beefed up with the props of power.

I accept that subjects who are easy on the eye will be utilised for publicity because these will appeal to a wider spectrum of readers. However, that utilisation has to be equal across the board for both men and women. How the image of both sexes is marketed is also important. Is Mindef highlighting the masculinity of men in the armed forces while reinforcing the idea that a woman can still be beautiful despite being in the army? Do we even need to send this kind of message? Shouldn’t it just be “join the force if you want to and are interested in it”? Not because you want to be macho and certainly not because you can still look beautiful. These are irrelevant.

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