"'Some of Our Best Men are Women': Advertising, Feminism, and the All-Volunteer Army" | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh
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"'Some of Our Best Men are Women': Advertising, Feminism, and the All-Volunteer Army"

February 3, 2010 - 12:00pm
Speaker/Participants: 
Jessica Ghilani (PhD student, Communication & Women's Studies, American Association of University Women Dissertation Fellow)

Women's Studies

In the aftermath of the Vietnam war and amid various social movements including second wave feminism, the United States Military transitioned to an all-volunteer force. In 1973, the all-volunteer concept was controversial and many feared it would fail. But neoliberal economists, recruitment and retention researchers, and executives from advertising and public relations determined that demand could be created without a draft, by emphasizing the individual economic incentives of enlistment. To do so, recruitment marketers sought more aggressively than ever before a matrix of historically underprivileged groups. Specifically, audiences of racial and ethnic minorities and women became central to the task of selling soldiering.

This lecture examines primary source materials of advertisements and internal correspondence from the army's then-advertising agency, NW Ayer and Son. By the late 1970s, the rhetoric of feminism and equal pay for equal work figured prominently in recruitment campaigns, as a larger volume of advertisements featured female soldiers in the ad pages of magazines like Look, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Ebony, The American Journal of Nursing, RN, TEEN, Co-Ed, and more. One ad exclaimed that, "If you like Ms., You'll love Pvt!" Others declared plainly that, "In the Army, The Best Man for the Job Isn't Always a Man," and "Some of Our Best Men are Women."  The ads, now decades old, display feminist sensibilities more overt than those found in recruitment campaigns of today. The discussion following the presentation will investigate possible reasons for this shift in the discourse of military advertising. 

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