On my search for objects that embody a process of militarization for all members of society I traveled to the beast that is Walmart. That place is scary. I decided that Walmart would be an optimal source of militarization in that it is the ‘All American Super Store’ (without being all American at all.) It is marketed as a one-stop-shop for all single parents or busy parents (as I assume from the back to school commercials) needs. It markets itself as a helping hand to the average family, and indeed there was an awesome amount of product geared towards children.
I have attached three images, two of which are geared spesifically towards children. I found them strolling down an aisle, in perfect perpendicular juxtaposition to one another. On my right, an “Essential Covert Ops Camouflage Kit” with a collectable patch and map. The boy on the front of the package is focused and dead pan, pointing an arrow straight at the consumer. This kit turns the typical backyard into a ‘safari’. The product is suggested for children 5 years of age and older–I assume primarily boys. It was nestled between trucks with big wheels and other toys and gadgets geared towards boys. I found it interesting when considering the different facets of militarization that there was such a heavy focus on security and protection (even a subconscious desire to score and own the outdoors in one way or another). There is no predator but the basic outdoors and it’s possibilities…
Walking down the aisle on my left I was overwhelmed by the girls section. Abhorrent amounts of pink, purple, and sparkles threw me off guard (I’ve never liked these colors, even as a child), I was in a weird nostalgic foggy daze when I noticed I was staring at a vacuum. A Dirt Devil to be exact, patent red and pink with sparkles; a true sight to behold. I was confused and angry to see that it was being sold next to a toaster, with two pieces of white toast included by a brand called ‘I Want to Be’, this series was the ‘home’ series. I had a kitchen set so I can understand the toaster (I guess), but a vacuum? What girl aspires to own a pretty vacuum…
Comparing the two, it is infinitely interesting that the life of the girl is supposed to develop and flourish inside while the life of the boy is based outside in flexibility and range of movement and terrain. I don’t know if this is a total stretch, but it seems legitimate to argue that the programming of children to maintain their home and property can be the starting point to militarization and the fight for property (maybe?).
The last photo is one I snapped of a ‘make your own dog tag’ machine. I find it oddly humorous that this machine dispenses fluffy and personalized war-type memorabilia for every member of your family, here the screen captures a well groomed dog sporting a dog tag.
Although I had briefly covered connections between the CIA and Hollywood in my Conspiracy Politics seminar a couple of semesters ago, I had never had the opportunity to delve so deeply into the militarization of entertainment, or what Kelly has called militainment, until now. I was selling the grand issue of militainment short by only associating it to CIA and Hollywood when in fact the ideas perpetuated in combat entertainment, the underlying subtleties and redirection of the issue of war and glorification thereof, are more far reaching and pertinent.
From the first reading, I found it interesting to assess children’s play in the realm of militainment. Yes, man hunt cops and robbers, cowboys and indians even red rover have their militaristic undertones, sure. But going back to my essay for the class, the toys themselves speak volumes and with new marketing schemes, create their own *scripted* world that children subscribe to. It stunts them. Back to my red patent sparkling Dirt Devil vacuum: how am I supposed to work outside of this scripted story as a young girl? Another young girl my age is pushing the toy back and forth..so shouldn’t I? Barbie is cleaning her new house, shouldn’t I? The aspect of the script is utterly fascinating to me since I never truly thought children’s toys and play were affected by anything but their imaginations until now. Furthermore the genderized separation in play is increasingly interesting when viewing what there is available for children to play with depending on their gender. As I stated in my paper, the role of girls and boys seem to be clear when taking a simple stroll down any store’s toy section: girls have domestic desires, boys have adventurous desires. Shit, the only girl on TV to travel ‘alone’ was Maggie and the Ferocious Beast (still with Beast, who is the protector) and Dora the Explorer and Dora didn’t leave without Boots (a male) and her map (with a male’s voice, who told her where she was going). It’s kind of fucking pathetic. I wonder less, when looking at these toys in this light, why so many women still desire to be housewives and why so many boys still desire to fight the big guys.
In the same way, combat entertainment that it so heavily scripted leaves little to the imagination. One assumes that they get gore and guts and ‘truthful’ statements and the movie is a success, when in reality they are only ingesting the view point and moral code the movie’s producers have framed the entire viewing experience in. They ingest without a hiccup.
1. If militarization is more than just joining the military and participating in war (p. 2), then what else does militarization entail? How does Enloe use the example of the can of soup to explain what she means by “militarization”?
From what I got from the reading, I can surmise that Enloe is hinting towards militarization as a process and a vehicle. It is not constant; it is always evolving in between the cracks of our understanding about our culture and cultural values. Militarization is the acceptance of military activity and militaristic methodology and schools of thought and the acceptance of these as “normal and unproblematic”. Therefore, viewing these star wars noodles in the realm of something more geared toward propagandist ideas and less about nutrition. This soup is targeted at the consumer which is a mother willing to bring it home to a child (most likely a male). The soup taps into her instincts to give her child what they will most likely enjoy, and a subconscious recognition of the importance and esteem the military through the vehicle of these god-forsaken noodles.
5. How might you apply Enloe’s insights to what you found in the Observing Militarization exercise?
Well, I am happy I went with my inclination to view the Dirt Devil toy as a form of militarization. At first I thought it was a far stretch to assume that this item was in any way militarized but now, using the reading, I see how it is militarized in that it inhibits the “militarized thought” Enloe was talking about. It is incredibly pervasive and hard to uproot but the reason why this toy markets well towards young females is that they are being pushed by many forces to stay home and maintain their homes. These pressures create flocks of women determined on maintaining this social order/ gender role. These toys embellish the life of the soon-to-be house wife