As I was digging around the internet for illustrations of mothers of service members claiming to be as tough as their enlisted children (I’ll save that for another post), I found the following “future service member” clothes for children, babies, and even pregnant women:
And a Marine bib/costume:
And a couple maternity shirts:
I have a few thoughts about these.
First, it’s interesting how the shirts (and the many more like them for other family members) enlist family members (and future family members) into military service along with the service member. Each branch of the military is considered a big extended family and members know they are “taken care of” to some extent by each other and by military programs that support the children and partners of those who are serving. Not only does it make practical sense to offer services to families who have a loved one deployed for months and years at a time, but it is also advantageous for the military as families are recognized as a key part of military success. Families are essential and are counted on to provide all kinds of support– from deployment readiness (moving at a moment’s notice etc.), to supplying their loved ones with emotional support, clothes and armor when they are deployed.
The military is also a profession that is often a viable choice for for many young people, and there are many families from strong military traditions– where multiple generations have served. It makes sense, then, that these families have a certain amount of pride in a career that has been in their families for generations. But, many who go into the military end up in combat situations where their lives and personal safety are put at high risk (especially during wartime). So, the idea of handing down the military as a profession doesn’t seem the same then as handing down pride in a university or in a sports team. Isn’t it much different to put a baby in a “future Badgers fan” outfit?
Finally, the pregnancy shirts make me think of how sociologists Nira Yuval-Davis and Cynthia Enloe talk about gendered and militarized citizenship. For Yuval-Davis, one of the primary ways women can be citizens is through reproduction– literally reproducing the people of the nation. Often reproducing soldiers to secure the nation is a part of pro-natalist policies. And Cynthia Enloe writes about the importance of mothers’ support (what she calls “militarized mothers”) for the continued recruitment and support of soldiers: “Militarizing motherhood often starts with conceptualizing the womb as a recruiting station.”