The IDF is having a tough time with their social media oversight, lately. A few weeks back a number of female soldiers found themselves in hot water after a handful of photographs surfaced, showing the women posing in various states of undress, using tactfully positioned military gear (including their firearms) as props. This week a semi-NSFW cell phone video taken inside a woman’s military barracks, featuring several soldiers booty-dancing to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” in various stages of undress (from military fatigues, to what could charitably be called “underpants”), made waves after it was aired on Israeli news.
Now, unless what we’re seeing is top secret test-footage of the IDF’s new, high caliber, 30-round capacity stripper pole, this is probably not the dignified professionalism the IDF brass hopes for from their soldiers. However, their recent string of NSFW SNAFUs raises the question whether these incidents are simply flukes, or rather an emerging, and inescapable fact of life for the Israeli military? Put it another way – Are we going to see more of these (*ahem*) cheeky incidents in the future? The answer: We might.
While the American military has a carefully, and deliberately, crafted narrative of self-selcted enlistees who choose to serve with a heightened sense of purpose – “the few, the proud”, the “Army strong” etc – the Israeli army, comprised largely of conscripts, doesn’t work that way (At least not until the soldiers finish their state mandated service first). As Haaretz columnist Alison Kaplan Sommer pointed out in regard to the other week’s photographs, the women pictured:
…don’t necessarily have any desire or natural aptitude life in the military, but are doing their duty, and decided to relieve the boredom in a silly way.
…If these girls were living the life their American peers, they’d be just another bunch of airheaded sorority sisters pushing the limits of good taste on Facebook. Sure, their campus might be buzzing about them, but the Washington Post and New York Times wouldn’t be into their business.
It’s a good point – when Americans turn eighteen they typically go to college, where acting like a complete moron is not only tolerated, it’s celebrated (see: “Old School”, “Animal House”, “Road Trip”, “Eurotrip”… the list goes on and on). In Israel, eighteen year olds follow in the footsteps of Richard Gere; With practically “nowhere else to go” they ship off (whether they like it or not) for basic training. Ultimately though, eighteen is eighteen is eighteen. Regardless of whether they’re in college or at boot camp, teenagers will probably end up being, well, teenagers… which typically means getting naked and acting like fucking idiots. For better or for worse, this is probably what you should expect when you take a bunch of recent high school grads away from their homes, plop them them in close quarter housing, and give them idle time to kill. (That said, even fucking idiots know not to dry hump a semi-automatic rifle)
For some, though, these incidents only serve to further the sexualization of the “sexy Israeli soldier”. From Maxim magazine spreads to low-budget pornos, the sexualized female IDF soldier, has always been “a thing”. But, with this video and the previous week’s photographs, that “thing” makes a significant leap from glossy photo shoot to grainy reality, and therein lies a serious problem. Teenagers acting like idiots is one thing – Unfortunate? Sure. Understandable? Yeah. Forgivable? Certainly. But when a fantasy risks reducing the reality to a fetish – one that marginalizes the very real work done by the women of the IDF (whether you support their actions or not), then these incidents can have a corrosive effect.
So, when teenagers act like idiots and film it, creeps impose their fetishes onto reality, and the IDF flails around, unable to do anything about it – who’s at fault?
Personally, I blame Sir Mix-A-Lot.