On January 23, 2013, the United States government rescinded the military’s ban on women serving on the front lines. This was a complicated step forward for equality. Due to the fluid nature of war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan women were already serving in combat. However, they were not receiving official recognition for their actions. It is from within this context that Alex Matzke’s photographs examine the experience of military women. Where is your wife mister documents the iniquitous power dynamics between servicewomen and their male superiors. A female soldier’s phone displays an unsolicited pornographic image from a sergeant. Almost all of the women Matzke photograph reported similar stories of unwanted sexual conduct, but because of gender hierarchies in military culture such behavior often goes unreported. In Gender Panic After Action Pants a service woman, with styled hair and makeup, holds a rifle at the ready in her bedroom. Indicative of the military’s inadequate support (whether logistical or structural) of their servicewomen, she wears her standard issue long johns, which are gendered male. Amid a hazy, bluish grey atmosphere Molly the Marine shows a replica of a propaganda statue used to recruit women into the armed forces during World War II. In 2013, the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico commissioned this replica--a fictional idea of a servicewoman rather than a contemporary representation--to honor military women. Matzke’s sensitive photographs of military women ask: if equality does not exist in the armed forces, one of the most revered institutions in America, how can it exist throughout the nation?
- Owen Duffy, Curator