I saw these images of baby clothing on Sociological Images:
While these may appear as innocent, even cute, it is important to read the subtext. The military is a bastion of patriarchy and these clothes, designed for babies, bear witness to the fact that children are so immediately ushered and inducted into normalized violence (as well as an oppressive binary gender system) in which violence is acceptable and ubiquitous. The first picture of the onesie with the baby (the future soldier) crawling is very infantiles the military and frames it in a very cutesy way. It detracts attention away from the reality that soldiers face an immense amount of physical and emotional harm.
The second picture that says “future soldier in training” masculinizes the military and insinuates that being a soldier is a very respectable and masculine thing to be. The image also reproduces the autonomous man ideal and the conception of the male citizen as a warrior-patriot. Traditional accounts of autonomy have patriarchal undertones and equate autonomy with individualism, thus creating the paradigm of the autonomous man. Think the rugged, lone, isolationist, self-serving Marlboro man. Or the American cowboy. The autonomous man is inherently masculinist and falls right in line with western culture’s obsession with “making the most of oneself”.
Continuing along this thread, the conception of the (male) citizen as a warrior-patriot is militarist because it suggests that aggression is necessary and it conjures an image of a strong, aggressive male fighter full of national pride and willing to put his life on the line for his country. This image of the warrior-patriot is linked to traditional definitions of power as domination and control, having power over another. Thus power is a means of coercion and creates hierarchies and justifies violence and subordination.
These shirts are disturbing and show how heavily institutionalized violence, violent masculinity and the military is in our society. The autonomous man ideal and the image of the warrior-patriot help to reinforce and perpetuate violent masculinity as the norm. From cultural icons like Rambo, Rocky, and James Bond – all strong, muscular men who are ruggedly individualist and invincible – to the action figures that boys play with and the video games that they play in which war and killing are mere games, it is evident that boys are socialized to be aggressors.
We live in a violent and militarist society in which violence is normalized, seemingly justified, and so ubiquitous that we don’t see it because we see it everywhere. Many people have become desensitized to violence. These shirts are disturbing because they suggest that babies and children are not just babies and children, but they are born and bred to fulfill their “patriotic duty” by serving in the military.