Maybe the End of the Women-in-Combat Ban Will Also Be the End of the Little, Pink Gun

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Could the new rule be the end of "pink it and shrink it"?

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Shutterstock/Andrei Nitsievsky

It's a common assumption among marketers: Want to make a tech product appealing to women? Make it small, guys, and by all means make it pink. 

Pink-it-and-shrink-it isn't always the way to ladies' hearts or wallets, of course, but it's often an easy -- if fairly ridiculous and insulting -- route for producers to take in their marketing. Hey, ladies! We made this manly product accessible to you! It's now cute and small and bubble-gum pink! You are welcome!

I mention this because today brought this news: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will lift the Pentagon's ban on women serving in combat, meaning that women -- officially -- will now be able to serve on the front lines of battle. "The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service," Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a memo that reportedly informed Panetta's decision.

This is a big decision, obviously, with big implications for the military and for society and for gender parity as a general goal. It is one more step forward in history's long march toward equity. But there's a chance it could mean something else, too, something EVEN MORE IMPORTANT: the death of dainty pink gun. The very, very welcome death.

Here are some of the weapons, for example, that are currently sold as "the perfect revolver[s] for women": 

The Taurus 4510 Public Defender, Model 45/410 with Pink Handgun Grips for Women, which is

is sleek, beautiful, chic and easy to carry for self-defense. There is no need to worry about your safety against thieves, rapists and other criminals as long as you carry this cute pink handgun everywhere you go.

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The Charter Arms Pink Lady 38 Special +P Model 53831, which is

so compact, ultra-lightweight and easy to carry that it's as if you are not carrying a weapon at all. Now, you can make sure that you have a chance of defending yourself against thieves, rapists and other criminals as long as you have this perfect pink handgun for women. Plus, having a pink handgun instead of those ordinary revolvers out there is an additional asset for women; they have a super effective yet chic looking weapon with them!

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And then there's this ad:

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Yes. Because you're chic in every other aspect of your life, ladies ... might as well be fashionable in your self-defense-wear, as well.

We know that more and more women are using guns -- for sport, for personal safety, for a general sense of control over their lives and the world they live them in. Whatever you think about that trend, though, guns marketed so explicitly to women undermine that control. They may empower women in the most brutish sense of the word, but they do so, ultimately, by reinforcing the idea of feminine daintiness and princess-iness and love-of-pink-ness. They do so by emphasizing, rather than downplaying, traditional gender assumptions. Whether you're talking about a pearl-handled revolver from the 20th century or a Pepto Bismol-colored assault rifle from the 21st -- and whatever you think about guns as a general product -- the disparity itself is insulting. 

And that's particularly so in the context of a military that treats men and women equally as combatants. Women, now, will do the same jobs as men on the front lines of whatever battlefields we select for ourselves in the future; they will do those jobs, ostensibly, armed with the same tools as their male counterparts. Perhaps those who are selling "cute," "beautiful," "chic-looking weapons" to women will take note.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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