Here at The Mary Sue, we’re no stranger to the problem of armoring women for battle — in pop culture, we’re half-naked and totally unsuited for combat, and in real life, our armor doesn’t even fit and we’re totally unsuited for combat. What’s a lady soldier to do? Take a cue from Xena: Warrior Princess, apparently.
In 2009, the U.S. military began to address complaints from women that their armor was uncomfortable and more of a hindrance than an asset: “It rubbed on the hips, and the vests were too long in the front, so that when you had female soldiers climbing stairs or climbing up a hill or a tree, or sitting for a long time in a vehicle, that would create pressure points that in some instances could impact blood flow and cause some discomfort,” said Lt. Col. Frank Lozan, who is helping redesign women’s body armor. A study by the U.S. Army concluded that the current armor used by women not only made it difficult to enter and exit vehicles, but also prevented them from aiming their weapons properly, an obvious detriment on the combat field.
Part of the problem with designing armor that accommodates different bodies is the difficulty of adding curves — the material that the Army uses actually gets heavier with added curving, so if they were to make curved armor using the same material, it would end up being twice as heavy. For now, women soldiers can choose between 11 different armor sizes designed with men in mind. But, if the Army gets its way, that may soon change — they are currently testing 8 different armor sizes tailored to women using technology inspired by Xena: Warrior Princess. That technology? “Bra-shaped darting.”
Yep, the Army is developing armor plates with space for boobs. Rejoice! The women of 101st Airborne Division, test subjects for the early armor prototypes, certainly are: “They say, ‘I could wear this all day,’ ‘I could run a marathon in this,’ and ‘It feels much lighter,’ even though it really isn’t any lighter,” Lozano says. We hope that women will soon be adequately armored and armed for combat and, with any luck, nerd culture will follow suit and stop putting us in bras and high-heeled boots. C’mon, character designers, think Xena and U.S. Military, not Maxim.