A California veterans hospital blocked a group of World War II-style volunteers from visiting its patients, claiming the women’s pinup flare would prompt catcalling from male veterans.
Ambassadors from Pin Ups for Vets were scheduled to visit patients at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Oct. 25, but the appointment abruptly was canceled on Oct. 8. The decision came as a shock to the organization, which had visited the same hospital twice before.
“I just cannot understand why. I mean the clothes we’re wearing are so classy and elegant,” Pin Ups for Vets founder Gina Elise told the Washington Examiner. “Constantly what people say about our organization is thank you so much for keeping it classy.”
The organization has visited more than 13,000 veterans in 31 states since its founding 14 years ago and never before has experienced the kind of behavior the hospital cited, according to Elise and her colleagues.
“I’ve never felt objectified going into the hospitals or anything like that, ever. Not once,” Jennifer Hope, a Navy veteran and Pin Ups for Vets volunteer, told the Washington Examiner.
Elise started Pin Ups for Vets in 2006 in order to raise money for underfunded VA programs and to provide a morale boost to veteran patients. The retro theme of the group is a combination of Elise’s passion for the classic pinups from the era and serves as a way to honor the memory of her grandfather, Lou, a World War II veteran.
The organization raises money for veteran’s causes by publishing a calendar featuring female veterans dressed in the pinup style. The group’s ambassadors give out the calendar to veterans when visiting hospitals across the country.
Some of the volunteers said they felt discriminated against by the San Diego VA.
“It’s kind of like insulting the males, saying that they are animals and they can’t control themselves, that they have no self-control at all, and they’ll just lust after anybody,” said Jennifer Hope, a Navy veteran and Pin Ups for Vets volunteer. “And then it’s honestly, as a female, I’m kind of over being told what to wear, especially when we go wearing dresses that are past our knees and very modest and conservative.”
Volunteers said the organization serves a dual purpose, supporting veterans at the hospitals and the volunteers themselves. Several ambassadors said Pin Ups For Vets gave them the sense of camaraderie they were missing after leaving the military.
“It’s heartbreaking really, because we want to be able to give back,” Erikka Davis, an Army veteran, told the Washington Examiner. “I mean, we gave so much to our country as veterans ourselves, and then having that opportunity to be able to give back after our service has ended to other military individuals, veterans … even active duty is very rewarding for us.”
Officials from the San Diego hospital and the VA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s requests for comment, but Elise said VA facilities have supported visits from the group.
“It is through the efforts of community partners like you that allow us to continue the quality care and services that we seek to provide our deserving veterans,” Owetdia Dupree of the San Francisco VA wrote in a thank you letter to the group last year. “We look forward to the opportunity to work with you again for future events.”