International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 2: On the imagination of ‘Woman’ as killer in war
This chapter problematizes the increased visibility of women’s agency in warfare by approaching an uncomfortable border crossing: it explores how the idea of ‘woman’ is written within and beyond the border of the subject-position of ‘being a killer’ in war. The chapter uses scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster Zero Dark Thirty and justifications for the keeping of the British ban on women in combat roles in 2010, despite a review indicating that the ban itself might be counterproductive, as illustrative examples of how the writing of ‘woman’ through the subject-position of ‘being a killer’ (or not) is a boundary-making practice constitutive of broader cultural understandings of gender. The chapter argues that in order to understand how gender works in the conduct of war we need to remain vigilant for the hidden politics, the silences and gaps involved in how gender acts as a border agent, how it exposes tensions and creates ruptures in that which is deemed natural or common sense. We need to remain feminist curious and think about gender as a logic of the everyday, fundamental to how the conduct of war is understood and performed.
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