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  • Series: International Handbooks on Gender series x
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Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen

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Victoria M. Basham

Feminists have long argued that gender has historically shaped and continues to shape who fights and dies, and in defence of whom. This chapter explores how state militaries continue to rely on gender constructs to motivate predominantly male soldiers to conduct acts of state sanctioned violence. It examines how gendered norms shape how militaries organize themselves and prepare for war, despite overwhelming evidence that the presence of women and sexual minorities has no discernible negative impact on military cohesion and performance and that soldiers do not need to bond socially in order to fight. It argues that militaries remain highly masculinized institutions because this is how militaries desire to see themselves and how most of their male members desire being seen. The masculinized character of military culture and identity thus remains significant; it facilitates war, even if it does not actually enable soldiers to kill and be killed.

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Linda Åhäll

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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Juliette Pattinson

Popular discourse surrounding espionage in the first half of the twentieth century has centred on the scrupulously patriotic British gentleman spy and the duplicitous foreign ‘mata-hariesque’ female spy-courtesan, rendering almost invisible the many women who staffed the various branches of intelligence organizations, both in Britain and overseas. These women were generally undertaking mundane, low status and low paid work but were crucial to the development, expansion and professionalization of twentieth-century British espionage. This chapter utilizes official records, personal testimonies, newspapers and film in order to examine the gendered nature of espionage and counter-espionage, focusing on the experiences of the men and women who engaged in it, as well as public perceptions of them.

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Paul Higate

Drawing on Judith Hicks Stiehm’s article ‘The protected, the protected, the defender’ and based on ethnographic field-research, this chapter considers the gendered and classed aspects of bodyguard/client interactions in a private security company in Kabul, Afghanistan. Foregrounding the ‘cat food run’ which refers to the request by one female client that her bodyguard drive her across the city to buy cat food for malnourished cats living on the compound where she was based, the chapter reveals some of the ways in which the narrative of risk and danger was negotiated between the two parties. This process of negotiation troubles the protector/protected binary where the former exercises power over the latter in a straightforward manner. Here, security expertise is usurped by the superior class position of the client such that the former military status of the bodyguard is treated with relative disdain to the annoyance of these alleged security experts. In summary, the chapter highlights how class and gender can confer authority on those whose safety is entrusted to others who, while embodying knowledge about risk and danger, are in the final analysis service providers in one particular element of the market for force.

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Mary Manjikian

New technologies are likely to upend the hegemonic masculinist notion of the ‘heroic warrior’, as physiological and cognitive enhancements to the warfighter will eliminate the soldier’s ability to display agency and autonomy. Here we consider three new types of soldiers: the Enhanced Soldier, the Hybrid Soldier and the Drugged Soldier. In all three newly emerging types, the warfighter has his or her experience of war mediated through technologies which affect how he or she participates in war, thinks about war and deals morally and ethically with its aftermath. In addition, practices such as ‘just in time’ training of troops and an emphasis on the fungibility of soldiers as inputs in a time of military austerity create a new powerlessness for all warfighters, ultimately calling into question the privileges thought to accrue with professional service in a first-world military and making soldiers everywhere look more alike than different.

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Julia Welland

This chapter pays attention to the ways in which gender is rendered visible in the population-centric counterinsurgency environment of Afghanistan and how gender informs dominant representations and understandings of the conflict. Pointing first to the particular type of militarized masculinity required for the conducting of the ‘hearts and minds’ warfare of counterinsurgency, a ‘softer’ and ‘gentler’ soldier is visible, one who is distinct both from their previous warrior incarnations, and from the insurgent masculinities they are pitted against and the masculinities of the Afghan security forces they fight alongside. Secondly, the chapter reveals how the conduct of counterinsurgency requires a greater visibility of femininity, both physically in the bodies of women soldiers through the use of so-called ‘Female Engagement Teams’, and conceptually through the need for military personnel to demonstrate the ‘feminine’ emotions of compassion and concern. The chapter argues that this re-scripted militarized masculine identity and greater visibility of femininity are central to the claims that the long war in Afghanistan was one in which the population’s needs came first.

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Caron E. Gentry

This chapter articulates how the gendered and raced notions embedded within the ‘Westphalian narrative’ inhibit our ability to understand terrorism and political violence. The Westphalian narrative makes the (Western) state a masculine exemplar, embodying rationality, autonomy and legitimate violence in opposition to the feminized, irrational and illegitimate non-state politically violent groups. Within the war on terrorism, this gendered hierarchy intersects with race in neo-Orientalism, further delegitimizing the identity of those associated with radical Islam and, convolutedly, all of Islam. This gendered and raced binary of legitimacy and illegitimacy filters further down in Terrorism Studies’ discursive constructions of terrorist organizations. Terrorism Studies’ language argues that terrorists should be seen as rational and thus credible actors (even if their violence is extranormative and illegitimate), yet the discourse reveals the limits of this imbued rationality. Finally, this impacts how we perceive the individuals who employ political violence. Thus, how terrorism is perceived is dependent upon the gender hierarchy implicit in the Westphalian system.