Article

Feminist Review

, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 21-35

First online:

Gender, war and militarism: making and questioning the links

  • Lynne Segal

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Abstract

The gender dynamics of militarism have traditionally been seen as straightforward, given the cultural mythologies of warfare and the disciplining of ‘masculinity’ that occurs in the training and use of men's capacity for violence in the armed services. However, women's relation to both war and peace has been varied and complex. It is women who have often been most prominent in working for peace, although there are no necessary links between women and opposition to militarism. In addition, more women than ever are serving in many of today's armies, with feminists rather uncertain on how to relate to this phenomenon. In this article, I explore some of the complexities of applying gender analyses to militarism and peace work in sites of conflict today, looking most closely at the Israeli feminist group, New Profile, and their insistence upon the costs of the militarized nature of Israeli society. They expose the very permeable boundaries between the military and civil society, as violence seeps into the fears and practices of everyday life in Israel. I place their work in the context of broader feminist analysis offered by researchers such as Cynthia Enloe and Cynthia Cockburn, who have for decades been writing about the ‘masculinist’ postures and practices of warfare, as well as the situation of women caught up in them. Finally, I suggest that rethinking the gendered nature of warfare must also encompass the costs of war to men, whose fundamental vulnerability to psychological abuse and physical injury is often downplayed, whether in mainstream accounts of warfare or in more specific gender analysis. Feminists need to pay careful attention to masculinity and its fragmentations in addressing the topic of gender, war and militarism.

Keywords

gender militarism peace movements New Profile Israel masculinity