Feminist Review

, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 21–35 | Cite as

Gender, war and militarism: making and questioning the links

  • Lynne Segal


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.


gender militarism peace movements New Profile Israel masculinity 


  1. Adelman, M. (2003) ‘The military, militarism, and the militarization of domestic violence’ Violence Against Women, Vol. 9, No. 9: 1118–1152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benedict, H. (2007) ‘The private war of women soldiers’ in Salon, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/07/women_in_military.
  3. Bourke, J. (2007) Rape: A Cultural History, London: Virago.Google Scholar
  4. Breines, I., Connell, R. and Eide, I. editors (2004) Male Roles, Masculinities and Violence: A Culture of Peace Perspective, Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  5. Brittain, V. (1978) Testament of Youth, London: Virago, 291–292.Google Scholar
  6. Brownmiller, S. (1975) Against Our Will, New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  7. Butler, J. (2004) Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence, London: Verso.Google Scholar
  8. Cockburn, C. (1998) The Space Between Us: Negotiating Gender and National Identities in Conflict, London: Zed Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cockburn, C. (2004) The Line: Women, Partition and the Gender Order in Cyprus, London: Zed Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cockburn, C. (2007) From Where We Stand: War, Women's Activism and Feminist Analysis, London: Zed Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, S. (2001) States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering, Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dworkin, A. (1997) Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women, London: Virago.Google Scholar
  13. Enloe, C. (1988) Does Khaki Become You? The Militarization of Women's Lives, London: Pandora Press.Google Scholar
  14. Enloe, C. (2000) Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, Berkely: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  15. Enloe, C. (2004) The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in The New Age of Empire, Berkely: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  16. Galili, L. (2005) ‘Left-Wing Refusenik Movement Shuts Down’ Haaretz, 31 July 2005, www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/606885.html.
  17. Gilbert, S. (1983) ‘Soldier's heart: literary men, literary women, and the great war’ Signs, Vol. 8, No. (3): 422–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hadar, M. (2004) ‘Women in Israel, militarization and the refusal to serve/enlist’ circulated to friends, available from the author, Tel-Aviv University.Google Scholar
  19. Hass, A. (1999) Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights Under Siege, New York: Owl Books.Google Scholar
  20. Hass, A. (2003) Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land, Rachel L J (editor and translator),Los Angeles: semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  21. Hammami, R. and Tamari, S. (2001) ‘The second uprising: end or new beginning?’ Journal of Palestinian Studies, Vol. xxx, No. (2): 5–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hazleton, L. (2004) ‘Reporting in the flesh’ The Women's Review of Books, Vol. XX1, No. (8): 14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jad, I., Johnson, P. and Giacaman, R. (2000) ‘Transit citizens: gender and citizenship under the Palestinian authority’ in Joseph, S. (2000) editor, Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Jones, A. editor (2004) Gendercide and Genocide, Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Karpinski, J. and Strasser, S. (2005) One Woman's Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story, New York: Mirimax Books.Google Scholar
  26. Mackinnon, C.A. (1987) Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mazali, R. (1995) ‘Raising boys to maintain armies’ BMJ, 311: 694, 9 September.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mazali, R. (2003) ‘‘And what about the girls?’: what a culture of war genders out of view’ Nashim: A journal of Jewish Women's, Vol. 6: 39–50.Google Scholar
  29. Mor, R. (2007) ‘Feminism & military refusal: seeking a society based on equality & dignity’ http://www.afsc.org/israel-palestine/Halili-Interview.html., as retrieved on 8 November 2007.
  30. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (2003) ‘War Concerns Grow, But Support Remains Steadfast’ Released: 3 April 2003, http://people-press.org/, accessed 11 May 2007.
  31. Sabbagh, S. editor (1998) Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Segal, L. (1987) Is the Future Female, London: Virago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Segal, L. (2007) ‘Men after feminism: what's left to say?’ new introduction to Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men, London: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thornhill, R. and Palmer, C.T. (2000) A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion, Cambridge and London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  35. Tosh, J. (2004) ‘Hegemonic masculinity and gender history’ in Dudink, S. Hagemann,K.and Tosh, J (2004) editors, Masculinities in Politics and War: Gendering Modern History, Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  36. United Nations (2007) The Shame of War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Conflict. http://www.irinnews.org/pdf/sow/IRIN-TheShameofWar-fullreport-Mar07.pdf.
  37. Woodward, B. (2004) Plan of Attack, New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  38. Women's Human Rights Watch World Report (2006) http://hrw.org/podcast/wr2k6pod.xml, Women, Gender, and Human Rights, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Copyright information

© Feminist Review Ltd 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynne Segal

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations