Combat as a Moving Target: Masculinities, the Heroic Soldier Myth, and Normative Martial Violence

Citation:

Millar, Katharine M. and Joanna Tidy. 2017. “Combat as a Moving Target: Masculinities, the Heroic Soldier Myth, and Normative Martial Violence.” Critical Military Studies 3 (2): 142-60.

Authors: Katharine M. Millar, Joanna Tidy

Abstract:

This article problematizes the conceptualization and use of ‘combat’ within critical scholarship on masculinities, militaries, and war. We trace, firstly, how combat appears as an empirical category within traditional war studies scholarship, describing an ostensibly self-evident physical practice. We then examine how feminist and gender approaches – in contrast – reveal ‘combat’ as a normative imagination of martial violence. This imagination of violence is key to the constitution of the masculine ideal, and normalization of military force, through the heroic soldier myth. We argue, however, that despite this critical impulse, much of feminist and gender analysis exhibits conceptual ‘slippage’: combat is still often treated as a ‘common-sense’ empirical category – a thing that ‘is’ – in masculinities theorizing. This treatment of gendered-imaginary-as- empirics imports a set of normative investments that limit the extent to which the heroic soldier myth, and the political work that it undertakes, can be deconstructed. As a consequence, whilst we know how masculinities are constituted in relation to ‘combat’, we lack the corollary understanding of how masculinities constitute combat, and how the resulting imagination sustains military authority and the broader social acceptance of war. We argue that unpacking these dynamics and addressing this lacuna is key to the articulation of a meaningfully ‘critical’ gender and military studies.

Keywords: combat, military masculinities, critical, soldiers, violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Analysis, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization

Year: 2017

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