‘And They Think I’m Just a Nice Old Lady’: Women and War in Belfast, Northern Ireland


Dowler, Lorraine. 1998. “‘And They Think I’m Just a Nice Old Lady’: Women and War in Belfast, Northern Ireland.” Gender, Place and Culture 5 (2): 159-76.

Author: Lorraine Dowler


This article examines the spatial construction of gender roles in a time of war. During a period of armed conflict both women and men are perceived as beings who exemplify gender-specific virtues. The relationship of gender and identity in this case is a paradoxical one: war-usually a catalyst of change-can often become an agent of conservatism as regards gender identities. This conservatism can be seen in the wartime spatial relegation of women to the private/domestic realm. When a society is in armed conflict there is a predisposition to perceive men as violent and action-oriented and women as compassionate and supportive to the male warrior. These gender tropes do not denote the actions of women and men in a time of war, but function instead to re-create and secure women's position as non-combatants and that of men as warriors. Thus, women have historically been marginalized in the consciousness of those who have researched the events of war. This article is largely based on interviews I conducted in the fall of 1993, in an Irish Catholic community in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I will offer both female and male interpretations of what women did and how they were affected by the upheavals of the Irish Nationalist struggle in Northern Ireland.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender Roles Regions: Europe, Northern Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 1998

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