Gender and War: Causes, Constructions, and Critique


Prugl, Elisabeth. 2003. “Gender and War: Causes, Constructions, and Critique.” Perspective on Politics 1 (2): 335–42.

Author: Elisabeth Prugl

Keywords: gender, war, cultural construction, gender codes, gender roles



"How does gender relate to war? Cultural constructions and gendered codes of domination carry the main weight in Goldstein’s explanation, which he develops after discussing the evidence from biology and anthropology. This evidence disconfirms the significance of genetic codes, male-bonding practices, or differential group loyalties in explaining warlike behavior among men. With regard to male and female hormones, Goldstein finds complicated feedback loops between culture and biology that similarly undermine suggestions of a biological hardwiring of difference. And he finds that the slight differences between women and men in size and strength, in cognitive abilities, and in the orientation toward status hierarchies combine with gender segregation in childhood to offer some explanation for a tendency to associate combat with men, but not enough to account for the categorical difference of gender roles in warfare. The evidence leads him to probe cultural constructions, as well as sexual and economic domination." (335)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Men, Gender Hierarchies, Military Forces & Armed Groups

Year: 2003

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