"How Can She Claim Equal Rights When She Doesn't Have to Do as Many Push-Ups as I Do?": The Framing of Men's Opposition to Women's Equality in the Military


Cohn, Carol. 2000. “‘How Can She Claim Equal Rights When She Doesn’t Have to Do as Many Push-Ups as I Do?’: The Framing of Men’s Opposition to Women’s Equality in the Military.” Men and Masculinities 3 (2): 131–51. doi:10.1177/1097184X00003002001.

Author: Carol Cohn


The public arguments for and against women in the military and in combat are numerous, well-worn, and readily accessible in congressional testimony, books, and articles. But the laundry list of arguments does not necessarily tell us much about how military men actually make sense to themselves of their own experiences and opinions, or the ways that they frame their feelings about the issue. Drawing on in-depth interviews with military officers, this article describes and analyzes a dominant form in which male officers frame their opposition to women in the military, the "PT (physical training) protest," a variance of "standards discourse." Having different physical training standards for men and women is seen as special treatment for women, lowering standards for women, and/or evidence that women cannot cut it in the military. Although standards discourse invokes an apparently "objective" and neutral ideology that links equal status with same standards, the author shows that the discursive context in which male officers utter the PT protest reveals strong feelings of loss and anger about changes in the way the organization is gendered.

Keywords: Gender, military, physical training, sex differences, gendered organizations, standards, difference dilemma

Topics: Combatants, Feminisms, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries

Year: 2000

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