"Without Women, the War Could Never Have Happened": Representations of Women’s Military Contributions in Non-State Armed Groups


Gilmartin, Niall. 2017. “‘Without Women, the War Could Never Have Happened’: Representations of Women’s Military Contributions in Non-State Armed Groups.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 19 (4): 456–70.

Author: Niall Gilmartin


Feminist international relations theory argues that male consolidation of power in the aftermath of armed conflict often occurs as men gain the status of heroes in the post-war appraisals. Explorations of republican commemoration in the North of Ireland have uncovered the dominance of the male protagonist with a notable relative absence of militant republican women. Militarized masculine narratives and patriarchal understandings of what is deemed a combatant role, and therefore deemed worthy of commemorating, consistently fail to value or recognize women’s multiple and vital wartime contributions. This article argues that conventional definitions of military contributions and combatant roles are imprecise, highly gendered and ultimately function as a mechanism to denigrate and exclude women’s wartime labor. Based on in-depth interviews with former combatants, the article critically explores the ways in which republican women themselves conceptualize their contributions to armed struggle. Emerging from this is a theoretically rich narrative of women’s multiple and diverse military roles which firmly challenge the limited definition of “a person with a weapon.” It is suggested that by paying careful attention to the lives of combatant women, feminist scholars can use their experiences, narratives and meanings to challenge existing frameworks and discourses, and redefine combatant roles and wartime contributions.

Keywords: female combatants, conflict transition, combatant roles, commemoration, Republican women

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict Regions: Europe, Western Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2017

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