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Gendering Combat: Military Women’s Status in Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union during the Second World War


Fieseler, Beate, M. Michaela Hampf, and Jutta Schwarzkopf. 2014. “Gendering Combat: Military Women’s Status in Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union during the Second World War.” Women’s Studies International Forum 47, Part A (November): 115–26. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2014.06.011.


Authors: Beate Fieseler, M. Michaela Hampf, Jutta Schwarzkopf


The militarization of women during the Second World War, unprecedented in both quantitative and qualitative terms, has been accounted for variously, though unsatisfactorily, with regard to the impact on the warring nations' gender order. Using national variations in the accessibility of combat functions to women, the degree of pressure exerted on a given war-time society's gender order is explored by comparing Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, which differ markedly regarding both the military exigencies placed upon them and the degree of female militarization adopted. The comparative perspective reveals differences in what dimensions are perceived as problematic in the relation of gender and combat and what are the conditions shaping this perception. Secondly, the conditions become apparent under which combat functions are made available to women, and thirdly, the long-term effects of the reconfiguration of the gender order under war-time conditions can be explored.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries

Year: 2014

Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury


Parashar, Swati. 2014. Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury. War, Politics and Experience. London & New York: Routledge.

Author: Swati Parashar


This book explores women’s militant activities in insurgent wars and seeks to understand what women ‘do’ in wars.
In International Relations, inter-state conflict, anti-state armed insurgency and armed militancy are essentially seen as wars where collective violence (against civilians and security forces) is used to achieve political objectives. Extending the notion of war as ‘politics of injury' to the armed militancy in Indian administered Kashmir and the Tamil armed insurgency in Sri Lanka, this book explores how women participate in militant wars, and how that politics not only shapes the gendered understandings of women’s identities and bodies but is in turn shaped by them.
The case studies discussed in the book offer new comparative insight into two different and most prevalent forms of insurgent wars today: religio-political and ethno-nationalist. Empirical analyses of women’s roles in the Sri Lankan Tamil militant group, the LTTE and the logistical, ideological support women provide to militant groups active in Indian administered Kashmir suggest that these insurgent wars have their own gender dynamics in recruitment and operational strategies. Thus, Women and Militant Wars provides an excellent insight into the gender politics of these insurgencies and women’s roles and experiences within them.
This book will be of much interest to students and scholars of critical war and security studies, feminist international relations, gender studies, terrorism and political violence, South Asia studies and IR in general.

Keywords: politics & international relations, asian politics, South Asian politics, military & strategic studies, security studies, terrorism, war & conflict studies, social sciences, gender studies

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarism, Religion, Security, Terrorism Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2014

Where Women Rebel: Patterns of Women’s Participation in Armed Rebel Groups 1990-2008


Henshaw, Alexis Leanna. 2016. Where Women Rebel: Patterns of Women’s Participation in Armed Rebel Groups 1990-2008.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (1): 39–60. doi:10.1080/14616742.2015.1007729.

Author: Alexis Leanna Henshaw


While a significant literature on women's participation in armed rebel groups exists, much of this work is focused on individual cases or regional comparisons among movements. This has led to a lack of cross-national work on women in insurgencies, and a limited understanding of the extent to which women are engaged in civil conflict internationally. This article introduces new data on women's involvement in seventy-two insurgencies active since 1990, and assesses the validity of several assumptions about women and rebellion drawn from existing literature on women in conflict and on civil wars generally. I show that women are active in rebel groups much more often than current scholarship acknowledges. This involvement includes frequent service in combat and leadership roles, where male participants are often presumed to be the default. Finally, while forced recruitment tactics are frequently used to bring women into service, much of their participation appears to be voluntary in nature.

Keywords: gender, civil conflict, terrorism, insurgency

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Livelihoods, Militarized livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militias, Paramilitaries, Non-state Armed Groups, Terrorism

Year: 2016

Liberal Warriors and the Violent Colonial Logics of "Partnering and Advising"


Welland, Julia. 2015. “Liberal Warriors and the Violent Colonial Logics of ‘Partnering and Advising.’” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17 (2): 289–307. doi:10.1080/14616742.2014.890775.

Author: Julia Welland


Building on the feminist literature that traces the (re)production of militarized masculinities in and through military interventions, this article details some of the ways British soldiering subjects are being shaped in today's counterinsurgency context. Required now to be both nation builders and war fighters, contemporary soldiers are a “softer,” less masculinized subjectivity, and what Alison Howell has termed “liberal warriors.” British troops with their long history of colonialism and frequent overseas military campaigns are understood to be particularly suited to this role. Taking the British military's involvement in the “partnering and advising” of the Afghan National Army (ANA), this article pays attention to the interlocking gendered, raced, and sexualized discourses through which the British/Afghan encounter is experienced. Exploring first British troops' preoccupation with the perceived femininity and homosexuality of their Afghan counterparts, and second, Afghan hypermasculinity as demonstrated by the characterizations of their violent and chaotic fighting tactics, colonial logics are revealed. While British liberal warriors come to know “who they are” through these logics, (mis)represented Afghan soldiers are rendered increasingly vulnerable to the very “real,” very material violences of war.

Keywords: militarized masculinities, counterinsurgency, Afghanistan, ANA, colonial logics

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Livelihoods, Militarized livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2015

Women and the Military in Europe: Comparing Public Cultures


Eulriet, Irène. 2012. Women and the Military in Europe: Comparing Public Cultures. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK. t

Author: Irène Eulriet


This book explores how public cultures shape women's military participation within the European Union. It analyzes the way in which different policy options have been elaborated in the United Kingdom, France and Germany and examines patterns of women's military participation across societies.
(Palgrave Macmillan)

Keywords: international relations, gender studies, social policy, sociology of work, organizational studies, economic sociology, military and defence studies

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Society, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Livelihoods, Militarized livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: Europe, Central Europe, Western Europe Countries: France, Germany, United Kingdom

Year: 2012

Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond


Baaz, Maria Eriksson, and Maria Stern. 2013. Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond. London: Zed Books. 

Authors: Maria Eriksson Baaz, Maria Stern


All too often in conflict situations, rape is referred to as a 'weapon of war', a term presented as self-explanatory through its implied storyline of gender and warring. In this provocative but much-needed book, Eriksson Baaz and Stern challenge the dominant understandings of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings. Reading with and against feminist analyses of the interconnections between gender, warring, violence and militarization, the authors address many of the thorny issues inherent in the arrival of sexual violence on the global security agenda. Based on original fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as research material from other conflict zones, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? challenges the recent prominence given to sexual violence, bravely highlighting various problems with isolating sexual violence from other violence in war. A much-anticipated book by two acknowledged experts in the field, on an issue that has become an increasingly important security, legal and gender topic. (Summary from Zed Books)
Table of Contents:
1. Sex/Gender Violence
2. 'Rape as a Weapon of War'?
3. The Messiness and Uncertainty of Warring
4. Post-Coloniality, Victimcy and Humanitarian Engagement: Being a Good Global Feminist?
5. Concluding Thoughts and Unanswered Questions 

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Gender, Women, Men, Gender-Based Violence, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Non-state Armed Groups, Rape, SV against women, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2013

Women as "Practitioners" and "Targets."


Dyvik, Synne Laastad. 2014. “Women as ‘Practitioners’ and ‘Targets.’” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (3): 410–29. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.779139.

Author: Synne Laastad Dyvik


Feminist scholarship has shown how gender is integral to understanding war, and that the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was partly legitimated through a reference to Afghan women's ‘liberation’. Recognizing this, the article analyses how gender is crucial also to understanding the practice of ‘population-centric’ counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Because this type of warfare aims at ‘winning hearts and minds’, it is in engaging the population that a notable gendered addition to the US military strategy surfaces, Female Engagement Teams (FETs). Citing ‘cultural sensitivity’ as a key justification, the US deploys all-female teams to engage with and access a previously untapped source of intelligence and information, namely Afghan women. Beyond this being seen as necessary to complete the task of population-centric counterinsurgency, it is also hailed as a progressive step that contributes to Afghan women's broader empowerment. Subjecting population-centric counterinsurgency to feminist analysis, this article finds that in constructing women both as ‘practitioners’ and ‘targets’, this type of warfare constitutes another chapter in the various ways that their bodies have been relied upon for its ‘success’.

Keywords: Afghanistan, counterinsurgency, cultural turn, empowerment, Female Engagement Teams, feminism, military masculinities

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Livelihoods, Militarized livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Terrorism Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2014

Security, Secularism and Gender: The Turkish Military’s Security Discourse in Relation to Political Islam


Arik, Hulya. 2016. “Security, Secularism and Gender: The Turkish Military’s Security Discourse in Relation to Political Islam.” Gender, Place & Culture 23 (5): 641–58. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2015.1034242.


Author: Hulya Arik


This article examines the sexual and corporeal constructions of risk within the security discourses of the Turkish military in response to the rise of political Islam and Islamist identities in Turkey. I look at the Turkish military as the self-proclaimed guardian of the secular Republic, which, until recently, has actively configured political Islam as a risk to national security and ingrained such risk onto the body of the headscarved woman. My analysis covers a time frame from 1980s to late 2000s when the military issued memorandums and public statements against the rise of political Islam and pursued a belligerent campaign to erase ‘Islamist’ identities both from civilian politics and its own structure. The military implemented security regulations and dress codes to detect the ‘Islamist’ military personnel who are most conspicuously identified with the dress style of the women in their families. I explore these security regulations through women’s everyday and personal experiences in relation to their dress, headscarf style and comportment in military spaces and try to understand how ‘Islamism’ is constructed as a security threat in sexually and corporeally specific ways. I demonstrate how secularism is constructed, and needs to be protected, on the basis of a particular regime of gender and sexuality at the merger of traditional gender norms and secular Western modernity.

Keywords: risk, headscarf, secularism, Turkish military, political islam, security

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Religion, Security, Sexuality Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East, Europe, Southern Europe Countries: Turkey

Year: 2016

The Present Tense of Afghanistan: Accounting for Space, Time and Gender in Processes of Militarisation


Hyde, Alexandra. 2016. “The Present Tense of Afghanistan: Accounting for Space, Time and Gender in Processes of Militarisation.” Gender, Place & Culture 23 (6): 857–68. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2015.1058759.


Author: Alexandra Hyde


Based on ethnographic research among women married to servicemen, this article explores the diffusion of militarisation across time as well as social space. The study setting is a garrison town in Germany during the deployment of women's husbands to Afghanistan. Rather than prioritising the grand narratives of linear time prevalent in IR and military history, however, this article takes into account cyclical and everyday modes of temporality that have traditionally been associated (and undervalued) as feminised ‘zones’, including reproduction, the domestic sphere and local social space. The article explores the temporal register of an operational tour and demonstrates the material, discursive and emotional labour undertaken by military wives in smoothing and converting this rupture into stability through everyday practices. Accounting for the diffusion of militarisation over time as well as space in this way provides further evidence that its causes and effects are intricately gendered.

Keywords: militarisation, temporality, contingency, war, home

Topics: Gender, Women, Femininity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarization Regions: Asia, South Asia, Europe, Central Europe Countries: Afghanistan, Germany

Year: 2016

Between Rhetoric and Reality: Exploring the Impact of Military Humanitarian Intervention upon Sexual Violence – Post-Conflict Sex Trafficking in Kosovo


Godec, Samantha T. “Between Rhetoric and Reality: Exploring the Impact of Military Humanitarian Intervention upon Sexual Violence – Post-Conflict Sex Trafficking in Kosovo.” International Review of the Red Cross 92, no. 877 (March 2010): 235–58. doi:10.1017/S1816383110000159.

Author: Samantha T Godec


Adopting a feminist perspective, this paper analyses the doctrine of humanitarian intervention and its impact on women in recipient states, particularly with regard to sexual violence. By analysing the phenomenon of post-conflict trafficking in Kosovo following the NATO intervention, the author presents a challenge to the ‘feminist hawks’ who have called for military intervention in situations of systematic sexual violence. It is the author’s contention that such intervention would be counterproductive for women’s rights and thus constitute a disproportionate response to sexual violence in terms of the international law governing the use of force. 



Godec discusses current critiques of militarized humanitarian intervention and delivery of aid, which do not consider women or a gender analysis of women’s post-intervention experience. This article seeks to analyze the impact of militarized humanitarian intervention in relation to sex trafficking & forced prostitution in Kosovo.  Prior to 1999, Kosovo did not have a thriving sex-industry but within months of the troops, NGO’s, and UNMIK personnel arriving due to the conflict with Serbia, brothels were established around the military bases.  Due to this influx of militarized aid deliverers, Kosovo is now a major destination country for trafficking women & children and the author attributes this to:

1.     Sudden presence of military personnel creating immediate demand for sexual services

2.     Post-intervention of Kosovo sustained the demand & fostered an environment where organized criminal network could reap the profits

3.     Disruption of society & economy resulted in increased numbers of women & girls in need of income thereby creating a supply for the sex industry

4.     Failure of the UNMIK to address the problem of trafficking allowed for a culture of impunity to prevail

In addition to a developing sex industry, the greater the military presence the greater gender-based-violence increased in Kosovo. Godec cautions that the same pattern of international presence and the subsequent outcome on women & girls is arising in conflict areas such as: Kuwait, Afghanistan & Iraq.  As a preventative, Godec calls for gender awareness and education to be brought to peacekeepers and the military.  “The key criterion is whether the benefits of the use of force will outweigh the costs.”

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender Analysis, Humanitarian Assistance, International Law, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarization, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Kosovo

Year: 2010


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