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17.1 Is war inherently masculine?

1. How much should the history of war matter in deciding who can take on what roles in militaries?

  • Those who have stressed that war is inherently masculine have stressed that, historically, soldiers have been male and this has significantly shaped the structure of the military.
  • Others argue, however, that the structure of the military can, and will, be transformed for the better through allowing female soldiers to join.

2. Do new military gender roles suggest that war in the future will be very different from the past?

  • Referring to the point above, it has been argued that characteristics associated with the female gender have become increasingly important to peacekeeping and conflict resolution missions. Together with the fact that modern militaries are already involved in activities that exceed raw physical violence, it is argued that female attributes are becoming increasingly important. Ultimately, the role of the militaries and their responsibilities in warfare are already transforming and the changing gender roles are part of this evolution.

3. What role do you think physical characteristics (of men, of women, or distributed across sex and gender) should play in deciding who fights?

  • Those who emphasize the male nature of war have emphasized that testosterone and other violence-associated hormones are more present in male rather than female bodies. Thus, it is argued that these bodies are more suitable for the conduct of war.
  • Counterarguments are usually premised on the notion that military activity extends beyond mere physical violence (see bullet point for q. 2) for which traditional 'feminine characteristics' are just as, and sometimes better, suited.