Gendering the Militarisation of the War on Terrorism : Discourses and Representations of Masculinities and Femininities

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Title: Gendering the Militarisation of the War on Terrorism : Discourses and Representations of Masculinities and Femininities
Author: Repo, Jemima
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Yleisen valtio-opin laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för allmän statslära
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2006
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Political Science, World Politics
Yleinen valtio-oppi, maailmanpolitiikan tutkimus
Allmän statslära, forskning i världspolitik
Abstract: This thesis contributes to the development of poststructuralist feminist International Relations analyses about the US War on Terrorism. Gender is significantly involved in the justification and conduct of wars and militarism, established and supported by a particular hierarchal structure of masculinities and femininities. Hierarchal power relations prioritise the bodies and values of some, and demean, attack or conceal those of others. These are expressed in discourses of the various masculinities and femininities of the US self and its enemy Other, which are deconstructed and analysed by Foucauldian discourse analysis and theories of representation. Discourses of a male-performed 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and US rescue response endowed hegemonic masculinity on the muscular masculinity of fire fighters. This was subsequently extended to soldiers of the US military, who fought in retaliation to the humiliation of feminised US nationhood, remasculinising the US national identity. This necessitated the representation of terrorists and Muslim men as morally and sexually deviant, homosexual, woman-oppressive demons. Likewise, Muslim women were victimised as helpless sufferers to be unveiled and rescued by a macho US crusade against terrorism. On the other hand, female terrorists confused the men-lifetakers/ women-lifegivers dichotomy, and were depicted as excessively violent, hypersexual beings, who were nonetheless victims of the seductions of manipulative Muslim men. Disciplinary action was taken against Muslim men in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, which especially in the latter case resulted in scandals that evoked public pity for the unfortunate and uncivilised detainees who endured the torture of cruel un-American men and irrational women of the US Military Police. Meanwhile, the discourses of US soldiers in Iraq are examined through their own autobiographical voices, demonstrating that the military is indeed a misogynistic boy's club. The fate of Private Jessica Lynch and the autobiographical works of soldiers also unsympathetic to the Iraqi population, continuing the Othering discourses established on 11 September. At the US home front, military mothers, both pro and anti-war, are supportive of the well being and honouring of their sons. There is a complex set of dominant discourses in continuous fluctuation sustaining the gender hierarchies that support war by privileging the bodies of some and discriminating and harming the bodies others. There is hope for change however, as the malleability of gender enables possibilities for resistance through counter discourses and female empowerment.
Subject: US foreign policy
feminist international relations
war on terrorism
discourse analysis
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