Gendered Militarism in Canada: Learning Conformity and Resistance ed. by Nancy Taber (review)
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Reviewed by
Nancy Taber, ed. Gendered Militarism in Canada: Learning Conformity and Resistance. University of Alberta Press. xxviii, 252. $34.95.

There is a paucity of critical public and academic debate on the role of the military in Canadian society, despite the increased significance of the military as a result of its more-than-decade-long mission in Afghanistan. The edited volume Gendered Militarism in Canada: Learning Conformity and Resistance promises to help fill this gap, and the editor, Nancy Taber, is well suited to take on this task. As a military child, a veteran of the CAF, and professor of education, she has spent years engaging with the military on a personal and professional level. In this edited volume, she builds on her previous academic work to bring together a diverse group of education scholars and educators who examine gender and militarism in relation to learning. The chapters of the volume show that gendered militarism is not "natural" but learned (and can therefore be unlearned) and also that gendered militarism pervades diverse sites of learning.

The book argues that militarism is an understudied but highly important phenomenon to consider in the Canadian context. It invites us to look beyond the military institution to gain an accurate understanding of the impact of the military on Canadian society. How do militarized values such as hierarchy, obedience, or violence, and with them militarized notions of masculinity and femininity, pervade the everyday lives of Canadians? The chapters of the book show that gendered militarism permeates formal and informal sites of learning such as schools, video games, social networking sites, popular culture, sports, citizenship guides, and the training of aid workers and military personnel. In the course, the volume argues, Canadians learn to take gendered militarism for granted, with dire consequences for equality and social justice domestically and internationally.

Gendered militarism is a concept used by feminist scholars (such as Cynthia Enloe) to highlight the ways in which militarism and gender are mutually constituted. Militarism is an ideology that privileges the [End Page 212] military, military values, and military means of resolving conflict. At its core, militarism promotes the dichotomy of masculinized protectors and feminized populations needing protection, thus reinforcing unequal gender norms and relations. One of the central goals of the book is to make visible how, in spite of a public discourse of gender equality in Canada and the lifting of legal barriers to the participation of women and LGBTQ people in the military, marginalizing practices continue. The normalization of gendered militarism helps perpetuate a range of inequalities across military and civilian spheres including those based on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, or ability by privileging a type of masculinity premised on toughness, fitness, and military force.

The book's focus on learning proves to be an excellent entry point for thinking about the co-constitution of gender and militarism in general and in Canada specifically. The contributors illustrate the many ways in which gendered militarism is learned and suggest a variety of means to facilitate its unlearning such as critical media literacy, a rainbow audit of military curricula, critical disabilities studies pedagogy, or a feminist intersectional redesigning of gender training. The book builds on the feminist adage that the personal is political, showing how we are all implicated in the reproduction of gendered militarism and thus have agency to resist it. While the study of militarism is well established in feminist research across fields, the volume makes a number of important scholarly contributions. It firmly places the study of gendered militarism in the field of education studies, integrates pedagogy into the study of gender and militarism, and is the first to systematically apply the concept of gendered militarism to the case of Canada. The book also contributes to the new field of critical military studies, even though it does not explicitly engage it. The publication of this volume is timely, not least considering the release of the External Review on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (Deschamps Report) in 2015. Gendered Militarism offers analytical and practical tools for scholarly and public engagement with the military and for the interrogation of gender and other inequalities across military and civilian...


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