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Camouflage Isn't Only for Combat

Gender, Sexuality, and Women in the Military

Melissa S. Herbert

Publication Year: 1998

Drawing on surveys and interviews with almost 300 female military personnel, Melissa Herbert explores how women's everyday actions, such as choice of uniform, hobby, or social activity, involve the creation and re-creation of what it means to be a woman, and particularly a woman soldier. Do women feel pressured to be "more masculine," to convey that they are not a threat to men's jobs or status and to avoid being perceived as lesbians? She also examines the role of gender and sexuality in the maintenance of the male-defined military institution, proposing that, more than sexual harassment or individual discrimination, it is the military's masculine ideology--which views military service as the domain of men and as a mechanism for the achievement of manhood--which serves to limit women's participation in the military has increased dramatically. In the wake of armed conflict involving female military personnel and several sexual misconduct scandals, much attention has focused on what life is like for women in the armed services. Few, however, have examined how these women negotiate an environment that has been structured and defined as masculine.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v


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pp. vii-ix

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-25

Since the 1940s, when women began to enter the military in significant numbers, questions have been raised about their intent, their ability, and, perhaps most frequently, their character. It was believed that a woman who would place herself in an environment that was both...

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2. Amazons and Butterflies: Gender and the Military

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pp. 26-54

There is little disagreement that the recognition of sex, and subsequently gender, is critical to the organization of daily life. Even the youngest of children are well aware of what constitute “girl things” and “boy things” and that knowing what and who fits where is critical. Small children are...

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3. Dykes and Whores: Sexuality and the Military

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pp. 55-80

Sexuality is a topic that is taboo, yet frequently discussed; concealed, yet present throughout daily life. It can be used as a source of reward or punishment; the expression of sexuality is both demanded and condemned. So all-encompassing is its breadth that it is impossible to provide...

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4. Camouflage Isn't Only for Combat

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pp. 81-111

Women may respond in several ways to the notion that gender has much greater meaning in the workplace than simply being female or male, “feminine” or “masculine.” A woman may choose to emphasize either characteristic, or set of characteristics. ...

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5. Doing Gender/Doing Sexuality

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pp. 112-129

As the quotation suggests, women in the military live under a microscope. They are faced with daily challenges about their right to be in the military, their ability to do the job, and, often, their sexuality. As social actors in a world where gender is very important, we all routinely engage in...

Methodological Appendix

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pp. 131-186


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pp. 187-189


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pp. 191-199


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pp. 201-204

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About the Author

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pp. 205

Melissa S. Herbert received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1995. She served in the enlisted ranks of the United States Army and later attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814790991
E-ISBN-10: 0814790992
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814735473
Print-ISBN-10: 0814735479

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 1998