oa Scientia Militaria : South African Journal of Military Studies - Male constructions and resistance to women in the military

Volume 34, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1022-8136
  • E-ISSN: 2224-0020



Given that a masculinised institution like the military presents an exaggerated picture of hegemonic masculinities, and particularly emphasising physical fitness as one of the multiple ways in achieving masculinity, this paper provides an overview of how men in the military construct women's role in the military. This information is useful in understanding the gender power relations that make it difficult for most women in the military. The paper is based on a qualitative study of a diverse group of 24-33 year old male soldiers. Participants' stories reflected how notions of the strong body, particularly in the military context, which values toughness, contributes to masculinity. They further see women's expression of sexuality and their participation in command or combat roles as having dire consequences in terms of corrupting or weakening military deployment. This paper concludes that tackling traditional forms of male sexuality as they get played out in the military context involves the examination of dominant constructions of masculinity, and in particular discourses prescribing traditional sexual practices.

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