War and Sex: A Brief History of Men's Urge for Battle by John Van Houten Dippel (Prometheus Books)
War or sex it's never been a simple either-or choice. In fact, making war and making love have a long, tangled, intimate history.
Why young men voluntarily go off to war has long defied understanding. Eagerly risking one's life seems contrary to the innate instinct for self-preservation. Are young males notorious risk takers courting death out of some irresistible altruistic impulse to sacrifice their lives for a larger cause or, conversely, do they expect something in return?
War and Sex examines the reasons why men go to war, and the subconscious influence women have on this 'urge for battle'. It is in fact a study of how growing gender equality and a concomitant decline in fertility creates resentment and hostility among some groups of men and encourages them to see war as a strategy for improving their reproductive fortunes.
In this exploration, independent historian John Dippel argues that one important subconscious reason young men volunteer for battle is to enhance their status as partners for the women on the home front. For men of little means, becoming soldiers gives them a sexual and reproductive advantage over their civilian counterparts.
Drawing upon extensive literary as well as historical sources, Dippel in War and Sex demonstrates how, in modern times, women gaining economic opportunities and political rights has made men more willing to go to war to regain their masculine prerogatives. The experience of war, fundamentally alters the relations between the sexes, reaffirming the central social importance of men and demoting women to supportive, domestic roles. Reviewing the social circumstances leading up to conflicts from the American Civil War through the Vietnam War and the current clash between the West and Islamic fundamentalists, he shows that gender-based pressures play a significant, if largely overlooked, role in persuading a society to go to war.
If anything, history teaches us that human nature is much more complicated and contradictory: the need to make love and the need to make war are deeply intertwined. It was the lovely Helen, after all, whose fabled face launched a thousand ships and brought about the Trojan War. Gaining access to women has long been one of the major reasons why men have girded their loins for battle. Along with food and more land, warriors have always fought for the rewards of sex, female submission, and genetic immortality.
War and Sex shows how male hostility toward the slaves and empowering women stirred a desire, in both the North and the South, to reassert white-male dominance by embracing a martial masculinity. Similarly, emasculated by defeat, burdensome reparations, Depression-era job loss, and increasing female rights and participation in the workforce, many German and Austrian men sought to regain their primacy by flocking to the banner of an aggressive Nazi movement bent upon war and conquest. Readers learn how members of the greatest generation, happy to forget World War II, proved to be insufficient male role models for their sons, leaving them to spend hours watching The Lone Ranger and playing with toy soldiers. These boyhood heroic fantasies would again play out in real life amid the jungles of Vietnam, ending in disillusionment.
Even milquetoast males benefit from a nation's going to war. To prevail under arms, a society has to undergo an internal transformation a process of militarization that elevates the qualities associated with males (courage, self-sacrifice, stoic perseverance) while demoting those thought of as feminine (compassion, cooperation, kindness). This reordering reinstates a gender hierarchy: men become the admired sex. If they have previously lost some of their distinctive masculine identity or value to society; they can now collectively regain these attributes simply by virtue of their gender.
Going to war alters the power relations between men and women. Females are loath to object to this shift in status because their security, too, is at stake. Disgruntled males can take advantage of this to further their own ends. On the home front, assertive, competitive females are put back in their place that is, in the home, taking care of the kids. Women encountered by soldiers during war are apt to be abused, humiliated, or violated a psychological displacement of male frustration and anger over female usurpation of their prerogatives back home. There is even a plausible connection between the desire for war and the desire to restore male dominance. Many modern wars of choice (that is, those not waged in response to attack or imminent danger) have occurred after women in the bellicose nation have gained new rights and freedoms. When these conflicts have ended with victory, this successful outcome has halted or even reversed the trend toward full female equality and put men firmly back on top. In this sense, men win doubly, on and off the battlefield: winning a war turns the battle of the sexes in their favor.
The wars examined in War and Sex the Civil War, several regional conflicts at the end of the nineteenth century: World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the ongoing confrontation between Islamic fundamentalists and Western nations all conform to this pattern. Each was preceded by substantial progress for women in gaining rights and opportunities the woman's rights movement of the antebellum era, the suffragette protests of the early twentieth century, the expansion of women's economic and domestic power in the 1930s, the stirrings of second wave feminism in the 1960s, and the growing acceptance of women as equals (even in uniform) in recent decades. And each of these wars has resulted in setbacks for females in the victorious nations and greater progress for those on the losing side, where men have been discredited. Seen in this light, wars are not just about defeating external foes or protecting national security. They are also fought consciously or unconsciously to resolve domestic tensions and conflicts over the proper roles for men and women.
War and Sex approaches war not as a condition arbitrarily imposed upon a people, but as social choice made in light of domestic pressures and needs having to do with gender relations. For sexually disadvantaged young men who make up the great bulk of volunteers this outcome can lead to marriage and fatherhood. For them, the impulse to war is really the impulse to life.
Without explicitly blaming feminism for war, Dippel examines the impact of shifting gender roles on masculine impulses. Other contributing factors round out his study, and marriage statistics, birth rates, and plentiful notes and sources both buoy and saddle his argument. Still, his insight and analysis is impressive, and will be of interest to hawks and doves alike. Publishers Weekly
What John Dippel has done here in his fascinating War and Sex is to sharply remind us that wars don't start when the first gun fires. Wars, he persuasively shows us in these wonderfully detailed case studies, are so often motivated by many men's anxieties about their own masculinity and by their imaginings that women's progress threatens their manly privileges. I learned so much from this innovative book. Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War
War and sex two small words, each with enormous consequence, and which make many people uncomfortable when combined. But as John Dippel convincingly shows in this brilliant, engrossing book, the connection is all too real, and something we absolutely must understand. Stunningly important and effectively presented. David P. Barash, author of The Three Rs: Retaliation, Revenge and Redirected Aggression
The relationship between human conflict and gender is a vital but under-examined facet of the history of warfare. John V. H. Dippel, in this superbly researched and ably written book, makes perhaps the most comprehensive and incisive contribution to date, taking the discussion of sex and war to a new level. Michael C. C. Adams, author of The Great Adventure: Male Desire and the Coming of World War I
Thoroughly researched and compelling, War and Sex is a unique discussion of men's and women's roles. In a society contemplating war, the book offers much food for thought. Engrossing, persuasive, panoramic in its use of historic research, statistical data, and popular culture and literary references, this is the first book to demonstrate how the sex war between men and women can give rise to wars between nations.
Listening to the Silences: Women And War edited by Helen
Durham, Tracey Gurd (International Humanitarian Law: Brill Academic)
Challenging the perception that women are exclusively the victims, the
caregivers or the passive supporters of men in times of armed conflict,
Listening to the Silences: Women and War exposes the reader to a diversity of
women’s voices. These voices, both personal and academic, demonstrate that women
are increasingly taking on less ‘traditional’ roles during war, and that these
roles are multifaceted, complicated and sometimes contradictory.
The experiences of a judge, forensic anthropologist, survivor of sexual slavery, soldier, activist, journalist, humanitarian worker and others provide the reader with the opportunity to consider the depth of women’s involvement in armed conflict. Their voices highlight the fact that the international community at large has historically failed to listen to women, even as they have tried to tell their own individual tales of horror, heroism, courage, devastation, betrayal, violence and integrity during armed conflict. Concurrently the book examines in detail the legal infrastructure in this area, including debates on the adequacy of international law; developments in jurisprudence and the implementation of international resolutions. This book reveals that responses to women’s requirements during times of war will continue to be inadequate so long as we persist in silencing these differing perspectives and fail to take account of women’s dynamic and changing needs during war.
Listening to the Silences: Women and War is a collection of women’s voices, each of which makes a unique contribution to a topic that is gathering international momentum and interest.
The perspectives of these women greatly enhance our understanding of the gendered dimensions of armed conflict - they help to move the discourse beyond silence and towards inclusion, greater understanding and peace.
Excerpt: The genesis of this book began a number of years ago at a seminar hosted by the Australian Red Cross (ARC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the topic of women and war. The seminar highlighted the significant work undertaken by the ICRC in this area and also gave voice to victims, academics and professionals working in related fields. It was decided that publishing the papers from this event would be a worthy contribution to the literature on this topic. Five years later, with the addition of numerous other authors sourced from all over the globe, Listening to the Silences: Women and War has changed shape, texture and size from the original, rather humble, aim. Yet the underlying philosophy (and feminist methodology) remains the same: to listen to the multitude of women's voices and experiences involved in armed conflict so as to provide a deeper reflection on the ways in which war impacts upon women. It is hoped that in reflecting upon these pieces — some highly personal and some tightly academic — the formulation of responses to further protect and empower women can be more easily achieved.
The book is divided into three distinct sections. The first section emerged from the contemplation of one simple, underlying question — `whose voices should we be listening for?' Throughout history, women's voices have often gone unheard or have been silenced when it comes to talking about their experiences of armed conflict. They have been stereotyped predominantly as `victims' in wartime settings, with other roles being regarded as exceptions to the norm. This section, then, attempts to demonstrate — through the inclusion of personal stories recounted by women who have been involved in armed conflict (and its resolution) in differing ways — that the existence of these stereotypes and silences has hindered the evolution of more thoughtful responses to women's needs, ideas and activism in relation to armed conflict. The second section looks at what factors operate to liberate and obscure women's voices, examining this matter in `the field' as well as in legal theory and practice. The final section deals with the ways in which lessons can be learned by the international community in order to empower women and work constructively towards inclusive forms of peace and security. Each section commences with a short summary of the themes and perspectives to be covered to enable the reader to identify areas of interest.
The first section of this book listens to the personal experiences of women during armed conflict. Sometimes women's stories surprise us. This is particularly so when they tell of experiences that seem outside of the `box' usually reserved for women during war, or when they speak of the complex, multifaceted and sometimes contradictory roles women play during and after armed conflict. Sometimes the voices we hear scream with pain or cry with compassion. Sometimes the words women say are not things we like (or expect) to hear. Sometimes women's words are the only things that keep societies – and families – together. The voices in each of these chapters speak of all these things.
This section starts with the horrific and courageous story of Jan Ruff-O'Herne. Here, the Australian grandmother writes of her experience as a sex slave for the Japanese army in Indonesia during World War II. Jan's chapter is followed by Mimi Doretti's. Mimi, a forensic anthropologist, writes of the heartbreaking work of exhuming mass graves in the wake of armed conflict and of returning the remains to victims' families. In this chapter, she tells of the personal connection she made with the wife of a `missing' man exhumed in Ethiopia many years after his disappearance.
The next two pieces give us an on-the-ground perspective of armed conflict – the first from a soldier stationed in Iraq and the second from a humanitarian operationalist. Penny Cumming is an Australian army lawyer who recently returned from active duty in Baghdad. She tells of life in a Middle Eastern war zone and the issues she grappled with as a woman involved in combat operations. Charlotte Lindsey then provides an overview of the International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC's) recent global study on women and war, outlining some of the ways in which women experience armed conflict around the world and highlighting how the ICRC has attempted to assist and protect women.
This section then turns to the voices of women activists who have taken on non-traditional roles during and after armed conflict. The first is Neela Marikkar, founder of Sri Lanka First – an initiative devoted to using economic power and business strategies to promote peace in Sri Lanka. She talks of the way in which business has been creative in working towards peace in a country wracked by civil war for many years. The next is by Luz Mendez. A member of a revolutionary movement in Guatemala from a young age, Luz went on to become one of the only women at the negotiating table when peace talks began in her country. Luz symbolizes the fluid and shifting roles women take on before, during and after armed conflict.
The inclusion of such stories in this book is based on the philosophy that the development of international humanitarian law can only benefit from gaining an understanding of women's real-life experiences, perspectives and stories of armed conflict. It is only through listening to the voices of women such as these that we, as an international community, can more deeply reflect and understand the ways in which war impacts upon women. This will help us to work towards formulating legal and practical responses that can reduce women's suffering and engender empowerment.
This second section of the book aims to review the factors that operate to liberate and obscure the voices of women, in law and in practice, when dealing with issues relating to armed conflict. In all the articles, women talk about their professional (and at times personal) response to suffering during times of armed conflict. These writers, in raising issues of concern, expose in a variety of fields what should be, and is being, done to address the impact of war and conflict upon women.
The section commences with an article by the former United Nations Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who examines the issue of sexual violence and armed conflict and the steps to be taken both in law and within communities to combat this issue. Next Jeanne Ward, an International Rescue Committee officer, writes about issues of gendered violence occurring in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and provides case studies outlining the ways in which the matter is being dealt with on the ground and the extent to which women's voices are being heard and acted upon. Maggie O'Kane, a war correspondent, then talks about both theoretical and personal issues related to being a woman reporter in such environments.
The section then focuses upon the law with Helen Durham, an international lawyer, outlining the relevant international legal norms aimed at protecting women during times of armed conflict. Judith Gardam, international legal academic, then provides a broad critique of these principles within the international legal regime. Kelly Askin, Senior Legal Officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative's international justice division, follows with a review of the jurisprudence arising from the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the issues for consideration in the prosecution of gendered crimes in other international and hybrid courts.
Finally, this section turns to look at other voices involved in the search for truth and justice. As the ICTY Gender Adviser, Patricia Viseur-Sellers considers the responses of investigators and interpreters in international criminal legal proceedings dealing with violence against women. This is followed by Georgina McEncroe, member of an NGO, writing about the activities and passion of civil society in responding to atrocities committed against women. In conclusion Hayli Miller, an academic, writes about the unique experiences of women during their participation in Truth Commissions.
The final section of the book explores the lessons learned from a number of the pieces in the book and reviews how these voices can be used in the construction of peace and security. Obviously the impact of armed conflict is not eradicated when the fighting stops. For many, women in particular, the hard work begins when the phase of reconstruction and re-building commences. What is being done to include women in the range of political, social and economic developments post-conflict? How does the local context and culture impact upon this process? What international instruments have been created to assist, and how practical are they? These are some of the themes explored in Section III.
Li Fung, Pacific Program Officer at Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, introduces the section with an in-depth examination of the significant Security Council Resolution 1325 that deals with `Women, Peace and Security'. Li looks at the aims and substance of this resolution as well as the practical work done on this subject matter in the Pacific. Next Rina Amiri, Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, writes about the role of women in peace-building and reconstruction in Afghanistan after years of armed conflict. Noting the need for a pragmatic approach, Rina highlights the important role played by religious interpretation and the requirement of men's support if the there is to be a change in the position of women in Afghani society.
In conclusion, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard, highlights the advantages – and challenges – of developing a new model of `inclusive security' that is built firmly on women's active participation in peace-building at grassroots and policy levels.
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