Gender, Emotion, and War



The close links between definitions of gender and emotion is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the institutions of the military and in the theatres of war. Ongoing debates about women’s involvement in combat roles and popular cultural depictions of the male warrior in warfare rely upon generalised views of men’s and women’s emotional make-up. Military institutions provide the means for disciplining bodies and shaping minds, and categorising and separating the ‘fit’ and the ‘unfit’. The bastardisation rituals of the military, vividly portrayed in the film Full Metal Jacket (1987), aim to re-socialise individuals, by stripping them of civilian identities and establishing new soldier identities: emotionally distanced killing machines. War provides the occasion for demonstrating the virtues of ‘manliness’ and essential differences between men and women. News media and other popular cultural portrayals of war are heavily masculinised. They reinforce the view that war is essentially ‘men’s business’, that war is an expression of an innate male aggressivity, and that men are natural protectors and women the protected. Many people’s experiences of war, particularly in the Western world, is via the media rather than through direct experience, a point increasingly recognised by political authorities, who have sought to control the media and its images in the ‘battle for hearts’.


News Medium Military Training Gender Discourse Male Soldier Modern Warfare 
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Copyright information

© Alan Petersen 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sociology, Politics and LawUniversity of PlymouthUK

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