Is War Gendered?

War is inherently gendered, as it constructs hegemonic gender ideals and has varying consequences for persons of different genders. DeLargy outlines a series of theories regarding the use of sexual violence in war. Through these, we can see how war is gendered, even beyond the use of sexual violence.

First, gender is socially constructed, and so new masculinities and femininities are developed during conflict. DeLargy writes about Militarization theory, which holds that war constructs militarized hyper-masculinities that, in essence, exaggerate traditional norms of masculinity. In this way, “wounding and killing is considered not only acceptable, but also sometimes admirable” (DeLargy 61). Violence is a key trope of manliness in these circumstances, as is male dominance over females. Working in tandem to this is the construction of militarized femininities; also an exaggeration of traditional femininity, these hold that women are weak, vulnerable, and in direct contradiction to manliness. In that it constructs and comments upon gender norms at all makes war inherently gendered.

Beyond this construction, DeLargy points out the many different consequences there are for women and men in wartime. In part because of hyper-masculinities, sexual violence is used by men as a strategy in war. This disproportionately affects women in healthcare consequences, causing STIs, HIV, unwanted pregnancies, fistulas, and various psychological disorders (DeLargy 65-67). Furthermore, the “level of stigma attached to rape inhibits its survivors from telling anyone that the rape occurred” and so they are not seeking or retrieving treatment for these problems (DeLargy 68).

Stigmatization is a ruthless outcome of sexual violence in many conflict zones, especially in Uganda. The victims of these crimes are not only ostracized from their communities, but re-victimized. According to an article by the news source, AllAfrica, “stigma and hardship have passed from mother to child, and sometimes even to grandchildren, in an intergenerational cycle of denial of rights and dignity, vulnerability, abuse, and marginalization” in Uganda (AllAfrica 2). This establishes long-term gendered consequences of gendered violence. Thus, through the construction of gender and the disproportionate affects of violence on women, war is gendered.


DeLargy, Pamela. “Sexual Violence and Women’s Health in War.” Women and Wars. Ed. Carol Cohn. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2013. 54-79. Print.

“Uganda: Mothers and Children Born From Wartime Sexual Violence Need Redress.” N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.


7 thoughts on “Is War Gendered?

  1. The idea that war is gendered can probably be traced back to young girls and boys and their different interest in war and violence. Is it nature or nurture that causes this difference? Perhaps it is a combination, but most research seems to indicate that people are inherently wired differently from the beginning. This biological difference is compounded by societal views of masculinity. All of this can easily manifest into the perpetuation of male and female stereotypes of strength and weakness as well sexual violence during wartime. DeLargy’s Militarization theories explain this phenomenon. These theories may be further tested as women take on bigger roles in wartime combat missions.

  2. What you mentioned about hyper-masculinities and how sexual violence is used by men as a strategy in war is very interesting. It is unfortunately true that this sexual violence disproportionately affects women in healthcare consequences. This can also explain current discussions about abortion. Many people disagree over whether women should have the freedom to have abortions. However, the current legal system does establish the right for women to get an abortion at her own free will. This was especially established to respond to situations of sexual violence and hyper-masculinities, as discussed in the response above, because women are disproportionally affected by pregnancy and thus should have the right to determine what to do with the consequences. However, there may also be a level of stigma attached to abortions since it is not something that is accepted by everyone. Therefore, many underlying assumptions about masculinity and femininity are deeply rooted in societies.

  3. I completely agree with the above article post. War is certainly gendered around the world and this is very much the case in our own military. In an NPR podcast titled Women In War: ‘I’ve Lived Out There With The Guys’, Sergeant Kayla Williams tells a story of sexual harassment when she and her unit were sent to a remote part of Northern Iraq in 2003. Williams’ story highlights the serious issue of sexual assault in the military. “Just last week a group of veterans and active-duty service members sued the Pentagon, saying some military commanders aren’t doing enough to prosecute sexual assault cases” (NPR). So this is a serious issue in our military today.

    The article, which was written in 2011 (so a little while ago*) also discusses the prospect of women serving in combat roles in the military. Since 2011, the Combat Exclusion Policy was lifted on January 24, 2013, enabling women to serve in combat positions in the military. The Combat Exclusion Policy excluded women from combat roles because women were declared unfit for combat roles due to weakness. This ban was only recently lifted, which highlights the fact that war is indeed gendered.

    • I find that the Militarization theory that DeLargy discusses serves as a very useful tool in answering this specific question. The citizens of the United States are infatuated with portraying soldiers as having hyper-masculine traits. The media plays a large part as well by producing movies like American Sniper and Lone Survivor that idolize these extraordinary individuals who accomplished unbelievable feats while serving their country. This leaves most Americans visualizing the members of the armed forces as brute men who are textbook examples of what masculinity is. This discriminates against the women who also serve, and not only within society but within their own barracks as well. Unfortunately, we hear countless stories of these women being victimized and sexually assaulted while trying to protect our nations citizens. Therefore, in the United States specifically, war is most definitely gendered and due to this fact, our military experiences various issues regarding women in the armed forces.

  4. I agree with this post and the Militarization theory that DeLargy discusses. Traditional norms of gender and hyper-masculinity strongly affect the actions and expectations throughout all of society, especially in times of war. War has been labeled as a male dominant struggle for power and therefor reinforces actions that express hyper-masculinity. Sexual violence towards women is a display of masculinity demonstrating why it is so prevalent in tactics for war. This can also be related to why sexual violence is often a problem in fraternities. In spaces where masculinity is a display of power it facilitates violence towards women. I also agree that since health issues result from these actions it further disadvantages and stigmatizes women. It is not enough to simply make policies against these violent acts and expect that people inherently follow them. In order to make any headway in fixing the problem of sexual violence in war, the bigger issue of traditional gender norms and hyper-masculinity also needs to be addressed.

  5. I found the topic very interesting, and never actually thought about it. Not many people notice it, but gender issues are present in many situations/domains. Something worth considering, still in the context of war, is women who serve in the military, and comparing pre- and post- WWII, and how their roles and the way they are perceived has shifted.
    I really like the flow of your essay. But I find the introduction too direct, by exposing the core argument in the first sentence. Some people might think what is claimed to be a bit controversial, so I guess building up some pieces of the puzzle would be better before laying down the core argument of the essay.
    I kind of feel the last paragraph needs a smoother transition, because there is a shift of topics and it was a bit confusing. Maybe adding a couple of sentence relating both ideas, vaguely, before moving into the second point would be of a great help.
    I enjoyed reading it, and very interesting perspective.

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