In 1999, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story which asked: Does being a good soldier on being an aggressive male? Is there something uniquely male about the warrior? Can the warrior survive the feminisation of the military, or are we sacrificing military effectiveness on the altar of political correctness?” These questions epitomise the modern debate on the effects of increased gender diversity in the military (most notably the US military) and specifically, the effects of increasing numbers of women amongst the ranks of militaries.
This debate raises a further question: just how important a role does sexuality and gender play within modern military culture? In this essay, the roles of masculinity and femininity, particularly in the context of the modern US military culture, shall be examined through a series of issues in military culture related to gender. An issue that will see particular scrutiny is the role and impact of gender roles and gendered behaviour within militaries. The role of debates on biology and sexual orientation, as well as scrutiny from civilian society of military culture will also be used to explore masculinity and femininity within military cultures.
The following text will begin by exploring questions of biology, masculinity and the issue of homosexual inclusion within the military. The text will continue by exploring the role of gender in appearance, training, peacekeeping, perception of war and military suicides. The text will then continue further by analyzing military culture and feminism, followed by gender and military culture outside the USA before reaching a conclusion.
To begin, with regards to masculinity in military culture, one can argue from an essentialist point of view that masculine culture in the military stems from biological causes. Manhood and masculinity is closely associated with aggression, violence, war and intense competition for dominance, with these behaviours arguably rooted in biology. If one subscribes to this association with male biology, soldiering becomes a natural activity for males which will draw them in instinctively. Furthermore, encouraged into it by older men and women in society, as a way to channel their natural proclivity for violent and disruptive behaviour in the defence of their community and state.