Chapter 29: Abstract

Post-1945 Western Militaries, Female Soldiers and Gay Rights

D’Ann Campbell (Culver-Stockton College) and Karen Hagemann (UNC–Chapel Hill, Department of History)


This chapter analyzes the challenges to dominant ideas of military masculinity posed by the integration of women and gay men into the professionalizing Western armed forces in the post-1945 era. It will discuss the interrelated importance of both, gender and sexuality, for the determination of the “right to kill and die” for a countries. The focus will be on the policies of the armies of the NATO, especially Britain, Canada and the United States. In all three armies the conventional ideas of a martial military masculinity had been undercut by the integration of women and gay and lesbian people. This development was fostered, first, by the move to professional armies based on volunteers which lead to increasing military manpower needs; second, the growing centrality of de-gendered technological sophistication which allowed the integration of more and more women, because it requested skills and knowledge and not mainly strength; third social movements that pushed for equal rights of women and LGBTQ people; and fourth, as a result a change in public opinion. As a consequence, since the 1970s Western militaries increasingly allowed women to serve, more recently even in combat roles; since the 1990s they allowed gay men and lesbian women to serve openly.


Female Soldiers; Gay and Lesbian Soldiers; Professionalization of Armies; Gender; Masculinity; Martial Military Masculinity; Post-1945; Cold War; Britain, Canada; Europe; United States.

Part IV: "From the Global Cold War to the Conflicts of the Post-Cold War Era" of the Oxford Handbook of Gender and War since 1600.

To buy an electronic version of this Oxford Handbook chapter click here.

Bibliographic lists: Selected Bibliography | Full List

Abstracts: Previous (28) | Table of Contents | Next (30)