Gender Performance Requirements of the US Military in the War on Islamic Terrorism

TitleGender Performance Requirements of the US Military in the War on Islamic Terrorism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsCase, Mary Anne, Ronald C. Slye, and Catherine O'Rourke
JournalProceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law)
Date Published2008

Because few people are trained in the techniques of torture, US military soldiers and other personnel tasked with conducting “enhanced interrogation” during the War on Terror had to devise their own approaches, using what they knew already from prior experiences. Case argues that the techniques these soldiers often chose illustrate the way that gender norms are taught to young men and women in military academies, basic training, and society more generally. Military academies, boot camp, and institutions such as fraternities often use hazing that involves the threat of feminization and other challenges to masculinity as a means of motivating recruits and members, building camaraderie, and enforcing conformity to gender norms. Many soldiers and interrogators resorted to sexual abuse when called upon to torture or degrade captives in their charge. These techniques were chosen in part because of beliefs such soldiers held about Muslims’ gender attitudes and their views of masculinity and sex. Some soldiers did not even believe these techniques counted as torture because, as one put it, “you’re telling me it’s wrong to do to a prisoner what the Army does to its own soldiers.”

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