‘Fit Only for the Scrap Heap’: Rebuilding Returned Soldier Manhood in Australia after 1945

Title‘Fit Only for the Scrap Heap’: Rebuilding Returned Soldier Manhood in Australia after 1945
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsGarton, Stephen
JournalGender & History
Volume20
Issue1
Start Page48
Pagination48-67
Date Published04/2008
Abstract

This paper examines the expert and popular discourses that sought to construct and disseminate the idea that Australia faced a masculinity crisis with the return of servicemen at the end of the Second World War. It explores how these discourses proposed a process of remasculinisation to ensure the successful reintegration of returning servicemen. These discourses were directed primarily at wives, mothers and fiancées, who were seen to bear the responsibility for rebuilding the manhood of returning men. Doctors played an important role in producing this prevailing discourse on the looming post‐war masculinity crisis, identifying its symptoms and proposing solutions. This crisis discourse filtered into popular culture through many means, predominantly, however, advice literature and romance fiction. While some of these expert and popular discourses constructed a backward looking ideal of domesticity for women, romance fiction in particular explored more modern possibilities of companionate marriage. The dissemination of a discourse about an impending masculinity crisis created different possibilities for the reconstruction of relations between men and women. The remasculinisation project could look both backwards (through ideals of women's subservience to damaged men) and forwards (through notions of marriage as a partnership) in imagining post war gender relations.

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