The Double Helix

TitleThe Double Helix
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1987
AuthorsHigonnet, Margaret R., and Patrice L. R. Higonnet
EditorHigonnet, Margaret R., Jenson, Jane, Sonya Michel, and Margaret Collins Weitz
Book TitleBehind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars
PublisherYale University Press
CityNew Haven, CT

In this classic essay Margaret and Patrice Higonnet put forward a very useful model for thinking about gender in wartime. Making their analogy to the double helix configuration (an image familiar to even those with a limit understanding of DNA), they reason that these two twisting strands represent the structure of gender relations and explain the consistency that underlies eras of apparent change. In wartime women enter new jobs, assume new positions and acquire new authority. It often seems that their status is revolutionarily altered; indeed, a number of scholars have argued exactly this. However it remains the case that women's roles in wartime are valued less than men's. As non-combatants, women are not given the same acknowledgment for their contribution to the war effort as male combatants. The gender hierarchy stays in place, i.e. gender relations change because of the war experience but stay hierarchical.

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