Gender Performance in a Changing Military: Women Soldiers in "Masculine" Roles

TitleGender Performance in a Changing Military: Women Soldiers in "Masculine" Roles
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsSasson-Levy, Orna
JournalIsrael Studies Forum

The status of women in the Israeli military has been undergoing structural and conceptual changes during the past five years. For most of its existence, the Israeli army has maintained a rigid gendered division of labor which reflected a dichotomous essentialist perception of gender. However, there is a growing awareness in Israel that women are not perceived as equal citizens due, in part, to their unequal military service. Therefore, some Israeli feminists call for equal military service, including drafting women for combat roles. Through interviews with women soldiers serving in "masculine" roles, the author explores the ways gender identities are constituted within a changing structure of gendered organization. The author's primary thesis is that women soldiers in "masculine" roles adopt various discursive and bodily identity practices characteristic of male combat soldiers, which signify both resistance and compliance with the military gender order. Thus, this article argues, women's integration into combat roles neither challenges the male hegemony in the military nor threatens the ideology that links masculinity and combat and therefore contributes to the legitimization of Israeli militarism and its gender regime without altering women's lower civil status.

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