New military femininities: humanitarian violence and the gendered work of war among U.S. servicewomen

TitleNew military femininities: humanitarian violence and the gendered work of war among U.S. servicewomen
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationN/A
AuthorsGreenburg, Jennifer
JournalGender, Place & Culture
Volume24
Issue8
Abstract

This article examines ‘military femininity’ in new gendered forms of labor employed by the U.S. military in the post-September 11 wars. Between 2003 and 2013, when women were technically banned from direct assignment to ground combat units, the U.S. military deployed all-female counterinsurgent teams in Iraq and Afghanistan. In various forms, these teams searched Iraqi women at checkpoints and in home raids, provided medical assistance to Afghan women and children, and participated in highly combative special operations missions alongside Army Rangers and Green Berets in Afghanistan. Recent literature on the gendering of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan focuses mainly on the teams’ deployment of humanitarianism and affect as weapons of war, while older feminist critiques analyze women’s marginalization within military institutions. This article reconceptualizes military femininity, departing from the prevailing marginalization and humanitarian frameworks. Drawing on military and policy documents, first-hand observations of military trainings, and interviews with military trainers, I show how women were integrated into ground combat through the promotion of certain gender essentialisms, such as feminine domesticity, alongside military violence. A new form of military femininity has emerged that eschews humanitarian rhetoric, and instead emphasizes servicewomen’s lethality.