Disarm Men, Don’t arm Women
- Militarization is not emancipation
“Militarization is the step-by-step process by which something
becomes controlled by, dependent on, or derives its value
from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria.”
Dr. Cynthia Enloe, Maneuvers: the international politics of
militarizing women’s lives
Is an increase in the number of women joining the military a sign
of women’s emancipation? No! It is a sign of the increasing
militarization of society, which benefits neither women nor the Netherlands
as a whole.
The issue is not whether women are capable or qualified for military
duties. In many industrialized countries women are 10 percent or more
of the formal militaries. Women comprise thirty percent of many armed
opposition groups. Women’s skills and leadership abilities are
The issue that needs to be debated is how the militarization of women’s
lives will benefit women and society as a whole. Appropriate social
norms and values, and a perceived rise in zinloos geweld,
are now important debates within Dutch society. The militarization
of women must be seen in this context.
Don’t arm women, disarm men
Masculinity is increasingly linked to violence. Masculinity and associated
male norms, such as control and dominance, are seen as normative and
desirable. The acceptance of male norms has affected young girls,
some of whom have started to use violent methods in their search for
equality and recognition.
Women’s militarization does not challenge this link between
masculinity and violence. Nor does it challenge the use of violence
as a legitimate way to solve political conflicts. Rather than encouraging
women to become more involved in violence, men must be encouraged
to redefine masculinity and break the links between being a “real”
man and being violent.
The idea that women are inherently less violent than men also needs
to be challenged. This idea leads to the myth that more women in a
military will somehow ‘humanize’ militaries. Women are
not kinder killers. Military systems are inherently dehumanizing—US
Army Reserve Pfc. Lynndie England and the violation of the human rights
of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison are evidence of this. Finding
more humane alternatives to war is the responsibility of the entire
international community, not just women.
Women’s emancipation is not the goal of any military. The recruitment
of women in the military has more to do with declining numbers of
young available males than with any desire to emancipate women. Studies
from other western militaries also show that women inside the military
face wide-spread sexual harassment and violence.
Some people will argue that military service
provides worthwhile jobs and job training, especially for lower educated
women. But most people do not learn skills within the military that
can be transferred to civilian jobs. In some western countries, such
as the USA, unemployment for veterans is higher than for non-veterans.
Furthermore, what kind of society do we have if the military becomes
an important employer? If military jobs enhance women’s employment,
this points to the need for more equitable opportunities for higher
Others might believe that military service provides access to decision-making
processes and leadership positions for women. In democracies, even
the highest-ranking officers are under the control of civilian politicians.
This points to the need to increase the number of women in decision-making
position in politics, not the military. Countries where military officers
are in decision-making positions are most often dictatorships. And
dictatorships have no respect for women’s human rights.
Rather than spending money on the recruitment of more women in the
military, the government should increase funding for the improvement
of employment and educational opportunities for women, and especially
for young women and allochtonen women.
Rather than recruiting more women for the military, the government
should be taking immediate and practical steps to implement United
Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, in order to increase the
number of women at all decision-making levels in conflict prevention,
management and resolution, and to support women’s peacebuilding
Rather than promoting military force as a solution to world problems,
the government should reject war as a means to solve international
Rather than investing in weapons systems, the government should be
investing in conflict prevention and in research, education and training
in nonviolent conflict resolution.
Rather than recruiting women for the military, the government should
invest in a European Civilian Peaceforce, as the European Parliament
called for 10 years ago.
Militarization is not emancipation!
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