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Abstracts, Journal issues, NORMA 3.2

Everyday gendered experiences and the discursive construction of civilian and military identities in Britain

Victoria Basham

Though the idea of a civil-military gap has long been privileged by military officials and many scholars of armed forces, dividing ‘civilian’ from ‘military’ has important implications for the negotiation of identities within the armed forces. By drawing on research with members of the British military on social diversity in their organisation, this paper examines how hegemonic military masculinities are reinforced by the division of military and civilian. It explores how gendered and sexual assumptions about ‘the soldier’ in the military, and wider society, continue to shape the war system and limit the participation of ‘less-traditional’ recruits in the modern armed forces. Gendered constructions of soldiering can facilitate conditions in which the commitment, motivations and contributions of women and sexual minorities, in particular, are more likely to be questioned than those of the (presumed) heterosexual servicemen who dominate the armed forces statistically and culturally. Nonetheless, the article concludes that the experiences of military personnel, who struggle to be recognised on their own terms, can displace the notion of the hegemonic heterosexual male soldier. As a result, the uncritical reproduction of unequal gendered relations, within the military and also wider society, can also be disrupted.

British military, equality and diversity policies, military masculinities, civil-military relations

NORMA: Nordic Journal for Masculinity Studies 3(2), 150-166


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