In a time when ‘if one was born a male, one became a soldier’, what does it mean to be a man who refuses to fight? This article uses Connell’s framework of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ to locate conscientious objectors’ male identities as a suppressed, subaltern manliness that deviated from the dominant norm of martial masculinity. It argues that despite rejecting many aspects of this norm, objectors nonetheless articulated their counter-hegemonic struggle in starkly militarised language, presenting themselves as heroes sacrificing their lives for the greater good. It suggests that in order to understand, rather than merely judge, this strategy, it is important to see masculinity not as a completely discrete field of struggle, but as one of many mutually constitutive structuring principles underpinning a social order that is arranged not merely along patriarchal lines, but along lines of nation and class. In turn, these other principles impose limits on the nature of and possibilities for counter-hegemonic struggle.
conscientious objection, Britain, war, Gramsci, masculinity, nationalism, socialism