Teaching and Learning Guide for: Women and War: Militarism, Bodies, and the Practice of Gender



The goal for this course is to have students think about war in all its complexities. Militarism and war have a relationship with, and impact on, the practice of gender. Looking at what gender has to do with war, how masculinity and femininity work in times of war to create soldiers, and how gender is used, along with race, to create enemies, helps students to engage ideas about gender and its relationship to war and militarism, to understand more fully the impact of war on women both inside and outside of the military, to look at world affairs and the current global situation in context, and to ask questions about imperialism and alternatives to war. Conceptions of the proper practice of gender have particular meaning for women in wartime, but their meaning for both men and women in this particular war with increased participation by US women soldiers is shifting. How are ideas about femininity shaken when women participate in the military? What about ideas about masculinity? Because militarism functions as a form of imperialism, the US military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has gendered implications on the people of those states. What then are the transnational implications of militarism, these wars, occupation, and the accompanying ideas about gender?

Suggested readings

Cynthia Cockburn. 2007. From Where We Stand: War, Women's Activism & Feminist Analysis. London, UK: Zed Books.

The author looks at women's resistance in various contexts around the world.

Eisenstein Zillah. 2007. Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race, and War in Imperial Democracy. London, UK: Zed Books.

An interesting exploration of the ways femininity and race are simultaneously deployed in the war on Iraq.

Cynthia Enloe. 2000. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Enloe's exhaustive enumeration of militarization around the world is essential for students.

Chris Hedges. 2002. War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Written by a journalist who has witnessed various wars, this book gives a sense of the seductiveness of war as a solution to conflict and a good look at its consequences.

Sorayya Khan. 2006. Noor. Wilmington, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

This beautiful novel set in Pakistan explores how gender works within a family deeply affected by the war between East and West Pakistan that created Bangladesh.

Robin Riley, Naeem Inayatullah. 2006. Interrogating Imperialism: Conversations on Gender, Race, and War. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

This collection of essays from writers in various disciplines enumerates the effects of the war on Iraq from feminist, International Relations, and Post-colonial Studies perspectives.

Robin Riley, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, and Minnie Bruce Pratt. Forthcoming. Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism. London, UK: Zed Press.

A diverse set of scholars and activists examine the questions raised by ongoing US military initiatives. These theorists and organizers develop an anti-racist, feminist politics that puts the analysis of imperialist power, and forms of resistance to it, front and center in relation to contemporary issues of women and war.

Barbara Sutton, Sandra Morgen, and Julie Novkov (Eds). 2008. Critical Perspectives on Gender, Race, and Militarization. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

A transnational collection of essays detailing the consequences of militarism around the world.


* Women's and Gender Studies Department, Syracuse University. E-mail: rlriley@syr.edu

Online resources

Teach peace.com http://teachpeace.com/

This website has lots of good materials to problematize the issues of war and militarism. It has newsletters, articles from a variety of authors on war and militarism around the world, and free films that can be shown to students in classes

International Committee of the Red Cross http://www.icrc.org/Eng/women

Statistics and information on the state of women around the world in war zones

United Nations Development Fund For Women


Report on the effects of armed conflict on women around the world. Resources and links

Women in War Zones http://www.womeninwarzones.org/

The situation of women in the Congo

Code Pink: Women Say No To War http://www.womensaynotowar.org/article.php?list=type&type=100

Anti war site with organizing information, and articles about women in war zones as well as links to other anti war sites

Saying No to Militarism and War http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/sayno.htm

This website has statistics relating to the cost of wars around the planet and good information on military spending

American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org

Website of Quaker group with information, videos, and links promoting peace

World Military Spending http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending

Links and information on the above


Generation Kill 2008 HBO Series. Fictionalized accounts of one unit's experiences in Iraq good exploration of the horrors and boredom of war and how masculinity works within these highly masculinized sites.

Jarhead 2005 A film adaptation of a former Marine's story of his service in Desert Storm. It exemplifies how masculinity works within a war zone.

In the Valley of Elah 2007. Fictionalized account of a true story of the return of an American GI and his subsequent disappearance and murder. The story is told through the voice of his father, a former soldier himself, who searches for his son. Quite a moving portrayal of the impact of war on soldier's families.

The Women Outside 2000 Documentary detailing the lives of women whose lives are dependent on American military bases.

Why We Fight 2005 Documentary that elaborates the escalation of militarism following World War II.

Control Room. 2004 Documentary that chronicles the early days of the war on Iraq through the view of Al Jazeera television and the relationship with the Western media and occupying troops.

Sample syllabus


Weeks 1–3

Introductions plan for the course

Women in the military

Jessica Lynch, Shoshanna Johnson and Lori Piestewa

Start Reading Kayla Williams Love my Rifle More Than You Norton

Week 4



Ismael Hossein-Zadeh. The Political Economy of US Militarism. pp. 1–26, 39–74

Catherine Lutz. Homefront: A Military City and the American 20th Century

Beacon 1–44

Week 5

Creating An Enemy

Read: Hossein Zaddeh 75–125

Lutz 171–214

Week 6

Defense Spending & Defense Contractors

Read: Hossein Zaddeh 181–245

Lutz 214–257

Week 7

Masculinity and Soldiering

Read: Cynthia Enloe. ‘Masculinity As A Foreign Policy Issue’. pp. 254–258

Cynthia Enloe. ‘Beyond “Rambo” Women and the Varieties of Militarized Masculinity’. pp. 71–93

Soldier's Stories: Dispatches From Iraq. pp. 112–129. New Yorker. June 12, 2006

Cynthia Enloe. ‘When Soldiers Rape’ 108–152

Ruth Seifert. ‘War and Rape: A Preliminary Analysis’. pp. 54–69

Eric Schmitt. ‘Rapes Reported by Servicewomen ...’ pp. 1–3

Week 8

Abu Ghraib, Torture and Lynndie, Meghan and Janis & Other Prisoners

Read: BB McElvey. ‘Cell Block Party’. pp. 17–27

McElvey. ‘Counterinsurgency Operations’. pp. 75–86

Mc Elvey. ‘A Letter Asking For Poion’. pp. 199–205

Harding. ‘The Other Prisoners’. pp. 1–3

Harding. ‘Behind The Walls of Abu Ghraib’.

Barbara Ehrenreich. ‘Feminism's Assumptions Upended’. pp. 1–3

Week 9

Military Prostitution: The Women Outside

Read: BB Enloe. ‘The Prostitute, The Colonel, And The Nationalist’. pp. 49–107

Katherine Moon. ‘Partners in Prostitution

Jennifer Butler. ‘Militarized Prostitution’. pp. 205–232

World Tribune.com. ‘US Military Blames Lap Dances For Declining Discipline’. pp. 1–2

Week 10

Women IN War- Suicide Bombers and Life in Afghanistan and Iraq

Read: BB Cooke Miriam. ‘Saving Brown Women’. pp. 468–470

Walter. ‘Women at War’. pp. 1–3

Ayesha Khan. ‘Afghan Refugee Women's Experience ...’ pp. 421–425

Dickey. ‘Women of Al Qaeda’. pp. 1–7

Dehghanpisheh. ‘Iraq's Hidden War’. pp. 1–5

Banerjee. ‘Rape and Silence about it Haunts Baghdad’. pp. 1–3

Castle. ‘The Girl Next Door’. pp. 1–3

Smith. ‘Raised As Catholic in Belgium’. pp. 1–4

Weeks 11 & 12

Peacekeepers & War Zones

Read: Sandra Whitworth. Men, Militarism and UN Peackeeping. Lynne Reiner. pp. 1–52

Riverbend. Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq. The Feminist Press. pp. xi–xxiii, 1–44

Week 13

Life Under Occupation

Read: Riverbend. 46–81, 92–114, 186–193, 222–235, 258–266

Week 14

Anti-War Resistance.