Boots on the Ground: Militarized Masculinity From the Soldiers’ Perspectives


This case study examines the 2011 research I conducted among 20 recently deployed members of the Canadian Armed Forces Combat Arms. This research, titled “The Role of Female Combatants in Asymmetric Conflict,” sought to determine how gender roles have shifted to accommodate the changing nature of warfare, using the war in Afghanistan as a case study. In engaging these soldiers, I was interested in determining not only their attitudes toward female combatants but also their attitudes toward fellow female soldiers. This is particularly interesting in the Canadian case as women have been permitted to serve in combat roles since 1989, decades before many of Canada’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. As a civilian academic, this case study provided a unique challenge for several reasons. First, it required that I make inroads into an exclusionary military community, where gatekeeping was prevalent both formally among military administration and also informally among communities of soldiers concerned with misrepresenting themselves and their colleagues to an outside researcher. Second, this study required that I reconcile the apparent gap between Canadian military gender policy and practice. How could I reconcile Canada’s reputation as a progressive leader in military gender integration with reports of sexual misconduct? These challenges were met by the application of standpoint feminism, also known as feminist standpoint theory, which holds that all experience is socially and historically contextual, and that oppressive structures are more easily understood when one takes a view from the bottom. This methodological approach required that I accentuate the ideas and experiences of Canadian soldiers, particularly those that identified as women, while placing a reduced emphasis on the salience of formal military policy and rhetoric.

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