Gender, war, and male disadvantage
By Michael Flood and David Duriesmith
Men’s rights advocates (MRAs) complain that war is an important site of male disadvantage. They describe the higher rates of sex selective conscription and the large numbers of deaths and injuries among male soldiers as a powerful example of how men are disadvantaged relative to women. This claim is flawed.
Yes, large numbers of men and boys are killed and injured in war. They are sent to war largely by other men. Wars are supported more by men than women. And traditional masculinity has been central to justifications for war. It is men, not women, who have excluded women from joining men in military and combat roles. Feminist women and women’s movements have played key roles in challenging war and militarism. Finally, the overall impacts of war and conflict and their aftermath are greater for women than men.
In more detail:
1. Men and boys overwhelmingly are sent off to war by other men, not by women, particularly as the vast majority of heads of state, political leaders, and military leaders are male.
2. More generally, men are more enthusiastic supporters of war and militarism than women.
3. Traditional masculinity is implicated in political support for and involvements in war and conflict:
4. It is men, not women, who have excluded women from military roles.
5. Feminist women and women’s movements have played key roles in challenging war and militarism in general (Enloe, 2000).
6. War is an important setting for male injury and death, as US data shows (DeBruyne & Leland, 2015). But it is also an important setting for injuries and deaths among women (and children) (Jansen, 2006). As Jansen argues,
"women are much more vulnerable today than in the past because recent wars have had a higher rate of civilian casualties; for example, in World War I, 15% of the casualties were suffered by civilians, compared with 65% in World War II and 90% in recent wars, which have mainly affected women and children (Okazawa-Rey, 2002; UN, 2001; Waldman, 2005). Women are not just caught in cross-fires but are increasingly victims of violence in war situations. There are widespread atrocities; in war, women’s bodies become a battleground – rapes, forced pregnancies, kidnappings, and sexual servitude are common (Rehn & Sirleaf, 2002; Wood, 2004)." (Jansen, 2006)
Because most combatants in armed conflicts in wars are men, males also the major direct victims of military operations (Plümper & Neumayer, 2006). However, there is evidence that the *overall impacts* of war and conflict and their aftermath are greater for women than men. Studies suggest that the impacts on health and wellbeing (in terms of both illness and death) of war and civil conflict are greater for women than men;
Note: Also see the Men's Bibliography references on gender, war, and militarism, including its section on men, masculinity, and war, available here: http://www.xyonline.net/content/q-war-and-military.
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Duriesmith, D. (2016). Masculinity and New War: The Gendered Dynamics of Contemporary Armed Conflict: Taylor & Francis.
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Maruska, J. H. (2009). When are states hypermasculine? In L. Sjoberg (Ed.), Gender and International Security: Feminist Perspectives (pp. 235-255): Routledge.
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Plümper, T., & Neumayer, E. (2006). The unequal burden of war: The effect of armed conflict on the gender gap in life expectancy. International organization, 60(3), 723-754.
Riabov, O., & Riabova, T. (2014). The remasculinization of Russia? Gender, nationalism, and the legitimation of power under Vladimir Putin. Problems of Post-communism, 61(2), 23-35.
Sasson-Levy, O. (2011). The military in a globalized environment: Perpetuating an ‘extremely gendered’organization. Handbook of gender, work and organization, 391-411.
Sasson-Levy, O., & Amram-Katz, S. (2007). Gender integration in Israeli officer training: Degendering and regendering the military. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 33(1), 105-133.
Sjoberg, L. (2013). Gendering global conflict: toward a feminist theory of war: Columbia University Press.
Wilcox, C., Hewitt, L., & Allsop, D. (1996). The gender gap in attitudes toward the Gulf War: A cross-national perspective. Journal of Peace Research, 33(1), 67-82.
 Dr Michael Flood is an Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Dr David Duriesmith is a UQ Fellow at the University of Queensland (UQ).