A fine line: The management of gender among women in the military.
AuthorHerbert, Melissa Sheridan.
Committee ChairEngland, Paula
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWomen have long been confronted with challenges to their "right" to participate in the labor force on a level equal to men. I posit that this confrontation is situated in a conflict over gendered roles and the "appropriateness" of certain jobs for women. Such an arrangement sets up a contradiction for women in the military. If a woman possesses those attributes seen as desirable, she may be seen as violating traditional gender norms. Yet, a woman possessing attributes seen as feminine may be viewed as not possessing those attributes required to be a "good soldier." Is there a narrowly defined range of acceptable behaviors for women in the military? Are there penalties for women who are perceived to be "too feminine" or "too masculine?" What might those penalties be? Finally, do women employ strategies to manage gender and, if so, what types of strategies do they employ? About two-thirds of the women in this study believe that there are penalties for women perceived as "too feminine" or "too masculine." Women who are perceived as "too feminine" face a number of penalties such as being perceived as weak, incompetent, or sexually available. The dominant penalty for being perceived as "too masculine" is to be labeled a lesbian. Forty-one percent of respondents acknowledged utilizing strategies to manage perceptions of gender. Of this group, seventy-one percent strategize toward femininity only. Seventeen percent strategize toward both femininity and masculinity and twelve percent strategize toward masculinity only. While lesbian and bisexual women were more likely to indicate that penalties exist, they were no more likely than heterosexual women to engage in management strategies. This research adds to our knowledge of how women negotiate gender conflicts. It provides empirical support for the claim that gender is not simply a role, but is an ongoing accomplishment situated within everyday encounters. Additionally, the barriers that women confront have as their foundation a complex interweaving of social constructions of gender and sexuality. By examining this relationship, this research contributes to theory which examines the intersection of gender and sexuality, and its impact on women throughout society.