Cynthia Enloe. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2000. xix + 418 pp.
Cynthia Enloe. Maneuvers. The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2000. xi + 418 pp. $17.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-520-22070-6; $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-22071-3.
Reviewed by Christy J. Snider (Department of History, Berry College)
Published on H-Women (July, 2001)
Military Uses for Women
Military Uses for Women
Most military history is still written as if women did not exist. For several decades, however, women's historians have attempted to make visible the contributions and experiences of women in the military, on the homefront, and as family members of servicemen. This scholarship has resulted in a much greater understanding of the roles women have played in sustaining war efforts and shed light on how women have successfully filled martial manpower needs during both war and peacetime. In Maneuvers, Cynthia Enloe shifts the focus of the discussion from what women have given to the business of war waging to what the military has gained by controlling certain kinds of women and attempting to regulate ideas about femininity.
Enloe, who is a professor of government and the director of women's studies at Clark University and who has authored several books on women's relationship to the military, takes an international and historically broad approach to the subject. Relying on a variety of sources from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe, she begins by defining militarization as a process by which a person or thing becomes controlled or dependant on the military. She then explains how even apolitical objects, like high school students, a can of soup, and Carmen Miranda, can be militarized. Mothers, for example, are militarized to the extent that they respond eagerly to political messages suggesting that motherhood is vital to a nation's war efforts. Voters are militarized when they assume that the candidate most enthusiastic about war making is the best qualified to solve civilian problems. According to Enloe, the process of militarization is especially significant for women because it privileges masculinity. Therefore, regardless of the advances it might bring individual women, in general militarization has a negative impact on women's status in society.
The militarization of individuals and the privileging of masculinity, Enloe argues, are not simply results of culture or tradition, but are deliberate decisions made by specific officials that can be traced through documents. Enloe stresses, however, that this does not mean that the military is a hegemonic power able to manipulate women at will in order to achieve its desired results. Rather, she maintains that although the military does attempt to control certain women, its various maneuvers often demonstrate confusion and uncertainty about how to accomplish its objectives. In addition, women are not passive in this process. They have the ability to resist and to calculate their responses to military maneuvers even though it is an unequal relationship.
The core of Enloe's work examines different types of militarized women, including female soldiers, the wives and mothers of servicemen, military nurses, prostitutes, and women raped by soldiers. It discusses the different policies, laws, and regulations military and state officials have used to gain control over these women in order to insure national security and military effectiveness. Although Enloe provides many different examples of this process, one of the most compelling is her analysis of laws that require prostitutes near military bases to undergo regular genital exams to prevent venereal diseases from being spread to soldiers.
Enloe also explores how the military, in response to public or feminist outcry about certain of its gendered policies, has attempted to keep the different types of militarized women apart. For example, military nurses and military prostitutes have often worked within close proximity to each other, yet have been discouraged by military ideology from becoming allies. This ideology suggests that to be successful a female nurse must be a respectable woman, while a prostitute needs to "be hardened enough to survive in a commercialized, often violent milieu, yet be professionally skilled enough to offer war-weary male customers brief solace between battles"(p. 229). By keeping militarized women separate, state officials insure that debates about military rape or women in combat will not turn into general arguments about the negative impacts of militarization for women.
Enloe does an outstanding job of demonstrating the military's different needs for women and how it has attempted to militarize them. Her chapters on military prostitution and soldiers who rape are particularly disturbing for their documentation of the state's role in using women's bodies to insure national security. Enloe also provides valuable discussion on how some feminists and militarized women have overcome the military's efforts to keep them divided and raised questions about the role of militarization in society.
There are, however, a few problematic aspects of Enloe's study. First, although she is very careful to provide evidence on how military officials maneuver to control women, she fails to explain adequately how militarization deliberately privileges masculinity. Similarly, while Enloe convincingly demonstrates that military officials sought to define femininity in order to maintain military effectiveness, she does not explain how government officials' support of traditional gender roles maintained military goals. Finally, because Enloe examines several different issues over a wide time frame, it is sometimes unclear how certain subjects, including the military's concern with venereal disease and arousing mothers to encourage their sons to go to war, have changed over time. It would be interesting to know, for example, if the influx of women into the military over the last few decades has affected government attempts to protect soldiers from catching venereal diseases. Likewise, it is difficult to believe that as the military has engaged in a growing number of peacekeeping missions as opposed to imperial ventures, it has not changed its rhetoric toward mothers.
Despite these minor criticisms, Maneuvers is a significant contribution to the understanding of women's relationship with the military and will be of interest to anyone working in the field.
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Christy J. Snider. Review of Cynthia Enloe, Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives and
Enloe, Cynthia, Maneuvers. The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives.
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