Playing Soldier?: Combining Theatre and Theory to Explore the Experiences of Women in the Military

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Murphy, Ciara
cultural studies , gender studies , military
This thesis explores the experiences of women in the military using narratives published by military servicewomen from Canada and the United States. The success of traditionally “female” bodies in combat-related trades in the military destabilizes the binary opposition between “male” and “female” in western society. Nevertheless, women are still excluded from identifying with the “soldier ideal” that is emphasized in western militaries and must make alternative “hybrid” identifications in order to articulate their understanding of their experiences in the military. Gender integration needs to be rethought in hyper-masculine military institutions. Since “hybrid” identities can be seen emerging in military servicewomen, members of the military have a unique opportunity to rethink the “soldier ideal” in order to make room for bodies that express gender identifications other than “male.” While military servicewomen adapt to their roles by generating “hybrid” identifications in the “Third Space” between the “soldier ideal” and feminine identities, military men are excluded from accessing the benefits of women’s “hybrid” identifications. Men, women, and other emergent gender identities need to engage in a theatrical exploration of their experiences to investigate the possibility of generating new military ideals that resist social constructions that oppose gender integration. It is crucial that research about the experiences of women in the military involve bodies in order to acknowledge that these women experience resistance to their presence because their bodies visibly differ from the masculinised “soldier ideal.” Some of this experience cannot be articulated verbally. I work toward creating the conditions for bodies to engage with my research by combining a theatrical script with an accompanying analytic essay.
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