It's Our Military, Too!: Women and the U.S. Military.
This anthology opens with several compelling first-person narratives of life inside the U.S. military institution, followed by analyses by both military and civilian researchers. The academic contributors approach their topics from different disciplines, including political science, history, sociology, and literature/film. The volume seeks to bridge the gap between those inside the institution and those on the outside (p. ix). The effort to build this bridge began with a series of specialized conferences and workshops on gender and military culture spanning the 1990s. I participated in several of these and heard some of the contributors to this collection present their research. Other volumes that developed from the conferences are Mary Fainsod Katzenstein's Faithful and Fearless (1998), Mary Fainsod Katzenstein and Judith Reppy, Beyond Zero Tolerance (1999), and Francine D'Amico and Laurie Weinstein, Gender Camouflage (1999).
It's Our Military, Too! is aimed at readers new to the study of U.S. military culture and policy. All save one of the chapters are original publications. In the opening chapter, Army Lt. Rhonda Cornum criticizes the U.S. media for its obsessive focus on her brief experience as a POW during the Gulf War; she prefers to assess that experience in the context of her 13-year military career (pp. 3-23). Although this contribution provides a compelling hook, especially for the student reader, questions raised in succeeding chapters about women's efforts to "fit" into a resistant institutional culture should prompt the reader to reassess Cornum's uncritical essay on military service. Using pseudonyms to protect their careers, two active duty officers critique the military's hetero/ sexist culture, Virginia Solms through the frame of her experiences as a lesbian Army officer, and Billie Mitchell through an analysis of cadet training at West Point.
The second part of the volume focuses on history and contemporary policy issues. In a meticulously detailed history of military nursing from 1775 to the Vietnam War, retired Army officer Connie L. Reeves argues that military nurses' struggle for acceptance was the vanguard for women's entry to other military occupations. Sociologist Brenda Moore (also a veteran) uncovers the history of African American WAAC/WACs who served overseas during World War II and analyzes contemporary military race/gender relations, expanding upon her earlier work (To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race, 1998). Disappointingly, many of the other contributors neglect the race/gender dynamic Moore so brilliantly exposes.
Advanced readers and policy researchers will no doubt find the chapter on gender and weapons design, by Department of Defense program analyst Nina Richman-Loo and Cornell researcher Rachel Weber, most intriguing. They analyze the role technology plays in facilitating or limiting women's military service through a case study of the Navy/Air Force Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) and its proposed redesign of the next generation of aircraft cockpits (p. 136). Beginning students will appreciate the concise and organized brief on changing military mission and personnel models by sociologist and Vietnam veteran M. C. Devilbiss, but advanced readers should also benefit from her insights.
Chapters in the final section of the anthology consider how society's ideas about gender are reflected in and sustained by military traditions and popular representations of war. Carol Burke explores the "pernicious cohesion" sustained by gendered folk traditions at Annapolis, where she taught from 1984 to 1991. Susan Jeffords analyzes the telling of "the war story" in American popular culture, and Miriam Cooke examines gender and military paradigms through a case study of the photographic framing of the Lebanese civil war. Along with Billie Mitchell's chapter on West Point, these are the theoretically richest contributions in the volume.
This text will be useful for a range of introductory college courses on contemporary social and political issues and perhaps also for high school social studies courses that address citizenship. Three dozen black-and-white photographs illustrating nearly every chapter are sure to engage student attention. Chapter notes and bibliographies and a cumulative index provide useful tools for academic readers.
Unfortunately, the editor provides no substantive introduction to identify the different projects and perspectives of the contributors or to offer theoretical threads to help make connections across the chapters. This omission may have been intentional, so as not to force the very different contributions to bend to a predetermined framework, but more might have been done to prepare the reader for what lies ahead. For example, what central questions shape or inform the collection? The brief preface poses none. Stiehm merely decries civilian inattentiveness/deference to the military and challenges the civilian reader to accept responsibility "for what it is and what it does" (p. ix). She elaborates on this obligation in the final chapter, "The Civilian Mind," but does not engage the theoretical literature on democratic citizenship.
Also missing is a discussion of how this text fits with other literature on military history, sociology, and policy or gender theory/politics. The literature has grown so vast and diverse that perhaps such a review would have been superficial at best to cover the breadth of disciplines represented. Still, locating the text within the narrower field of military gender studies would have been useful not only for student readers but also for instructors considering the volume for course adoption.
The anthology is something of a hybrid, a cross between a textbook and a citizen handbook. A chapter on rank structure and insignia provides a laundry list of "facts" about the military institution. This may be useful information for beginning readers, but these "facts" require greater organization, contextualization, and discussion for that audience. For example, how does the persistence of four service branches with different uniforms, insignia, organizational structures, and cultural traditions affect gender integration? Would a restructuring such as occurred recently in the Canadian military remove some of the obstacles to women's participation that contributors describe? Student readers will need additional guidance to understand the unspoken connections among chapters and across the three sections of the book.
Francine D'Amico, SUNY Cortland and Syracuse University
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|Publication:||American Political Science Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2001|
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