Maneuvers; the International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives.
When I was an undergraduate in the 1960s, as the Vietnam conflict was escalating, I took Stanley Hoffmann's mesmerizing course, "Causes of War." I thought back to this class as I read Cynthia Enloe's book, which deserves all the superlatives it has accrued. The experience of reading now and remembering back left me wondering: Without Enloe to consult (her first book on militarism and gender came out in the early 1980s), what were we missing in Hoffmann's class? The answer, I think, is this: We could understand well enough the contending theories about why nations go to war; but in the absence of Enloe, we were less able to ask how militaries could manage such massive mobilizations that required the often calamitous sacrifice of precious lives even for wars whose purposes seemed remote or unconvincing.
Militarism and its gendering, Enloe argues, prepare the ground for mobilization. If men and women are to go to war in whatever combat or noncombat capacity or are to encourage or suffer the tolls of war on themselves and their loved ones, then their identities must be militarized. A good mother will be one who wants to send her son not to school or to work but to war; a good son or husband is one who proves his manliness not so much on the sports field or behind a plow as in uniform; a good "militarized" prostitute is one who will have sex with whomever it is in the military's interest for her to do so. Thus, militarized gender is like nationalism. Benedict Anderson writes that an imagined national identity sows the seeds of battle: The idea of the national community has made "it possible over the past two centuries for so many millions of people not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings" (Imagined Communities,  1996, p. 7). Enloe's work speaks of an imagined and "idealized" gendering, one suited for war. The brave male soldier, the wife who serves in wartime factories when the nation needs her, the prostitute who gives comfort to soldiers away from their loved ones, the nurse who tends the sick and dying without attending to what they are dying for. When gender identities are militarized--when they are "controlled by, dependent on or derive [their] value from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria" (p. 291)--it is more likely, Enloe argues, that violent conflict can occur.
For any core course in international relations, Enloe should be mandatory reading. Those already among Enloe's wide readership will know some of this text's central arguments, but Maneuvers offers a trove of new insights. A thesis even more powerfully developed here than in Enloe's earlier writings is the title of the book--how policymakers maneuver to make strategic choices. By emphasizing the purposefulness of policy choices, Enloe shows how the very different experiences of women located in varied ethnic, national, class, and occupational contexts are tailored to the needs of militarism, a project that is not always consistently successful, as she observes. But Maneuvers has more than a functionalist lesson; by emphasizing policy choices and variability across time and national context, Enloe shows that militaries are not governed by primeval identities. Gender identities must be created, including even those revealed in wartime rape, which Enloe argues are too often mistakenly presumed to be caused by "raw primal misogyny" (p. 134).
The policy choices made to foster and routinize prostitution ("Prostitution seems routine. Rape can be shocking" [p. 108]), which effectively disguise what often should be recognized as institutionalized rape, are some of the most vivid descriptions in the book. Yet, even as Enloe writes about such emotionally laden terrain, she never mocks or derides, never oversimplifies or closes the reader off to the complex motives and human pathos associated with even some of the most dire acts. From her description of the much publicized 1995 rape of a young Okinawan schoolgirl for which three American soldiers were indicted, one comes to understand the perspectives not only of the outraged Okinawan protesters but also of the mother of one of the soldiers and the American admiral whose career prospects crumbled when he said to the media, in criticizing the "stupidity" of the three soldiers: "For the price they paid to rent the car, they could have had a girl" (p. 117).
As in her previous books, Enloe insists on the importance of not just studying women in the military but of understanding the militarization of women's lives everywhere--in and out of uniform, in the United States, the Phillipines, Bosnia, Afghanistan. Indeed, her description of the many diverse international expressions of the militarization of gender is one of the most important contributions of this book. Her knowledge and observational powers are formidable and impressive for their specificity and accuracy. Whether she is discussing the star wars satellite-shaped pastas in a can of Heinz tomato and noodle soup, which many mothers might hope will persuade their sons to like their lunchtime soup, or the question of whether male marines should be allowed to carry umbrellas, or the dollar-per-day renting of a Thai woman outside the base gates (known as a "teafuck" [p. 231]), Enloe never lets us forget the "normalization" of militarism.
Enloe makes her readers see differently. Next time you visit Washington, stop by Walden Books in Dulles Airport, terminal D. With the kind of curiosity Enloe instills, you will not fail to notice that under the categories "history," "world history," and "American history" (unless the shelves have been rearranged), easily 80% of the books are about militaries. Enloe's Maneuvers is featured on bookshelves in Sarajevo, Tokyo, Delhi, and Sydney. You may not find it in terminal D, but be sure to read it.
Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Cornell University
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|Author:||Katzenstein, Mary Fainsod|
|Publication:||American Political Science Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2001|
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