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The morning after: sexual politics at the end of the the Cold War.

Now that the war is over, Esmeralda has had her IUD removed." What? I read the sentence again. It was from a 1992 article in Ms. entitled "Salvadoran Women Plan for Peace."

Esmeralda is a Salvadoran woman who spent many of her young adult years as a guerrilla in the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the FMLN. She pounded out tortillas and washed her boyfriend's clothes; she also wielded a gun. Now it was the "morning after." Not of an illicit affair, but of a Cold War-fueled civil war. Her country's strife had been brought to an end by a peace accord signed by government men and opposition men up in New York, under the watchful eye of the men from Washington.

So Esmeralda was going to hand her gun over to United Nations peacekeepers and try to remake her life. One of her first postwar acts was to have her IUD taken out. During the war her guerrilla tasks had made it seem politically irresponsible to get pregnant. But now she was being urged by men in the political leadership to imagine her postwar life as one devoted to being a good mother.

Some Salvadoran women, however, had quite a different vision of postwar relationships between their country's women and men. They were imagining an end to police rape and domestic violence. Men's violence against women had escalated under the pressures of a civil war fueled by classic Cold War anxieties. These women were organizing to ensure that the peace accords, even if not designed by women on either side, would create economic opportunities for women more diverse than the conventional peacetime roles of wife and mother. Some of these Salvadoran women were investing their postwar energies in printing T-shirts that declared "Soy Feminista!" (I am a Feminist!).

Wars - hot and cold - are like love affairs. They don't just end. They fizzle and sputter; sometimes they reignite. Mornings after are times for puzzling, for sorting things out, for trying to assess whether one is starting a new day or continuing an old routine.

The civil wars in Central America and the global Cold War, which intensified so many local conflicts during the last forty years, have not come to a neat end. They must have ending processes, ones not as elegant or as conclusive as, say, an operatic grand finale. These messier processes may go on for years, even generations.

And so the Cold War is having a multitude of endings. Most of those endings aren't hosted by government officials or filmed by television crews.

The configuration of ideas and behavior on which we bestowed the shorthand label "the Cold War" existed because many people far from the public spotlight were willing to see, or were pressed into seeing, the world - and their neighbors - in a particular way. Thus, to end the Cold War is to make myriad transformations in the ways people live their ordinary lives.

Whom can I trust? What are my loyalties? Are there alternatives to the government's expectations of me? The Cold War began and was sustained as people individually came to have certain answers to these questions. The Cold War is genuinely ending only as people come to have fresh answers to the old questions.

These questions will not have the same meanings for women as they do for men. The Cold War depended on a deeply militarized understanding of identity and security. Militarization relies on distinct notions about masculinity, notions that have staying power only if they are legitimized by women as well as men. And the ending of a particular war cannot undo decades of deeper militarization.

The militarization that sustained Cold War relationships between people for forty years required armed forces with huge appetites for recruits; it also depended on ideas about manliness and womanliness that touched people who never went through basic training. It may prove harder to uproot those ideas than it was to dismantle a wall.

The regimes that were essential to perpetuating the Cold War had to convince their citizenries that the world was a dangerous place. Their citizens had to behave as if surrounded by imminent danger. Having internalized an acute sense of danger, citizens would be more likely to accept the heavy taxation and the underfunding of health, housing, and education that came with high military spending. Being persuaded that danger lurked, citizens would be more willing to leave secrecy unquestioned, to leave conscription and wiretapping unchallenged.

But of course women and men do not experience danger in identical ways. In most of the societies that were drawn into the Cold War, men were thought to be manly insofar as they did not shy away from danger and perhaps even flirted with it as they protected the nation's children and women. Women, on the other hand, were considered those most vulnerable to danger. Only a foolish woman, a woman who ignored the dictates of femininity, behaved as though she was not endangered, as though a man's protection was irrelevant. If she went out alone at night, if she hitchhiked or traveled far from home without a masculine shield, she deserved what she got.

Likewise, women could be persuaded to support their governments' efforts to organize against the Cold War threat. Any man was socialized in part by the women who would look to him to provide protection, to be the brave one.

Women tried to figure out whether being a good mother meant waving a tearful though proud goodbye to a son going off to do his military service or hiding him from the army's recruiters. Men tried to suppress fears of emasculation when denied public roles in their country's political life or else took a manly pride in being allowed into the inner sanctum of their state's national-security bureaucracy. American girls dressed their Barbies in the latest doll fashion, an Air Force dress uniform.

The Cold War could not have lasted four decades without such daily acts and decisions. It is best understood as involving not simply a contest between two superpowers, each trying to absorb as many countries as possible into its own orbit, but also as a series of contests within each of those societies over the definitions of masculinity and femininity that would sustain or dilute that rivalry.

Government efforts to control women's sexuality are also pertinent to making sense of the Cold War. For example, feminist researchers have uncovered a 1958 report by a Presidential Commission assessing the U.S. Military Assistance Program which urged national-security strategists to think about Third World women's fertility. As the Cold War rivalry spiraled, the report explained that high birth rates were due to women's uncontrolled fertility. These rates were producing population growth in countries of strategic importance to the United States - such as Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia - that would destabilize their regimes and make them dangerously susceptible to communist subversion. During the next two decades, women in many countries imagined to be strategically important in the U.S.-soviet rivalry would find that they were sharing their beds not only with their husbands but also with U.S. national-security officials.

Ever since the machine gun and aerial bombing revolutionized warfare, military establishments in the most advanced industrialized societies have needed more than foot soldiers and generals. They have also needed psychologists, cartographers, factory managers, engineers, and physicists. Are the forms of prescribed masculinity identical for an aerodynamics engineer and a bomber pilot? Has our fascination with the social construction of a Rambo or a "top gun" blinded us to the sorts of gender pressures experienced by those men and women employed in the industrial and scientific establishments on which militaries now depend?

After a trip with a group of defense intellectuals to the General Dynamics facility in Groton, Connecticut, to get a close look at the nuclear-armed Trident submarine, feminist ethnographer Carol Cohn tried to understand why her male companions wanted to "pat the missile." She wondered, "What is all this |patting'? What are men doing when they |pat' these high-tech phalluses?"

Then she began finding an answer to her own question: "Patting is an assertion of intimacy, sexual possession, affectionate domination." But patting had a more ambiguous meaning for these male defense intellectuals, for they constantly seemed to want to deny the actual function of the weapons whose uses they were hired to devise.

Such a denial was a crucial thread in the bond that held them together in their peculiar, militarized "village." As Cohn explains, "Patting is not just an act of sexual intimacy. It is also what one does to babies, small children, the pet dog. The creatures one pats are small, cute, harmless - not terrifyingly destructive. Patting removes the object's lethal purpose."

Thus, a man who refused to pat the missile might have his manhood called into question and at the same time might crack open the delicate shell inside which his male companions lived their militarized lives. A woman who openly refused to pat the missile would most likely be dismissed as "hysterical."

William Broad has reported on another civilian subculture of the masculinized military, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in California. Livermore is the site of the most esoteric research for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or "Star Wars"). Broad is not a feminist. He is barely curious about varieties of masculinity; the women whose less dramatic labors or emotional validation sustain SDI research and political lobbying are left off his canvas. Yet he does provide us with an inside look at how these male scientists talk, dream, and joke.

Few of them are married or have girlfriends. Most of them seem to live at their computer terminals, except when they take breaks to drink Cokes or consume great quantities of ice cream. They don't appear to be particularly violent; they don't wear army surplus fatigues; they don't have rifles mounted on the backs of their pickup trucks. They have a penchant for boyish pranks. And they seem to thrive on competition and to see both the scientific world and the larger world as places where rivalry is the norm.

Their cherishing of competition is the ideological trait that makes them likely candidates for militarization. The older men who recruited these young scientists in the 1980s deliberately played upon their competitiveness to attract them to SDI weapons research. Still, they appear unlikely candidates for military basic training: They are too contemptuous of collective discipline, and their notions of action seem more cerebral than physical. And yet they clearly find deep reassurances of their own manhood in the militarized science they do. And Federal decision-makers who have imagined militarization to be the bedrock of American security need those ice cream-consuming pranksters to feel those reassurances.

Women's existence in military-industrial complexes is almost invisible. In an unusual testimony, Jean Alonso, a Raytheon employee working on the company's famed Patriot missile, described the reality of gender on the factory floor of the American military industry. As a single mother in her early forties, she was pleased to have finally landed a "real" job. When the diplomatic process in the Persian Gulf was being aborted and a military confrontation seemed inevitable to Alonso and her workmates in Andover, Massachusetts, she noticed a gender gap developing.

"A kind of pre-game excitement seemed to be stirring among some of the men," she wrote in The Women's Review of Books. "The only organized attempt at opposition to the war came from our informal women's group."

This was a group that had come together to press the male leadership of the electrical workers' union to take sexual harassment seriously. The union local's membership was 47 per cent women, but women's concerns were pushed far down the agenda. Sexual harassment had been as integral to missile-making as was the collusion between the Pentagon and military contractors. Yet women had found it hard to get the issue of harassment on the bargaining table, and because the New England recession was jeopardizing jobs, no one wanted to rock the corporate boat.

At this juncture in the evolving political tension between men and women at Raytheon, the Persian Gulf war broke out, and the gender gap seemed to close again. The weapons that the workers were producing made the headlines. Women as well as men around Jean Alonso became excited, forgot talk of a women's committee in the union local, and took pride instead with being "on the map" as they began to imagine that their employment future was a little more secure. Within six months, however, Raytheon began laying off workers at its missile plant.

Even at the height of Cold War paranoia, militarism couldn't have survived without constant tending, coaxing, and manipulating. Today, as yesterday, militarism cannot be perpetuated merely by drawing on raw civilian masculinity; it has always required drill sergeants. Militarism couldn't rely on men from different countries to get along in allied armies simply because they shared masculinity; it required joint maneuvers and training courses, designed to translate diverse masculinities into standardized soldiering for the sake of an alliance. Militarism couldn't get along with just men's willingness to earn their manhood credentials by soldiering; it required women to accept particular assumptions about motherhood, marriage, and unskilled work. And if women began to question either the naturalness or the wisdom of such ideas, then militarism relied on public policies to limit women's ability to act on their skepticism.

The militarism that was legitimated when mutual superpower hostilities were at their fiercest had to be fed by enormous infusions of public funds, distorting whole economies in both large countries and small. But even then, militarism couldn't live on money and weaponry alone. It depended upon policies to ensure certain sorts of sexual relations: male bonding that stopped short of sexuality; men's sexual liaisons with foreign women that stopped short of the affection that might reduce militarized racism; misogyny that stopped short of a domestic violence that might undermine discipline and morale; wives' and lovers' sexual fidelity that stopped short of their having any sense of entitlement.

These conditions weren't easy to sustain. The Cold War never was free of internal tensions and contradictions. Without deliberate decisions by policy-makers - some made so quietly and so far down the chain of accountability that most citizens didn't even realize they were official decisions - the peculiar relations between women and men necessary to perpetuate the Cold War might have crumbled long before 1989.

Only by digging deep into the bureaucratic archives, opening file drawers far below those holding the treaties and military budgets, can one bring these decisions - and thus the fragility of the Cold War's Workings - to light. Only by looking closely at the minutiae of ordinary people's lives wherever the Cold War's brand of militarism prevailed can one explain why it began, why it didn't end earlier, and why it is so hard to terminate now.

That masculinity is socially constructed, often with the help of self-consciously honed public policy, has been hard for many people to accept. Much political energy has been invested for many years in persuading us to believe that men "naturally" feel what they feel, do what they do, and become what they become.

There is a danger that this new attention to masculinity could reinvigorate patriarchy. Those who have been uncomfortable with the serious attention paid to women with the advent of feminist journalism and of women's studies might reach out to the burgeoning literature on masculinity the way a panicked swimmer would embrace an alligator: It's not the ideal lifesaver, but it might keep you afloat.

It is a misplaced hope. Those conducting the valuable investigations of masculinity start from the essential feminist discovery that we can make sense of men's gendered reactions only if we take women's experiences seriously. Indeed, the more we have learned about the deliberate efforts to circumscribe women's behavior, the more we have exposed the human decision-making that undergirds much of masculinity.

A best-selling postcard at Amsterdam's big 1992 International Feminist Book Fair came from Britain. Soon after the fair, scores of women on far-flung continents must have found this message waiting for them in their mailboxes: "I'll be a post feminist in post patriarchy."

Any postwar time is fraught with questions. These post-cold War years are no different. The first always is: What has changed? Since 1989, a lot. Any school-child could make a list. But a lot has not changed, and it is not at all clear what needs to be put on that list.

It remains unclear, for example, whether the end of the superpower rivalry and the collapse of communist-led regimes in Eastern Europe have so reduced the appeal of militarism that the very concept of manliness has been transformed. Have the changes witnessed in Eastern Europe, the Persian Gulf, Central America, Southeast Asia, and Southern Africa demilitarized masculinity?

If so, a principal ingredient of patriarchal culture will have been eliminated. If so, women will relate to men differently, and the state will expect new attitudes from both. If so, the state itself and international diplomacy between states won't look the same. If the Cold War is really over and the militarism it depended upon is truly on the wane, then those endings should be showing up in the politics of femininity and masculinity.

The morning after is always an ambiguous moment. What just happened? Who benefited? It is not always crystal-clear that today, the day growing out of the morning after, is a fresh, new day.

In fact, the present morning, after the formal ending of the superpower rivalry, doesn't yet look like the dawning of a brand-new day in the ongoing evolution of sexual politics. We are still living in a time when grand politics and the politics of everyday life continue to be defined in large part by the anxieties and aspirations of the Cold War. This continuity is especially evident in the reluctance of governments and of many ordinary citizens to make their militaries less central to their gendered notions of security and even identity.

We are living in a new postwar period without having resolved the questions of earlier postwar periods. It is the entire patriarchal structure of privilege and control that must be dismantled if societies are to be rid, once and for all, of militarism.

This message may be difficult for many women and men to hear in the wake of the collapse of the second superpower and the consequent reduction in tensions between nuclear-armed alliances.

Isn't the Cold War's final curtain enough to warrant a sense of relief and accomplishment?

No, unfortunately. As long as patriarchal assumptions about masculinity and femininity shape people's beliefs and identities and their relationships with one another, militarization - however temporarily stanched - lies dormant, capable of rising again, and yet again.

Cynthia Enloe is professor of government at Clark University. This article is excerpted, with permission, from Enloe's "The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War," to be published by the University of California Press.
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Author:Enloe, Cynthia
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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