Discuss how war/militarism affects gender. You may focus on how these issues cause gender roles to change, how they impact women or men, etc. Remember that your essay should include specific examples and information from these articles to support your main idea.
I feel like this essay is not up to my usual standard. Any help or re-wording would be awesome!Title: The Effect of War on Families
The military and war helps to formulate our understandings of patriotism and this country. We don't think of war as an institution that helps this country, and nor do we realize the effects it has on women and their roles in society. Women are affected differently by militarism and war than men because of different gender roles and responsibilities. Their general role in society is different, so they are treated differently, especially by men. As soldiers and civilians exposed to war, they risk violations of their basic human rights. War and militarization affects gender roles in families of the wives and parents of soldiers, as well as displaced families of war-torn countries.
As military wives and mothers of men (and women, but especially men) serving, women often deal with undue stress. Mothers are supposed to support their children even when they do not want their children to ship out. They are depended upon "to believe in the concept of patriotic duty and to encourage their sons, and more recently their daughters, to enlist or at least to support their desire to do so" (Kirk and Okazawa-Rey 494). As a military wife, she is expected to be the perfect example of support, moving around or even changing jobs to support her husband's military career. This changes the so-called gender role of males as the primary wage-earner and the woman as caregiver. The wife must encompass both "traditional" male and female roles if she needs to support her children while the husband is at war. They have been militarized so extremely that a soldier's wife believes she's not being a good citizen if she doesn't "keep silent about problems in their relationships with male soldiers for the sake of their fighting effectiveness" (Enloe 512). These women have been conditioned to lie about their relationships and true feelings regarding their family for the sake of combat efficiency and patriotism. It's an excessive amount of pressure to endure just to support a husband.
But what happens when the support backfires? Catherine Lutz says in her article "Living Room Terrorists," "even in the best of times, rates of domestic violence are three to five times higher among military couples than among comparable civilian ones" (516). It becomes an issue of control for these men, whose occupation is most constrained and monitored. They become, as Lutz calls them, living room terrorists because even though they are out protecting our country overseas, when they come home domestic violence seems imminent. This affects the roles of women because they will fear their partners simply because their husband is in the military. "The immediate pre- and post-deployment periods are the most dangerous for women: their partners fear losing control as they prepare to leave and attempt to reassert it when they return." As Lutz states, "there is no workplace more supportive of a masculine identity centered in power, control and violence" (517).
The violence and criminality women face in relation to the military isn't just domestic. Because of militarization, women all over the world have access to participate in drug trafficking. In the narrative of Teresa, a mother so dislocated and poor, she resorts to carrying cocaine between Columbia and England. She explains her desperate situation by saying "we carry drugs because we need too, because we have financial difficulties. We come from Columbia, the third world, which are poor countries. The conditions we live in, that's what pushed us" (Sudbury 485). Teresa's gender role was changed because of her lack of money and the war-torn state of Columbia. At first, she was a nurturing mother and she supported her children, but her role changed when she took on the drastic and dangerous job of drug trafficking. In this situation, she was almost like a distant father, supporting her children, but not nurturing them as much with the constant trips to England. When she was caught and jailed her role changed further because she could no longer care for nor support her children.
In the case of Teresa and in military families, parents often do what they must to support their families, often enduring abusive and violent relationships or putting themselves at risk in non-violent ways. These care-givers (as wives and mothers) sustain their families in any means possible. Wives fear for their lives at the hands of husbands before and after deployment, and parents fear for their children's lives but support them in their military endeavors. Gender roles change in these situations because when the primary care-giver goes to war, military wives must encompass both of the "traditional" parenting roles; the mother must be the nurturing caregiver and the primary wage-earner at the same time. In Teresa's case, she went from the typical mother role to taking on a role of monetary support instead, and eventually lost all ties to her children and motherhood due to her drastic situation. As Catherine Lutz declares, "War always comes home, even when it seems safely exported" (pg). [I know the citation here is empty, I just haven't got the page number yet.]
I feel like my thesis is a bit wordy and could be more compact and fluid. I want to say that war/militarization changes gender roles in families and what's changed are the roles of military parents, wives, and the families of war-torn countries. Thanks so much!