Agency, Militarized Femininity, and Enemy Others: Observations from the War in Iraq

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In this era of the increasing importance of gender, many conflicting images of women populate news headlines and political discourses. In the 2003 war in Iraq, Americans saw images of a teenage woman as a war hero, of a female general in charge of a military prison where torture took place, of women who committed those abuses, of male victims of wartime sexual abuse and of the absence of gender in official government reactions to the torture at Abu Ghraib. I contend that several gendered stories from the 2003 war in Iraq demonstrate three major developments in militarized femininity in the United States: increasing sophistication of the ideal image of the woman soldier; stories of militarized femininity constructed in opposition to the gendered enemy; and evident tension between popular ideas of femininity and women's agency in violence. I use the publicized stories of American women prisoners of war and American women prison guards to substantiate these observed developments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-101
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Issue number1
Early online date17 Apr 2007
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • feminism
  • gender
  • agency
  • militarism
  • security
  • militaries
  • feminist IR
  • Iraq
  • foreign policy
  • masculinities
  • femininities

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