Forces for Good? British Military Masculinities on Peace Support Operations
This thesis is situated at the intersection of Feminist International Relations, Critical Security Studies and Gender Studies. It takes as its starting point – and offers a challenge to – the feminist contention that soldiers cannot be peacekeepers due to hegemonic constructions of military masculinity associated with the skills and practices of combat. It problematises this assumption by investigating whether involvement in the practices of conflict resolution on Peace Support Operations (PSOs) influences the construction of military masculinities. The thesis also questions the rather monolithic accounts of masculinity which are found in feminist arguments that peacekeeping soldiers reinforce neo-imperial oppression, and argues that such critiques neglect the potentially more progressive aspects of employing soldiers as peacekeepers. Using the British Army as a case study to explore these conceptual issues, the thesis utilises a novel methodological approach derived from R W Connell’s framework of gender relations and social constructivist discourse theory. It analyses both official and unofficial sources of British Army discourse on PSOs, including military doctrine, recruitment material and autobiography, and finds evidence to suggest that ‘peacekeeper masculinity’ offers a challenge, albeit incomplete, to the hegemonic masculinity associated with combat. The thesis argues that, despite the limited nature of this challenge, peacekeeper masculinity represents an important development because the privileging of conflict resolution practices it embodies involves disruptions to traditional gendered dichotomies and the construction of ‘regendered soldiers,’ with important implications for both international peace and security and gender relations. Finding conflict resolution practices such as negotiating and building consent, moderating the use of force and humanitarian activities manly rather than emasculating is crucial if soldiers are to take PSOs as seriously as they do war. Moreover, associating masculinity with practices that require building relations of sensitivity, mutual respect and empathy has implications beyond the success of PSOs. Such associations not only challenge current models of hegemonic masculinity in the military, but – through replacing relations of dominance with more democratic relations – challenge the entire hierarchical structure of gender relations in western culture and language. As such, in exploring the concept of regendered soldiers, this thesis contributes significantly to theories of change in gender relations as well as to feminist International Relations scholarship on military masculinities, peacekeeping and security.