Gender and Language, Vol 11, No 1 (2017)

‘It wasn’t because a woman couldn’t do a man’s job’: uncovering gender ideologies in the context of interviews with American female and male war veterans

Joanna Pawelczyk
Issued Date: 28 Mar 2017


Women currently serve in 95 percent of all US Army occupations and make up 16.3 percent of the active Army forces. Numerous measures have been taken in the form of regulations and policies to advance the presence and position of women in the military (e.g., the recent lifting of the ban on women serving in combat roles). It is claimed, however, that the broader ideology of masculinity prevalent in the institution is much more effective in constraining women’s participation than either specific institutional or interpersonal limitations. This paper, drawing on membership categorization analysis and conversation analysis, exposes some of the gendered propositions and gender ideologies produced by war veterans in the context of interviews. To this end, selected interviews with American female and male war veterans taken from the Veterans History Project (run by the Library of Congress) are qualitatively scrutinized. The analysis demonstrates how gender is occasioned and accounted for when describing military experiences and dayto-day operation of the army. It furthermore reveals the categorization work performed by the veterans that allows us to access various commonsense assumptions concerning the positions of women and men in the contemporary US Army. All in all, the paper points to the continuous relevance of gender in the military.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.26348


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