Gender Roles in the Military Wwii Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

female combat unit in world history. As the developer of the game Night Witches points out, everyone from the commanders to the pilots were women. With women in positions of leadership and front lines physical combat as well as ancillary support such as technicians and mechanics, the Russian 588 team has become a model for other female combat teams. Yet none have followed. In the United States, however, women were confined to roles deemed appropriate according to prevailing gender norms: roles that were assistive or supportive in nature rather than executive and proactive. The women in British units could and did serve in combat in World War Two. Yet in the United States, women continue to be barred from combat positions even today. Although women are not overtly prevented from serving in positions of power and leadership in the military, gender roles and norms do retain a hierarchal and patriarchal system that stymies the potential of women in military organizations.

In the United States, combat roles for women would represent a radical transformation of gender roles and it did for Britain and Germany too. However, necessity might have been greater in Britain, leading to the creation of mixed-gender combat units fighting on the front lines. The same was true for Germany. Yet in both these cases, women were barred from actually pulling the triggers and firing the weapons. They were allowed to die on the front lines, without enjoying the glory or status of being labeled as a combat troop. Women were reluctantly admitted into combat roles but denied all the privileges inherent therein, signifying the entrenchment of patriarchal values.

Contrary to the fears fomented by traditionalists, mixed-gender units performed well in combat. As Campbell (1993) points out, women were better at some tasks, comparable on others, and weaker in some too, making mixed-gender units no different from all-male units in which each individual exhibits certain core skills. In spite of evidence proving their value to combat units, Britain, the United States and Germany assigned most female recruits to auxiliary positions. Britain, public opinion did not support women in combat roles any more than they did in the United States. Yet necessity trumped convention, though, and British leaders found out clever ways of spinning their public relations campaigns to allow women into combat roles without diminishing the public trust or challenging patriarchal social norms. Military and political leaders…

Sources Used in Document:


"Beware the Night Witches! - Russia's Deadly Female Pilots," (2014). World of War Planes. Retrieved online:

Campbell, D. (1993). Women in combat. The Journal of Military History 57(2): 301-323.

"Night Witches," (n.d.). Retrieved online:

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