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Did women's contributions to the First World War significantly affect constructions of gender at the time, and in the inter-war period?

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Did women's contributions to the First World War significantly affect constructions of gender at the time, and in the inter-war period? 2618 Gender divisions satisfied the justification of war through the explanation that it could release male bloodlust, which was unsatisfied by civilised society. It was a role that allowed men to be able to protect women from "foreign" contamination. As such it can be argued that war "gendered society" as it portrayed an exaggerated stereotype, especially with men. "Masculine identity was synonymous with war. To be a soldier is to be 'a man'; to be anything else, no matter how involved in the combat, is to be the 'other'. There is no need to extrapolate masculinity from man-in a soldier they become one."1 It can be argued then that men needed a war to perpetuate their masculinity and the traditional identity it epitomised. Whilst feminists argued against this, stating that men were not typically war-mongering, it was society on the whole that intensified the gendering of the sexes. "Feminists believed masculinity to be culturally, not biologically, constructed and attributed women's victimization to a sociological process."2 Whereas anti-suffrage women believed that men had a biological necessity to dominate, and if women were to achieve suffrage they would be in danger through the provoking of a competition, which would be imposed on them by the male urge to "win", especially within the political arena. Anti-suffrage women believed in a balance between the sexes. "We want men who are men, and women who are women."3 Having such an obligation for the sexes to remain stereotypes brought about a "gender contract" expecting that men go off to fight whilst women stay at home, to keep house and wait upon their return. ...read more.


For it can be said that women were considerate to the effort of men in wartime, "They (women) had a deep sense of loyalty to their men and were acutely aware of their (men's) sufferings and sacrifices. Not for the World would they say anything that would undervalue their men, or suggest they were being sacrificed for a wrong or mistaken cause. So in backing the men who were actually fighting in the war, many women seemed to be backing warfare itself, although most probably they abhorred it. They were caught in the classic situation of women whose men were away at war."10 The usage of emotion within the war allowed men to retain their masculinity through protecting women from the horrors of war. A lot of the war exaggerated traits of masculinity and femininity such as these. By nature war is a man's game. The aspects of femininity that allowed the war on moralistic grounds required the use of women as the victim and the man as the advocate for guarding his nation. "By using femininity to persuade a man to go to war propagandists reinforced the pre war ideals of what it meant to be masculine and feminine in Britain. They could ensure the gender roles did not merge through the course of war."11 Yet men coming home still experienced a "crisis of masculinity" related to propaganda. Different usages explained men to be effeminate and weak if they did not sign up during the war. "The identification of men with feminist characteristics contributed to the misogyny of the post war period"12 Identifying men in this light led to a misogynistic hatred of women after the war. ...read more.


Therefore in order to contribute to the war effort they had to break stereotypical behaviour and with it deconstructed the balance between the sexes causing a rift and a need to adapt what it meant to be masculine, and what it meant to be feminine. 1 Angela K. Smith ed. Gender and Warfare in the Twentieth Century, (Manchester University Press, 2004) P4 2 Susan Kingsley Kent: "The Politics of Sexual Difference: World War One and the Demise of British Feminism", Journal of British Studies, Volume 27, Number 3, Page 233 3 Winifred Holtby, "Black-words for women only" quoted in Berry and Bishop, (1934) P161 4 Information from Wikipedia; "Female Roles in the World Wars." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_roles_in_the_World _Wars, (06/11/2006), Page1 of 5. 5 TLTP, Penny Summerfield, "Women and War in Twentieth Century Britain", Part 2 Section 20, (07/11/2006) 6 Susan Kingsley Kent, Ibid, P232 7 Jstor, Cordula Dittmer, "Male Weapons and Female Soldiers", Aesthetic Dimensions of Warfare 8 Susan Kingsley Kent, Ibid, P233 9 Angela K. Smith ed. Ibid, Page 7 10 Joan Montgomery Byles, War, Women and Poetry, (Associated University Presses Inc, 1995) P. 38 11 Nicolette F. Gullace, "White Feathers and Wounded Men: Female Patriotism and the Memory of the Great War", in The Journal of British Studies, Volume 36 Number 2, Twentieth Century British Studies (April 1997) Pages 178-206, P178 12 Susan Kingsley Kent, Ibid, P252 13 Elaine Showalter, "The Female Malady", Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980, (New York, 1985) P173 14 "Women and Patriotism" Girl's Own Paper, Volume 1914-1915, P36 15 Christoph Treiblmayr, Gender Roles and the Military, http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=29111085713745 16 Jessica Meyer, Continuity and Discontinuity in British Masculinity after the First World War, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/ 17 Joan Montgomery Byles, Ibid, Page 67 18 Rose Macaulay, "Picnic", 1915, found in War, Women and Poetry 19 Joan Montgomery Byles, Ibid, Page 46 ...read more.

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