Women and war: Addressing gender role stereotypes

Jennifer Hellin, Gareth Hall, Eric Drogin

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Purpose: This paper examines contemporary and historical roles of women in war, focusing upon a reduction in gender role stereotypes due to women’s expanded activities (e.g. as direct combatants) as well as the adoption of so-called ‘masculine’ roles that maintain and support military practices.

Background: Narratives from a variety of disciplines have focused upon ‘masculinity’ as a military ideal that enables the recruitment of a willing army and the maintenance of a supporting wartime industry, with women viewed primarily as supporters of pacifism. Such stereotypes overlook contemporary and historical examples of women as direct or indirect participants in war, and psychological inquiries into such phenomena have placed minimal emphasis to date upon women’s adoption of so-called ‘masculine’ roles in this context.

Methods: Investigative psychology in the UK now reflects a more robust and systematically eclectic qualitative approach. The present study adapts methods pioneered in the performing arts to thematic analysis, applying an investigative method that is relatively new for psychology – namely, ‘poetic inquiry’ – to access data otherwise inaccessible when seeking to make sense of a respondent’s personal experiences.

Conclusions: Analysing men’s and women’s poetry about wartime roles and experiences further enables psychologists to explain how gender role stereotypes have been eroded and reconstructed. Data from the present study help to explain how: (1) wartime roles are not merely an issue of ‘masculine’ versus ‘feminine’ characteristics; (2) ‘masculinity’ is just a ‘label’ in this context; and (3) it is the rationalisation of violence that underlies the continued legitimisation of war.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
EventBritish Psychological Society Annual Conference, Birmingham. - Birmingham, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 07 May 201409 May 2014


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Annual Conference, Birmingham.
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Period07 May 201409 May 2014


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