Does Combat Integration Lead to Gender Equality in the Military?

women in combat

This seminar was held on 4 May and featured the findings from several years of research on the integration of women into infantry roles in the US and Australia. It focused primarily on the experience of US women who have integrated into infantry roles since the combat exclusion policy changed in 2013. The presentation includes an overview of the high expectations placed on removing the combat exclusion, including the hope that this policy change could begin to ease recruitment, retention and promotion, and lower sexual harassment rates for women. Drawing on interviews with the first women to serve in these infantry roles and feminist theory, the core argument is that there are competing and impossible expectations placed on the first infantry women to be both different and equal within the military institution. This research draws on data and infantry women’s narratives to highlight the rigid nature of military institutions and the limits of liberal feminism.

Megan MacKenzie’s research bridges feminist theory, critical security studies, and critical development studies. Megan has published dozens of articles on topics ranging from sexual violence in war, to truth and reconciliation commissions, to gender and the military. Her first book, Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone: Sex, Security and Post-Conflict Development featured interviews with over 50 female soldiers in that country and countered dominant narratives about women’s role in the civil conflict. Her most recent book, Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can’t Fight, has garnered international attention and widespread praise. The book has been reviewed or cited by the Washington Post,_ New York Times_, Mother Jones, Stars and Stripes and the Atlantic, and Foreign Affairs called it a rigorous contribution to the debates on women in combat.

You can find more information about the event here.

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