War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa
Joshua S. Goldstein
(Cambridge University Press, September 2001)

Chapter One

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1      A puzzle: the cross–cultural consistency of gender roles in war


Recently, the roles of women in war have received increased attention in both scholarship and political debate. US moms went off to battle in the 1991 Gulf War, to a global audience. Since then, women have crept slowly closer to combat roles in Western militaries. Meanwhile, women were primary targets of massacres in wars in Rwanda, Burundi, Algeria, Bosnia, southern Mexico, and elsewhere. The systematic use of rape in warfare was defined as a war crime for the first time by the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Despite this growing attention to women in war, however, and a surge of recent scholarship in relevant fields, no comprehensive account has yet emerged on the role of gender in war – a topic that includes both men and women but ultimately revolves around men somewhat more than women. This book brings together knowledge from a half dozen academic disciplines to trace the main ways in which gender shapes war and war shapes gender.

The evidence presented here is complex and detailed, forming more of a mosaic than an abstract painting. A single case rarely makes or breaks a hypothesis, but many together often can. Only by assembling large bodies of empirical evidence from multiple disciplines can we assess the meaning of a single event or result in the context of the overall picture. A central challenge to bringing together relevant knowledge about war and gender in this comprehensive way is that the topic spans multiple levels of analysis. That is, relevant processes operate in a range of contexts varying in size, scope, and speed – from physiology to individual behavior, social institutions, states, the international system, and global trends. As a result, understanding war and gender requires operating across such disciplines as biochemistry, anthropology, psychology, sociology, political science, and history. One aspect of this challenge is that different research communities use terminology differently. I try to clarify, without over–translating, disciplinary languages.

“Sex” and “gender” Many scholars use the terms “sex” and “gender” in a way that I find unworkable: “sex” refers to what is biological, and “gender” to what is cultural. We are a certain sex but we learn or perform certain gender roles which are not predetermined or tied rigidly to biological sex. Thus, sex is fixed and based in nature; gender is arbitrary, flexible, and based in culture. This usage helps to detach gender inequalities from any putative inherent or natural basis. The problem, however, is that this sex–gender discourse constructs a false dichotomy between biology and culture, which are in fact highly interdependent.1

More concretely, the conception of biology as fixed and culture as flexible is wrong (see pp. 251–52). Biology provides diverse potentials, and cultures limit, select, and channel them. Furthermore, culture directly influences the expression of genes and hence the biology of our bodies. No universal biological essence of “sex” exists, but rather a complex system of potentials that are activated by various internal and external influences. I see no useful border separating “sex” and “gender” as conventionally used.

I therefore use “gender” to cover masculine and feminine roles and bodies alike, in all their aspects, including the (biological and cultural) structures, dynamics, roles, and scripts associated with each gender group. I reserve the word “sex” for sexual behaviors (recognizing that there is no precise dividing line here either). However, I retain the term “sexism” which is in common usage, and retain original terms such as “sex role” when quoting.

By patriarchy (literally, rule by fathers), I mean social organization based on men’s control of power. Masculinism(ist) refers to an ideology justifying, promoting, or advocating male dominanation. Feminism – my own ideological preference – opposes male superiority, and promotes women’s interests and gender equality.

“War” “War” and the “war system” also need clarification. According to some scholars’ definitions of war, it is impossible for small–scale simple societies – such as prehistoric or modern gathering–hunting cultures – to have war. Some military historians argue that only organized, large–scale pitched battles are real war. A common definition used in political science counts only wars producing 1,000 battle fatalities. Obviously, only an agricultural, complex society can muster such a large–scale force. Yet many anthropologists (not all) consider warfare to exist in smaller and less complex societies, including gathering–hunting societies. (The term “gathering–hunting” is preferable to the familiar “hunting–gathering” since gathering typically provides the majority of nutrition in these.)

I define war broadly, as lethal intergroup violence. If members of a small gathering–hunting society go out in an organized group to kill members of another community, I call that war. Indeed, warfare worldwide in recent years seldom has taken the form of pitched battles between state armies. A very broad definition such as “organized violence” has advantages, and still excludes individual acts of violence that are not socially sanctioned and organized. However, “organized violence” is not quite specific enough, since it would include, for example, the death penalty. The difference is that wars occur between groups (communities, ethnic groups, societies, states). Wars also cross an important threshold by killing people. Not all intergroup violence has this lethal quality. By my definition, some urban gang violence (sustained, territorial, lethal) is a form of war, though on a scale closer to gathering–hunting societies than to modern states.2

I define the war system as the interrelated ways that societies organize themselves to participate in potential and actual wars. In this perspective, war is less a series of events than a system with continuity through time. This system includes, for example, military spending and attitudes about war, in addition to standing military forces and actual fighting.

In understanding gendered war roles, the potential for war matters more than the outbreak of particular wars. As Hobbes put it, war “consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.” Kant similarly distinguished between peace as it had been known in modern Europe through the eighteenth century – merely a lull or cease–fire – and what he called “permanent peace.” From 1815 to 1914, great–power wars largely disappeared, and some people thought warfare itself was withering away. But when conditions changed, the latent potential for warfare in the great–power system emerged again, with a vengeance, in the twentieth century. Thus, like a patient with cancer in remission, a society that is only temporarily peaceful still lives under the shadow of war.3

Plan of the book

Chapter 1 describes a puzzle: despite the diversity of gender and of war separately, gender roles in war are very consistent across all known human societies. Furthermore, virtually all human cultures to date have faced the possibility, and frequently the actual experience, of war (although I do not think this generalization will last far into the future). In every known case, past and present, cultures have met this challenge in a gender–based way, by assembling groups of fighters who were primarily, and usually exclusively, male. The empirical evidence for these generalizations, reviewed in the chapter, shows the scope and depth of the puzzle. The chapter then reviews three strands of feminist theory that offer a variety of possible answers to the puzzle. From these approaches, I extract 20 hypotheses amenable to assessment based on empirical evidence (see Table 1.1). The results fill Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. All three feminist approaches turn out to contribute in different ways to understanding the puzzle of gendered war roles.

Table 1.1 Summary of hypotheses

The consistency of gendered war roles across cultures might be explained by:
  1. Gender–linked war roles are not in fact cross–culturally consistent
  2. Sexist discrimination despite women’s historical success as combatants:
    1. In female combat units
    2. In mixed–gender units
    3. As individual women fighters
    4. As women military leaders
  3. Gender differences in anatomy and physiology
    1. Genetics
    2. Testosterone levels
    3. Size and strength
    4. Brains and cognition
    5. Female sex hormones
  4. Innate gender differences in group dynamics
    1. Male bonding
    2. Ability to work in hierarchies
    3. In–group/out–group psychology
    4. Childhood gender segregation
  5. Cultural construction of tough men and tender women
    1. Test of manhood as a motivation to fight
    2. Feminine reinforcement of soldiers’ masculinity
    3. Women’s peace activism
  6. Men’s sexual and economic domination of women
    1. Male sexuality as a cause of aggression
    2. Feminization of enemies as symbolic domination
    3. Dependence on exploiting women’s labor

Note: Hypothesis numbers match chapter numbers in this book. Summary assessment of evidence is in Chapter 7 (pp. 404–5).

Chapter 2 considers the numerous historical cases in which women for various reasons participated in military operations including combat. This historical record shows that women are capable of performing successfully in war. Thus, the near–total exclusion of women from combat roles does not seem to be explained by women’s inherent lack of ability. This evidence deepens the puzzle of gendered war roles. Many societies have lived by war or perished by war, but very few have mobilized women to fight. Why?

Chapter 3 tests five explanations for the gendering of war based on gender differences in individual biology: (1) men’s genes program them for violence; (2) testosterone makes men more aggressive than women; (3) men are bigger and stronger than women; (4) men’s brains are adapted for long–distance mobility and for aggression; and (5) women are biologically adapted for caregiving roles that preclude participation in war. Each of these hypotheses except genetics finds some support from empirical evidence, but only in terms of average differences between genders, not the categorical divisions that mark gendered war roles.

Chapter 4 explores dynamics within and between groups, drawing on animal behavior and human psychology. Several potential explanations come from this perspective: (1) “male bonding” is important to the conduct of war; (2) men operate better than women in hierarchies, including armies; (3) men see intergroup relations, as between the two sides in a war, differently from women; and (4) childhood gender segregation leads to later segregation in combat forces. The strongest empirical evidence emerges for childhood segregation, but that segregation does not explain the nearly total exclusion of women as combatants.

Chapter 5 discusses how constructions of masculinity motivate soldiers to fight, across a variety of cultures and belief systems. Norms of masculinity contribute to men’s exclusive status as warriors, and preparation for war is frequently a central component of masculinity. I explore several aspects: (1) war becomes a “test of manhood,” helping overcome men’s natural aversion to participating in combat, and cultures mold hardened men suitable for this test by toughening up young boys; (2) masculine war roles depend on feminine roles in the war system, including mothers, wives, and sweethearts; and (3) women actively oppose wars. The last two of these contradict each other, but I argue that even women peace activists can reinforce masculine war roles (by feminizing peace and thus masculinizing war), creating a dilemma for the women’s peace movement. Overall, masculinity does contribute to motivating soldiers’ participation in war, and might do so less effectively with women present in the ranks.

Chapter 6 asks whether, beyond their identities as tough men who can endure hardship, soldiers are also motivated by less heroic qualities. Misogyny and domination of women, according to some feminists, underlie male soldiers’ participation in war (thus explaining women’s rare participation as combatants). The chapter explores several diverse possibilities: (1) men’s sexual energies play a role in aggression; (2) women symbolize for male soldiers a dominated group and thus cannot be included in the armed ranks of dominators; and (3) women’s labor is exploited more in wartime than in peace, so patriarchal societies keep women in civilian positions. Chapter 6 explores both the men’s roles in these dynamics, and the corresponding women’s roles as prostitutes, victims, war support workers, and replacement labor for men at war.

Chapter 7 concludes that the gendering of war appears to result from a combination of factors, with two main causes finding robust empirical support: (1) small, innate biological gender differences in average size, strength, and roughness; and (2) cultural molding of tough, brave men, who feminize enemies in dominating them. The gendering of war thus results from the combination of culturally constructed gender roles with real but modest biological differences. Neither alone would solve the puzzle.

Causality runs both ways between war and gender. Gender roles adapt individuals for war roles, and war roles provide the context within which individuals are socialized into gender roles. For the war system to change fundamentally, or for war to end, might require profound changes in gender relations. But the transformation of gender roles may depend on deep changes in the war system. Multiple pathways of causality and feedback loops are common in biology, acting as stabilizing mechanisms in a dynamic system, and come to the fore at several points in this book. Although I focus mainly on gender’s effects on war, the reverse causality proves surprisingly strong. The socialization of children into gender roles helps reproduce the war system. War shadows every gendered relationship, and affects families, couples, and individuals in surprising ways.

The diversity of war and of gender

The cross–cultural consistency of gendered war roles, which this chapter will explore, is set against a backdrop of great diversity of cultural forms of both war and gender roles considered separately.

Apart from war and a few biological necessities (gestation and lactation), gender roles show great diversity across cultures and through history. Human beings have created many forms of marriage, sexuality, and division of labor in household work and child care. Marriage patterns differ widely across cultures. Some societies practice monogamy and some polygamy (and some preach monogamy but practice nonmonogamy). Of the polygamous cultures, most are predominantly polygynous (one man, several wives) but some are predominantly polyandrous (one woman, several husbands). Regarding ownership of property and lines of descent, a majority of societies are patrilocal; women move to their husbands’ households. A substantial number are matrilocal, however, with husbands moving to their wives’ households. Most societies are patrilineal – tracing descent (and passing property) on the father’s side – but more than a few are matrilineal. Norms regarding sexuality also vary greatly across cultures. Some societies are puritanical, others open about sex. Some work hard to enforce fidelity – for example, by condoning killings of adulterers – whereas others accept multiple sexual relationships as normal. Attitudes towards homosexuality also differ across time and place, from relative acceptance to intolerance. Today, some countries officially prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians, while other countries officially punish homosexuality with death.

Gender roles also vary across cultures when it comes to household and child care responsibilities. Different societies divide economic work differently by gender (except hunting). Political leadership, while never dominated by women and often dominated by men, shows a range of possibilities in different cultures, from near–exclusion to near–equality for women. Even child care (except pregnancy and nursing) shows considerable variation in the roles assigned to men and women. The areas where gender roles tend to be most constant across societies – political leadership, hunting, and certain coming–of–age rituals – are those most closely connected with war. Thus, overall, gender roles outside war vary greatly.

Similarly, forms of war vary greatly, except for their gendered character. Different cultures fight in very different ways. The Aztecs overpowered and captured warriors from neighboring societies, then used them for torture, human sacrifice, and food. A central rack contained over 100,000 skulls of their victims. The Dahomey also warred for captives, but to sell into slavery to European traders. The Yanomamö declare that their wars are about the capture of women. The ancient Chinese states of the warring–states period sought to conquer their neighbors’ territories and populations intact in order to augment their own power. For the Mundurucú of Brazil, the word for enemy referred to any non–Mundurucú group, and war had no apparent instrumental purpose beyond being an “unquestioned part of their way of life.” The civil war in Lebanon had “no clear causes, no stable enemy… The chaos penetrated every aspect of daily life so that everyone participated always.”4

Some wars more than pay for themselves; others are economic disasters. The economic benefit of cheap oil was arguably greater than the cost of the Gulf War, for Western powers that chipped in to pay for the war. Similarly, the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes who invented warfare on horseback found profit in raiding. But the Vietnam War bankrupted the “Great Society” in the United States, and incessant wars between France and Spain drove both into bankruptcy in 1557. The Thirty Years War so devastated central Europe’s economy that the mercenary soldier was described as “a man who had to die so as to have something to live on.”5

Some wars seem almost symbolic because they absorb great effort but produce few casualties. Among the Dani of New Guinea, formalistic battles across set front lines – fought with spears, sticks, and bow and arrows – lasted from midmorning until nightfall or rain, with a rest period at midday, and with noncombatants watching from the sidelines. A different form of ritualistic war occupied the two superpowers of the Cold War era, whose nuclear weapons were built, deployed, and maintained on alert, but never used. Other wars, such as the Napoleonic Wars, the US Civil War, and the World Wars, were all–too–real spectacles of pain and misery that defy comprehension. A quarter of the Aztecs’ central skull rack could be filled by a single day’s deaths, 26,000 people, at the battle of Antietam.6

Some wars take place far from home, when armies travel on expeditions to distant lands. In the Crusades, European armies pillaged Muslim and Jewish communities for the glory of a Christian God. Later, European armies occupied colonies worldwide. Americans fought in the World Wars “over there” (Europe). Cuban soldiers in the 1980s fought in Angola. For traveling soldiers, home was a long way away, and for their home societies, war was distant. For most European peasants of the sixteenth century, war seldom impinged on daily life except through taxation. Other wars, however, hit extremely close to home. In recent decades, civil wars often have put civilians and everyday life right in the firing line. The World Wars made entire societies into war machines and therefore into targets. In such cases the “home front” and the “war front” become intimately connected.

Sometimes soldiers kill enemies that they have never met, who look different from them and speak languages they do not understand. The Incas of Peru assumed the incomprehensible Spanish invaders to be gods. By contrast, in some wars neighbors kill neighbors, as in the 1992 Serbian campaign of terror in Bosnia. Soldiers sometimes kill at great distances, as with over–the–horizon air and ship missiles. At other times, they kill at close quarters, as with bayonets. Some, like the soldiers who planted land mines in Cambodia and Angola in the 1980s, have no idea whom they killed. Others, such as snipers in any war, can see exactly whom they kill.

Combatants react in many different ways. Many soldiers in battle lose the ability to function, because of psychological trauma. But some soldiers feel energized in battle, and some look back to their military service as the best time of their lives. They found meaning, community, and the thrill of surviving danger. In many societies, veterans of battle receive special status and privilege afterwards. Sometimes, however, returning soldiers are treated as pariahs. Some soldiers fight with dogged determination, and willingly die and kill when they could have run away. In other cases, entire armies simply crumble because they lack a will to fight, as happened to the well–armed government forces in Africa’s third largest country, Zaire (Democratic Congo), in 1997.

The puzzle War, then, is a tremendously diverse enterprise, operating in many contexts with many purposes, rules, and meanings. Gender norms outside war show similar diversity. The puzzle, which this chapter fleshes out and the remaining chapters try to answer, is why this diversity disappears when it comes to the connection of war with gender. That connection is more stable, across cultures and through time, than are either gender roles outside of war or the forms and frequency of war itself.

The answer in a nutshell is that killing in war does not come naturally for either gender, yet the potential for war has been universal in human societies. To help overcome soldiers’ reluctance to fight, cultures develop gender roles that equate “manhood” with toughness under fire. Across cultures and through time, the selection of men as potential combatants (and of women for feminine war support roles) has helped shape the war system. In turn, the pervasiveness of war in history has influenced gender profoundly – especially gender norms in child–rearing.

Hypothesis 1. Gender–linked war roles are not in fact cross–culturally consistent.

The cross–cultural consistency of gendered war roles could be explained by various hypotheses, but the first task is to establish whether this consistency actually exists, and if so how strong it is. Is it contradicted by supposed counter–examples, such as ancient Amazons or matriarchal gathering–hunting societies? Universal generalizations often silence the voices of those whose experiences do not fit. To seek out those voices, to look at the outliers, can reveal important information. Thus, I tried to track down any report of a human society in which gender roles in war were significantly equalized or reversed, or where war was absent altogether (and therefore gender–linked war roles could not exist). Very few held up under scrutiny.


In war, the fighters are usually all male. Exceptions to this rule are numerous and quite informative (see pp. 59–127), but these exceptions together amount to far fewer than 1 percent of all warriors in history. As interesting as that fragment of the picture may be – and it is – the uniformity of gender in war–fighters is still striking.7

Within this uniformity, some diversity occurs. For one thing, women’s war roles vary considerably from culture to culture, including roles as support troops, psychological war–boosters, peacemakers, and so forth. Although men’s war roles show less cross–cultural diversity, societies do construct norms of masculinity around war in a variety of ways (see pp. 251–380). Nonetheless, these variations occur within a uniform pattern that links men with war–fighting in every society that fights wars.

In the present interstate system, the gendering of war is stark. About 23 million soldiers serve in today’s uniformed standing armies, of whom about 97 percent are male (somewhat over 500,000 are women). In only six of the world’s nearly 200 states do women make up more than 5 percent of the armed forces. And most of these women in military forces worldwide occupy traditional women’s roles such as typists and nurses (see pp. 83–87; 102–5). Designated combat forces in the world’s state armies today include several million soldiers (the exact number depending on definitions of combat), of whom 99.9 percent are male. In 1993, 168 women belonged to the ground combat units of Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway combined, with none in Russia, Britain, Germany, France, and Israel. Change since 1993, although not trivial, has been incremental. In UN peacekeeping forces, women (mostly nurses) made up less than 0.1 percent in 1957–89 and still less than 2 percent when UN peacekeeping peaked in the early 1990s.8

These data reflect a time period in which women had reached their highest social and political power to date, and in which the world’s predominant military force (the United States) was carrying out the largest–scale military gender integration in history (see pp. 93–105). Despite these momentous changes, combat forces today almost totally exclude women, and the entire global military system has so few women and such limited roles for them as to make many of its most important settings all–male.

Did these rigid gender divisions in today’s state military forces occur in other times and places, or are they by–products of specific contexts and processes embodied in today’s states? I will show, in this section, that war is gendered across virtually all human societies and therefore did not “acquire” gender, so to speak, as a result of state formation, capitalism, Western civilization, or other such influences.

Myths of Amazon matriarchies

The strongest evidence against universalizing today’s gender divisions in war would be to show counter–examples from other times and places, especially female armies (Amazons). What would happen if an entire army were organized primarily using women? How would a society fare if its fighters were mostly, or entirely, female? We do not know, because no evidence shows that anyone has ever tried it. Ancient historians reported that Amazons had once existed, but no longer did. A few modern historians agreed, but despite much effort, no hard evidence has emerged showing that anything close to the mythical Amazon society ever existed.9

The Amazons of Greek myth not only participated in fighting and controlled politics, but exclusively made up both the population and the fighting force. They supposedly lived in the area north of the Black Sea about 700 years before the fifth century BC when the historian Herodotus reports hearing stories about them. According to myth, the Amazons were an all–female society of fierce warriors who got pregnant by neighbor–ing societies’ men and then practiced male infanticide (or sent male babies away). Supposedly they cut off one breast to make shooting a bow and arrow easier, although most artistic renditions do not show this. (The word “Amazon” is no longer thought to derive from “without breast” although the word may have some connection with breasts.) Amazons are an important theme in Greek art, and – in various forms – in subsequent cultural currents throughout history. Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman art incorporated battles with Amazons on a regular basis (see Figure 1.1), including a scene engraved on the west side of the Parthenon.

Figure 1.1 Battle of Greeks and Amazons (sarcophagus). [Alinari/Art Resource, NY.]

The mythical Amazons had their capital in Themiscyra, and were ruled by a series of queens. The Greek hero Heracles, as one of a series of quests, had to capture the sacred girdle of the Amazon queen, Antiope. His army defeated the Amazons and captured the queen’s sister, Hippolyta, whom the Athenian king Theseus married. Later, the Amazons retaliated by attacking Athens with a large army, possibly including allied Scythians (who also lived north of the Black Sea). The months–long battle caused high casualties on both sides, but ultimately the Greeks prevailed. In some accounts, the Amazons also fought against the Greeks in the Trojan War. Some ancient manuscripts added a verse to The Iliad saying that the Amazons under Queen Penthesilea arrived to support the Trojans.10

Herodotus reports that after the Greek victory at Themiscyra, the Greeks took three ships full of captured Amazons back towards Athens, but the Amazons overpowered the Greeks and (not knowing navigation) drifted ashore in Scythian territory. Finding some wild horses inland, they began riding off in search of loot and found themselves battling the Scythians, who were amazed to find afterwards that the Amazons had been women. The Scythians then courted the Amazons, to produce children by such amazing women. (As fellow hunters and plunderers the Scythians were a good match for the Amazons.) This interbreeding succeeded, but the Amazons refused to settle down (relatively speaking) with the Scythians, where women “stay at home in their wagons occupied with feminine tasks” (Herodotus). Instead they invited their new husbands to go off with them to a new place, and that is how the Sauromatian people are supposed to have originated. For Herodotus, this account explained why Sauromatian women go “riding to the hunt on horseback sometimes with, sometimes without their menfolk, taking part in war, and wearing the same sort of clothes as men” and why they “have a marriage law which forbids a girl to marry until she has killed an enemy in battle.”11

The stories Herodotus heard about the Sauromatians may have been exaggerated, but some archaeological evidence from the early Iron Age indicates that nomadic women in the region of the Eurasian steppes – especially near modern–day northern Kazakhstan – rode horses, may have used weapons, and may even have had some degree of political influence, though probably not dominance, in their society. Jeannine Davis–Kimball recently reported that excavations at a Sauromatian site (fourth century BC to second century AD) near the Russia–Kazakhstan border “suggest that Greek tales of Amazon warriors may have had some basis in fact.” Actually, as Davis–Kimball notes, archaeologists in the 1950s had already discovered “that many graves of females contained swords, spears, daggers, arrowheads, and armor” in fourth–century BC graves of nomads in southern Ukraine. These sites would have been much closer to the supposed Amazons that fascinated the Greeks (though still to the east of them). Davis–Kimball’s site is 1,000 miles to the east, so her Sauromatians “cannot have been the same people” as the Amazons.12

In Davis–Kimball’s sites, seven graves of females were found with “iron swords or daggers, bronze arrowheads, and whetstones to sharpen the weapons, suggesting that these seven females were warriors.” One young girl’s bowed legs “attest to a life on horseback” and “she wore a bronze arrowhead in a leather pouch around her neck.” Another woman’s body contained a bent arrowhead, “suggesting that she had been killed in battle.” (I would note that women killed in war might not be combatants.) Since females generally “were buried with a wider variety and larger quantity of artifacts than males,” Davis–Kimball concludes that “females…seem to have controlled much of the wealth.” This seems doubtful, however. Using a variety of objects hardly implies control of wealth.13

Despite the hype about Amazons, Davis–Kimball never suggests that women were the main warriors in this society, but merely that they may have taken to arms to defend their relatives and animals when attacked. Indeed, 40 of the 44 males buried at the site appeared to be warriors, while four males appeared to be other than warriors. But only seven females may have been warriors compared to 28 female graves containing “artifacts typically associated with femininity and domesticity,” and five females who may have been priestesses (graves with altars and ritual objects). If these graves represent a fair sample, something like 90 percent of the men, but only 15–20 percent of the women, took part in war. It is an important case since these percentages of women participation are high, but it is not a case of the majority of women being warriors, or the majority of warriors being women, by far. Furthermore, women buried with horses and spears may indicate that some women fought, at least at times, but does not show that women predominated either in military or political life. The fact that Amazons have not been dug up does not disprove their existence, of course. But absent any real empirical evidence of a matriarchal society of women warriors, the burden of proof is on showing it did exist, not that it could never have existed.14

The puzzling question of horses The nomadic equestrian warriors of the steppes helped shape warfare along its historical lines. Horses later provided the decisive military advantage in various historical contexts including ancient Eurasian civilizations, the rise of West African kingdoms, and the conquest of the New World. “[T]he most important new weapon of the Bronze Age, the war chariot,” appeared in Mesopotamia after 3000 BC and a thousand years later in Egypt. After 2000 BC “the horse–drawn, spoked, war chariot was the elite striking arm of ancient armies.” Domesticated horses quickly spread through the Middle East and Europe. The horses were “not ridden but harnessed to chariots.” The invention of the composite bow made of wood, gut, and bone – which could reach 250 yards – made the war chariot a powerful weapon. But chariots remained “extremely expensive to establish and maintain” owing to “complex logistics” of horse–breeding, chariot–building, metal smiths, support teams, and riders. The chariot was thus available only to rich kingdoms – suitable for a “heroic mode” of fighting by kings, or by high–priced mercenary charioteers. It was typically used at the critical moment of a battle, to break enemy infantry ranks, and then for “turning defeat to rout.”15

Women ride horses as well as men do. This is clear from the Olympic Games’ gender integration of equestrian events, in contrast to the other events. The Iron Age steppes women warriors and the mythical Amazons share the element of raiding on horseback. If women participated in war in ancient nomadic steppe societies, they were in some sense present at the creation of civilizational war, yet they disappeared from cavalry as larger–scale military units formed and empires arose. This seems puzzling. For example, Ramses II in his war chariot at the thirteenth–century BC battle of Kadesh (Figure 1.2) cuts a rather femme figure by today’s norms of manly warriorhood. Yet his army was equal to the best in its time, and successfully expanded Egypt’s territorial borders. The successful deployment of such a chariot would seem to depend on (1) skill in controlling the horse and (2) accuracy, more than sheer strength, in shooting arrows. It is hard to see why all women would be unqualified in such skills. Given the limited number of war chariots (an expensive item), an empire would presumably succeed best by allocating chariots to the very best, most skilled individuals regardless of gender. Down through history, one might have expected cavalry to be a point of entry for women into fighting forces, but this did not occur. The question of horses is an intriguing but unanswered aspect of the puzzle of gendered war roles.

Figure 1.2 Ramses on war chariot, c. 1285 BC. [© Thames & Hudson Ltd, London. From The Origins of War by Arther Ferrill, published by Thames Hudson Inc, New York.]

South American Amazons As with ancient Greece, little evidence exists for Amazons in South America, although European explorers believed that such societies existed (see Figure 1.3). Friar Gaspar de Carvajal in 1542 claimed to have witnessed and participated in fighting with women warriors (leading the men), at one point on the Orellana expedition down the Amazon river. Contemporary skeptics in Europe called Carvajal’s account either a fabrication or a fever–induced mirage.16

Figure 1.3 South American Amazon cannibals, from Hulsius, Voyages. [Rare Books Division, New York Public Library; Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.]

Spanish conquerors in the northern Andes and eastern Venezuela alluded frequently to women who accompanied warriors and sometimes also fought. These reports, however, reflect an uncertain mix of actual observations, inferences based on native women’s transvestitism, and local legends passed along. Reports of women fighters rest on Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Inca culture. Unfortunately, all these cases come from Spanish conquerors’ centuries–old accounts of cultures they conquered (cultures the Spaniards wanted to portray as barbaric), and are thus hard to evaluate. In any event, except for Carvajal’s account, these reports claimed only that women participated in fighting, not that they were the main fighters.17

Some specific claims about South American Amazons are easy to refute. For example, the Encyclopedia of Amazons states: “The anthropologists Yolanda and Robert Murphy found that even today Brazilian tribal women live apart from men ‘in convivial sisterhood.’ Their authority exceeds that of men in all practical matters.” What Murphy and Murphy actually describe is a highly sexist society in which women’s sisterhood arises from their common terrorization by the men. “The superior status of the male is manifest in the rituals of everyday life.” Women until menopause “sit in the rear, walk in the rear of a file, and eat after the men do.” Women who are considered sexually “loose” are punished by gang rape by twenty or more men, as are women who peek at the men’s sacred musical instruments. “[T]he men consciously state that they use the penis to dominate their women.”18

Purposes of Amazon myths The Greek Amazons – always imagined as somewhere outside the civilizing sphere of Greek conquest – represented a symbolic place for Greek heroes to subdue the barbarians on their periphery. So did the South American Amazons for Spain. Similarly, Virgil marked the establishment of the Roman empire with a story about the defeat of the Italian man–killing warrior Camilla, of great beauty and nearly supernatural power. These mythical women warrior societies represent a foreign, topsy–turvy world. Representing women in this way reinforced men’s construction of their own patriarchal societies as orderly and natural.19

Although some feminists embrace Amazon myths, the various representations of Amazons through history have carried a mixed message because men use those myths to reinforce their own masculinity. Abby Kleinbaum writes: “As surely as no spider’s web was built for the glorification of flies, the Amazon idea was not designed to enhance women.” For example, Katharine Hepburn’s first major role, as Antiope in the 1931 Broadway play The Warrior’s Husband (see Figure 1.4), was remembered by reviewers as the play in which she “first bared her lovely legs.” Television’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” is sometimes invoked as a pro–feminist symbol of power – Madeleine Albright jokingly called her “one of my role models” in 1998 – but also contains an anti–feminist undertow. A male interviewer of Xena actress Lucy Lawless (who describes herself as “a woman’s woman”) writes, “As Xena, the tall, strong, athletic beauty with gloriously blue eyes is togged out in boots, a leather miniskirt and metal breastplates that do her breathtaking body no harm at all.” This mix of sex–object and power figure recurs in the Amazon genre.20

Figure 1.4 Katherine Hepburn as Antiope in The Warrior’s Husband, 1932. [Billy Rose Theatre Collection, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Photograph: White Studio.]

Most recently, the gunslinging British digital–character “Lara Croft” on Sony’s Playstation continues this ambiguous tradition. Of the 25,000 World Wide Web sites that mention Croft (as of 1999), over half also contained the term “nude.” Croft’s corporate spokesperson said, “A lot of people who play video games fantasize about her. She’s not overtly sexual. OK, she is physically sexual, but she has a personality.” The design of Croft’s cyberbody, like the costumes worn by actresses such as Hepburn and Lawless with their bare legs and accentuated breasts, seems geared more to male viewers than feminists.21

In summary, Amazons provide interesting material for the analysis of culture and myth in sexist societies, but little historical evidence for the participation of women in war. As far as available evidence goes, no society exclusively populated or controlled by women, nor one in which women were the primary fighters, has ever existed.

Gendered war roles in preindustrial societies

In present–day gathering–hunting and agrarian societies, it is common to have special gender taboos regarding weapons, and special cultural practices focused on men’s roles as warriors. In many gathering–hunting cultures, gender roles in war connect with gender roles in hunting. Sometimes war and hunting are the only two spheres of social life that exclude women, or the two spheres where that exclusion is most formalized. Taboos govern whether, and if so when and how, women may touch weapons used in hunting as well as those for war.22

The gendering of war is similar across war–prone and more peaceful societies, as well as across very sexist and relatively gender–equal societies. Consider two societies that occupy extreme positions regarding both war and gender equality – the Sambia of New Guinea and the inhabitants of Vanatinai island in the South Pacific.

The Sambia are among the most warlike cultures ever studied, and also among the most sexist. Women are not only disenfranchised and subject to abuse, but villages are laid out with different paths for men and women. Male Sambia warriors are taken from their mothers at 7 to 10 years old to be trained and raised in a rigid all–male environment. Younger boys sexually “service” older ones, eventually reversing roles as they grow into warriors. This homosexual phase is supposed to build masculinity in the warrior. After marrying, these young men adopt heterosexuality but treat their wives very harshly. Sambia society is marked by extreme male dominance and the suppression of the feminine in the male’s world. Not surprisingly, warfare among the Sambia is strictly a male occupation. Nor are the Sambia exceptional in this regard. Of the most warlike societies known, none requires women to participate in combat, and in all of them cultural concepts of masculinity motivate men to fight.23

Vanatinai island, by contrast, is one of the most gender–egalitarian societies ever studied. In this culture, men and women are virtually equal in power and move fluidly across gendered roles. One exception to this gender equality (mentioned late in a newspaper article that declared the “sexes equal” on Vanatinai) was that “[i]n earlier times, warfare was the one important activity reserved exclusively for men.” Although long pacified by colonial rule, the culture still retains this asymmetry: when a 6–year–old girl joined some boys in throwing mock spears, her mother “came out of the house…and said, irritably, ‘Are you a man that you throw spears?’ The girl burst into tears and ran into the house.” So although gender relations on Vanatinai are radically different from those among the Sambia, one commonality is war–fighting – a male occupation.24

The pattern of Vanatinai repeats in five other relatively peaceful and gender–equal societies – the Semai of Malaya, the Siriono of Bolivia, the Mbuti of central Africa, the !Kung of southern Africa, and the Copper Eskimo of Canada. All are gatherer–hunters and the first two also engage in some slash–and–burn agriculture. All have in common “open and basically egalitarian decision making and social control processes.” Long–term material inequality between individuals cannot exist because these societies “produce little or no surplus.” In these five societies, relative gender egalitarianism prevails in most areas of life (compared with agricultural and industrial societies). Both genders (and sometimes children) participate in food gathering in four of the five societies (!Kung food gathering is mainly a female occupation). Both genders likewise participate in fishing (the Semai), and in horticulture (in both slash–and–burn societies). In some instances only females perform “domestic” tasks (the Eskimo). Among the Semai, women engage in basket weaving, carrying water, and harvesting rice, but both genders cook. Among the Mbuti, both genders help with camp tasks from age 6 and with net hunting from age 9. The gender division in child–rearing is unclear, except among the Siriono, where women are the primary caretakers but both parents spend a lot of time playing with their children. This appears to be true of the !Kung as well, among whom gender participation in child–rearing is relatively egalitarian. This gender equality largely disappears, however, in war. (Gender division also characterizes specialized hunting.) Among the Semai, Siriono, and !Kung, only males hunt, although !Kung women help locate prey. Among the Mbuti, only males hunt with bows and arrows, although both genders, and children, hunt with nets. Among the Eskimo, males and some younger women hunt. Among the Siriono, from age 8 boys accompany their fathers in hunting, and girls help with household work.25

Thus, among contemporary preindustrial societies, both the very war–prone and the relatively peaceful ones share a gender division in war with men as the primary (and usually exclusive) fighters. This commonality contrasts with the diversity of these societies’ gender divisions outside war.

Cases of female participation in combat

In several cases, women have participated in combat more than occasionally, although still as a minority in a mostly male army. This is the level of participation found in Davis–Kimball’s excavations of early Iron Age Eurasian steppes sites discussed earlier. In recorded history, however, these cases turn out to be extremely rare. The two documented historical cases of substantial organized female participation in combat by state armies are the Dahomey Kingdom of West Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the Soviet Union in World War II. In Chapter 2, I describe these unusual cases, and the many cases where a few women are scattered individually among combatants.

Only in the Dahomey Kingdom did substantial female combat participation last for longer than a short crisis period. Women made up one wing of the standing army, the so–called “Amazon corps,” and sometimes constituted as many as a third of all soldiers. They lived in the palace, followed special rules, and were excellent soldiers whose presence substantially increased the kingdom’s military power. Dahomey is an important case since it shows the possibility of an effective, permanent, standing women’s combat unit making up a substantial minority of the army. However, it is the only case of its kind, and the context is very unusual. Society revolved around war totally. The economy was based on conquering neighboring peoples to sell as slaves to European traders (who, in turn, completed the cycle by selling guns and other military supplies to Dahomey). The kingdom lasted from 1670 to 1892, coinciding with the slave–trading era.

In the Soviet Union during World War II – absolutely desperate times – women were mobilized into combat units but on a smaller and shorter–term basis than for Dahomey. At the peak of this effort, reportedly, some 800,000 soldiers or about 8 percent of the total Soviet forces were women. Most were medical workers but a few thousand were combatants. A problem with this case is sorting out how many of the available accounts were war propaganda – cheering on a devastated society with the glorious exploits of women fighters, who symbolized the mobilization of the whole population for the war effort (and shamed men into fighting harder). Overall, the evidence indicates that the women fought about as well as the men – both were to some extent just “cannon fodder” in a war of attrition and starvation. Nonetheless, as soon as circumstances permitted, the women’s units were disbanded, and the Red Army returned to all–male combat units. Even if official estimates do not exaggerate, the women combatants at their peak would have made up fewer than 1 percent of Soviet combat forces.

War consumed Soviet society during World War II as it did the Dahomey Kingdom and the early Iron Age steppes societies discussed earlier. In all these cases, warfare reached an extreme level and overshadowed the productive economy (agriculture, industry, etc.). However, even at similar extremes of desperation, most societies (such as Germany and Japan at the end of World War II) still have not mobilized women in large numbers as fighters. Thus, history and prehistory contain only a handful of known cases in which women have participated in combat in substantial numbers.


These consistent gender roles in war apply to all societies because of the pervasiveness of war across cultures. Evidence in this section will show that in virtually every human culture, war exists in some form, as an ever–present potential that is realized at least occasionally (and in many cultures, incessantly). The universal potential for war in human society suggests that the gendering of war may matter even in relatively peaceful times and places, because even a society that is not at war may someday go to war.

The near–universality of the potential for war applies, certainly, to the present–day interstate system. Except for a few small states (notably Costa Rica and Mauritius), all of today’s nearly 200 states have standing armies. The large states of the world maintain massive military machines, and periodically engage in war. In today’s world, active warfare is not occurring in most places, but war lurks in the background as a possibility even when it is remote. In several dozen places around the world, active wars are continuing (though fewer and smaller than a decade ago).

The myth of peaceful origins

Marxist (and other) scholarship has long portrayed both sexism and war as products of a certain stage in human history – that of private property and the state system following the invention of agriculture over 10,000 years ago. Originally, it is claimed, humans lived in matriarchal societies (women held political power) which did not have war. Evidence comes from the supposedly peaceful and gender–equal character of modern–day gathering–hunting societies. Thus, both patriarchy and war are products of economic class relations which changed with the rise of the state, in this view.

Marx’s collaborator Friedrich Engels links the beginning of war to the rise of the state – and thus the end of war to the anticipated post–state era of communism. Engels argues that societies before the invention of agriculture were matriarchies and that when, with agriculture, private property came into being, gender relations were transformed and men seized power. The rise of the state and the beginning of war were products of that same transformation. Gender and war are here linked, but only indirectly, both being effects of the transformation of economic class relations after property came into being. The solution to war, therefore, is to move beyond private property to a classless society, by means of a revolution against the current phase of private property, namely capitalism.26

Several decades ago, the evidence seemed to imply that early humans were peaceful and egalitarian. Modern gatherer–hunters were reputedly peaceful, and the fossil record contained no compelling evidence of war. Thus, war appeared to be characteristic of a phase in human history, a mere 1 percent of the time we have been around as a species (and thus decoupled from any biological basis). In the event of a future transformation of the state system, or of the class divisions first sparked by agriculture (which made surplus possible), war itself might end as abruptly as it began. The end of war would be natural since we would need only to fall back on our deep human nature – 3 million years of peaceful prehistory – to rediscover ourselves as creatures of peace. The idea that human beings are naturally peaceful and war is an aberration makes this story appealing. (A related myth held that humans are the only animal that kills its own species, again showing social violence as a deviation from nature. In fact, however, over a hundred other species kill their own kind.)27

Thus, this perspective urges us to fall back on our true selves, go back to nature, change oppressive class relations, and/or do away with the state system, in order to achieve real peace. Incidentally, gender relations are not very important in this story. (Many Marxists see class relations as more important than gender relations.)28

Present–day gathering–hunting societies

The story does not hold up, however. The evidence from modern–day gathering–hunting societies, whose supposed peaceful nature was assumed to reflect peaceful human origins, in fact shows the opposite: modern gathering–hunting societies are not generally peaceful. Of 31 gathering–hunting societies surveyed in one study, 20 typically had warfare more than once every two years, and only three had “no or rare warfare.” I will get to those “rare” cases, but the point for now is that if typical gathering–hunting societies found today represent the typical societies found before the rise of the state – as advocates of peaceful origins have claimed – then those original societies were warlike.29

In theory, the absence of war altogether among gatherer–hunters is not essential for the idea of peaceful human origins. As a fall–back position, one could argue that gathering–hunting societies were relatively more peaceful than the chiefdom and state societies which followed. Even that argument, however, fails in light of empirical evidence. According to cross–cultural anthropological studies, nonstate societies have as much warfare as states do. Furthermore, overall per capita levels of violence (i.e., among individuals) may actually be higher in simpler gathering–hunting societies than in complex agrarian or industrialized societies, although this is hard to measure.30

Clearly, cross–cultural anthropological data do not support the idea that humans started out more peaceful in simple societies and became more warlike in complex societies, culminating in modern states. Admittedly, the evidence is not conclusive regarding human origins, because generalizations about today’s gathering–hunting societies – most of which have been altered in both subtle and obvious ways by contact with the industrialized world – may not tell us much about the gathering–hunting societies that existed before the invention of agriculture. Usually, by the time the first anthropologists arrived on a scene the culture was far from “pristine.” Even if the society itself had no regular contact with European colonizers, the process of colonization had often pushed it into a fraction of its former territory and severely reduced its population, as appears to have happened with some Canadian Eskimo peoples. In the case of Australian desert Aborigines, metal knives and tools had filtered in from surrounding areas that had contact with Europeans long before any white person arrived to meet or observe the Aborigines. In these contexts, it is quite plausible that depopulation and territorial contraction could have caused an upswing in conflict and war due to resource scarcity. Alternatively, the encroachments of Western colonizers could have caused a warlike society to cut off warring, and band together for survival. Furthermore, as colonizers actually overran and took control of local cultures, they often engaged in “pacification” of local conflicts.31

The point is that a society in the midst of such a radical transformation may not reflect the nature of early human societies. Consider one prominent example of this problem. The extremely warlike Yanomamö Indians of Brazil and Venezuela were studied intensively by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, who wrote them up as “the Fierce People.” Among the Yanomamö, all female babies are killed until the first son is born. This creates a shortage of women for wives, and competition for this scarce resource is a major object of wars. The Yanomamö say their wars have the purpose of capturing women, although some anthropologists propose other underlying reasons. Non–anthropologists often refer to the Yanomamö when discussing gathering–hunting societies, or even call them “pristine.” In fact, however, decades before anthropologists first arrived, the Yanomamö had already acquired steel tools (machetes, metal cooking pots, and axes) from the outside, allowing more efficient production of bananas and plantains, as well as axe fights. Thus, “pristine is passé.” Overall, however, colonial effects mainly suppress war and thus do not explain the presence of war in simple societies.32

Hundreds of cultures, both preagricultural and agrarian, are documented in the Human Resources Area Files (HRAF) – “the only worldwide, systematic collection of information concerning societies.” Anthropologists Melvin and Carol Ember, who run HRAF, analyze a sample of 90 societies. They note that “we cannot compare societies with and without war” because “the vast majority…had at least occasional wars when they were first described, unless they had been pacified.” The Embers find only eight societies where wars occur less frequently than once in ten years on average. Over half of the 90 societies were in a constant state of war or readiness for war, and half of the remaining cases fought every year during a particular season. They conclude that “war is almost ubiquitous in the ethnographic record, in the absence of external powers that imposed pacification, and the frequency distribution is skewed sharply toward the high end.”33

Prehistoric evidence In theory, the best evidence about whether humans were peaceful before the invention of agriculture would be the direct record of those times as studied by archaeologists and paleontologists. This record is very spotty, however, and not compelling for either war or peace. To summarize, the evidence is consistent with (but not proof of) the presence of warfare at least sporadically throughout all periods of prehistory. It is doubtful that war followed along after (and hence possibly as a result of) the Neolithic Revolution (the beginning of agriculture, herding, and proto–urban settlements about 10,000 years ago), since strong evidence points to war’s presence early in the Neolithic era. It is even possible that war played a central role in creating the Neolithic Revolution. A new and growing, though still limited, body of tangible evidence – ranging from discernible fortifications around settlements to remnants of weapons and the residue of injuries on bodies – suggests the presence of war before agriculture. One paleontologist writes that only after many years of excavating “skeletons with embedded projectile points” did he question his “acceptance of the traditional view that the native peoples of California had been exceptionally peaceful.”34

The rise of states No one disputes that war played a central role in the rise of states and civilizations after the Neolithic Revolution. In 12,000 to 8000 BC “there was a revolution in weapons technology… Four staggeringly powerful new weapons make their first appearance…: the bow, the sling, the dagger…and the mace, [and]…produced true warfare.” The bow and arrow were inexpensive and reached 100 yards versus 50 for spears, and an individual could carry more arrows than spears. It “spread rapidly around the Mediterranean. Neolithic cave paintings clearly reveal their use against men as well as animals.” The sling had double the range of the bow and arrow (200 yards), and was also extensively used in Neolithic times. Along with the new weapons came the invention of military tactics, especially the organization of soldiers in columns and lines. With these changes in the offensive power of armies, the fortification of settlements began, which then spread around the eastern Mediterranean from 8000 to 4000 BC. Jericho – one of the earliest fortified sites with 13–foot–high stone walls and a tower – may have started as a hunting site (around an oasis), with the walls coming next as defense against armed enemies (thereby committing the inhabitants to a sedentary life), and agriculture following. Evidence from the earliest historical societies shows warfare well ensconced. War played a central role in the rise of the early Middle Eastern civilizations, and was already strongly gendered.35

To summarize in reverse chronological order, war played a central role in the rise of the first states and civilizations (and thereafter). It may have driven rather than resulted from the Neolithic Revolution. Evidence indicates war in the period just before the start of recorded history. Although the earlier prehistoric period does not provide adequate evidence for or against the presence of war, we do know that those societies had both the social organization and the weapons necessary for organized intergroup violence. War may plausibly have played a role in the rapid expansion of modern humans starting 150,000 years ago, which led to the extinction of other early humans including the Neanderthals – although we have no hard evidence of this. We cannot say whether early humans, dating back several million years, engaged in lethal intergroup violence, but at least one other primate species (chimpanzees) does so in its natural habitats (see pp. 187–88). Finally, present–day gathering–hunting societies worldwide virtually all have war, and violence in these simple societies appears to be at least as prevalent as in agrarian and industrialized societies.

Thus, the myth of peaceful origins finds no empirical support. Again, this does not mean that any group of people at a particular time and place are forced to have war. It does mean that war, like gender, has deep roots. It is not overlaid on our “true” selves, but runs deep in us.

Specific peaceful societies Even if humans did not experience a peaceful phase, individual peaceful societies might still exist at various times in history, or at present. Again, by peaceful society I mean one where war is truly absent rather than merely latent. However, there appear to be virtually no such peaceful societies. Some societies are far more (or less) warlike than others, in terms of the frequency of war, its effect on mortality rates, and its place in the culture. But these are all differences of degree. In virtually no society is war unknown.

Several present–day societies in which war is relatively infrequent have been described as “peaceful” by various writers. One favorite is the !Kung San (the “!” indicates a clicking sound). They are southwest African bush people who were widely studied in the 1950s and 1960s by English–speaking anthropologists. They were observed to behave very peacefully, and with relative egalitarianism and gender equality – “the harmless people” as one observer called them. They seemed to enjoy abundant resources relative to their population, and to go to war rarely. However, “[f]ierce competition and warfare characterized much of San relations with their Bantu–speaking neighbors prior to the arrival of the Dutch in South Africa in 1652.” The Dutch carried out a “near–total extermination” of 200,000 San (bush people) in nearby South Africa.36

A hundred years ago, German–speaking anthropologists described the !Kung as very warlike, with frequent raids and battles. A 1916 report states that the !Kung warred frequently with neighboring peoples until the European colonialists arrived, only then becoming more peaceful. The report recounts a !Kung raid early in the century: “Women frantically seized their children and tried to flee, but were slaughtered without compunction. Here a mother nearly managed to escape with her baby, but…a few blows with a kiri smashed the child’s skull and finished off the mother too. Only a few lucky ones managed to get away… The victors…started looting. Everything useful was taken away. Clay pots were smashed and the huts set on fire.”37

If this is a peaceful society, perhaps Bosnia in 1992 would fit that category as well! Indeed, Bosnian society – somewhat parallel to !Kung society – was considered by some observers to be an exemplary case of peaceful, tolerant intergroup relations (interrupted several times in history by the incursion of great–power wars into the region). In the Tito era, many Bosnian marriages were between the “ethnic” (actually religious) groups – a far cry from the “ancient ethnic hatreds” to which the Bosnia war was sometimes attributed. Yet that tolerant society fell victim to extreme hatred and brutality. Like Bosnia, the case of the !Kung shows how a superficial peace can disguise the latent potential for war.38

After the war–prone !Kung of the 1920s became the harmless !Kung of the 1960s, the pendulum swung back again in the 1970s and 1980s, when the !Kung became caught up in warfare in Namibia and Angola. Also around that time, many of the !Kung switched from hunting and gathering to larger sedentary settlements engaged in agriculture and wage work. There was a new wave of violence among the !Kung in this period, triggered by their rapidly changing conditions. Within communities, “the !Kung do fight and not infrequently with fatal results…[H]omicide is not rare.”39

Despite the evidence that the !Kung were not peaceful, and that most of the gathering–hunting societies studied by ethnographers have known war, many scholars outside anthropology continue to get the story wrong. The fine historian John Keegan, for instance, writes: “Ethnographers who have devoted themselves to the study of some still–existent groups are champions of the view that hunting–gathering is compatible with an admirably pacific social code, and that the former may indeed foster the latter. The San (Bushmen)…are commonly held up as models of unassertive gentleness.”40

Another reputedly peaceful case is that of the Semai of Malaysia. The ethnographer of the Semai portrays the Semai as “nonviolent” – referring to “the horror that physical violence inspires in Semai.” They almost never hit their children or each other, and they “are not great warriors… [T]hey have consistently fled rather than fight.” But he continues:

Many people who knew the Semai insisted that such an unwarlike people could never make good soldiers. Interestingly enough, they were wrong. Communist terrorists had killed the kinsmen of some of the Semai counterinsurgency troops. Taken out of their nonviolent society and ordered to kill, they seem to have been swept up in a sort of insanity which they call “blood drunkenness.”

After the episode, the Semai were “unable to account for their behavior” and “shut the experience off in a separate compartment.” They returned to their gentle, nonviolent lives.41

Marvin Harris’s “favorite list” of “peoples who are reported never to wage war” consists of the Andaman Islanders, the Shoshoni and Mission Indians (California), Yahgan (Patagonia), the Semai, and “the recently contacted Tasaday of the Philippines.” Several of these, however, “consist of refugees who have been driven into remote areas by more warlike neighbors.” Thus, “most of the evidence no longer supports” the view that “organized intergroup homicide” was absent in Stone Age cultures.42

Ashley Montagu in the 1970s used the Tasaday case to argue that aggression is not innate or instinctual in humans. The Stone Age Tasaday, he says, are “closest to our prehistoric ancestors” of any people, and they are “undoubtedly among the gentlest and most unaggressive people on this earth…. From infancy the Tasaday has learned to be cooperative and unaggressive.” This shows, according to Montagu, not only that individuals can learn to control aggression but that an entire society can never learn to behave aggressively in the first place.43

The Tasaday, however, turned out not to be a Stone Age culture representing our innocent human past. After Ferdinand Marcos lost power in the Philippines, anthropologists could get more information than when a Marcos crony controlled access to the Tasaday, and the whole thing was declared by some to be a hoax. The American Anthropological Association launched a review in 1989, and sponsored a volume assessing the evidence. Although controversy continues, most anthropologists think that the Tasaday exist as a distinct people but one that resembles other peoples of the region and was formerly agricultural. Montagu’s prime example of the non–necessity of aggression, therefore, turns out to be a false report.44

Other reports of peaceful societies also reveal, upon examination, a latent tendency for war. For example, the Gilbert Islands appear to be quite peaceful. Yet war played an important role in Gilbertese culture before colonization and pacification by the British (at the point of a gun, after which the “peaceful” society emerged). The Gilbertese origin myth says that long ago the Gilbertese were a peaceful society that did not know how to make war. But then came fierce warriors from Samoa to make war on them (which included eating the losers). One of the Samoan warriors thought he was being treated unfairly by the Samoan war leadership (he was not getting high–prestige body parts to eat). So he defected and taught the Gilbertese how to make war. They went on their own warring expedition, defeated the Samoans, and received their present–day islands as a home where they settled down.45

The Gilbertese origin myth is reminiscent of Rianne Eisler’s argument about Bronze Age Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. Like the Gilbertese of myth, the goddess–worshiping Minoans were supposedly peaceful until conquered by warlike neighbors (the mainland Greeks). Eisler argues that on Crete “there are no signs of war.” (Eisler claims the Minoan double–sided axes, sometimes used today as feminist symbols, are not battle–axes but agricultural tools.) Notably, the elaborate Minoan palaces did not include fortifications, in contrast to those on the mainland. But did the Minoans not know war? The evidence suggests otherwise. They had weapons and “probably…fought sea battles.” An island with a strong fleet perhaps does not need to fortify its palaces. In the middle of the second millennium BC the Minoans dominated the Aegean area. Greek legends tell of mainland cities paying over tribute to the legendary King Minos (seven lads and seven maidens to feed the Minotaur on Crete; at least they were gender–balanced in that regard). Even for a rich trading island–state, to dominate neighbors and exact tribute means using war. The written language of the Minoans of this period has not been deciphered so we have a hard time knowing the actual role of war in the culture.46

Other prehistoric “peaceful societies” reinforce the lesson of latent wars as well. On Easter Island, Polynesian culture apparently flourished for centuries without (much?) war, then fell into disastrous “endemic warfare.” Mayan society, which flourished more than a thousand years ago, was thought until recently to exemplify a peaceful society. Recent archaeological discoveries, however – especially the deciphering of the language – indicate that the Mayans were very warlike, especially in their last decades when they may have driven their civilization into rapid decline through devastating wars. “[W]ar was already a part of Maya life at the beginning of their written history, some 2,000 years ago.” The Mardudjara Aborigines of the Australian desert have been called a peaceful society, but that society does fight wars, with shields, clubs, spears, and boomerangs. Granted, its wars are highly ritualistic and did not actually kill anyone while the anthropologists were watching.47

The Copper Eskimo are one of those few societies that rarely make war, according to the cross–cultural surveys mentioned earlier. However, they “experienced a high level of feuding and homicide before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police suppressed it,” and they carried out at least one massacre of Indians with whom they were trading. An early observer of the Copper Eskimo wrote: “They at first with us carried their knives…in readiness for immediate use; but notwithstanding the dread of our firearms may have kept them quiet, I am inclined to think they are an inoffensive race” – not a ringing endorsement of peacefulness. Other studies of Copper Eskimo society do not mention either an especially peaceful or warlike tendency. A similar situation seems to prevail among the Eskimos of eastern Greenland, who do not seem to fight wars. A 1937 report refers to an “attitude of suspicion and slander” between groups, but actual behavior of hospitality towards both enemies and friends. However, “murder is of frequent occurrence.”48

Another relatively peaceful society, the Mbuti, has known plenty of war in the last few centuries, facing successive invasions by non–Mbuti tribes, the explorer Stanley, slave traders, villagers encroaching on the Mbuti’s forest, and Belgian colonizers. (They are currently again in a war zone in northeastern Democratic Congo.) The Mbuti live in dense forest and apparently do not fight back much, preferring to run and hide. However, when caught between warring tribes of villagers invading the forest in the past, the Mbuti sided with one or another of them. In territorial disputes between groups, the culture includes the “possibility of a resort to fighting with wooden clubs,” although this was not observed by the ethnographer.49

Regarding the Shoshone, one group was “sufficiently isolated in the deserts to have escaped the warfare to the east. They had no regalia and no interest in war. And when hostile war parties happened to enter their country they simply ran away to the mountains.” But another Shoshone group “were sufficiently exposed to raiding parties…and sufficiently in contact with warring Shoshoni and Ute to have acquired some interest in warfare…[and] have war regalia.”50

Actual peaceful societies Despite these cases where peaceful societies turn out to hold the latent potential for war, a handful of exceptions – in all the world and all history – qualify as truly peaceful societies (i.e., cultures where war is absent). These cases are why I say “virtually all” rather than “all” societies know war. These societies all exist at the fringes of ecological viability, in circumstances where small communities are scattered in a harsh environment with little contact with each other. These cases demonstrate the extremes to which one must go to find a society where war is absent.51

The Eskimos of western Greenland present such a case. They lived in small communities, distant from each other, on a sheet of ice at the edge of a frigid sea. Many of the men of what might elsewhere be “warrior age” died while hunting in treacherous conditions. To make war on a neighboring group would have required several days’ arduous journey just to get there, and would have brought no tangible benefits. The territory could not be used and a larger territorial unit could not be administered. Stealing women would have been worthless (in a material sense) since population was limited by scarce resources. Nor did groups compete over those resources, being so spread out. Standing wealth was restricted to a few tools and shelters which each group already had. Thus, in these extreme conditions, war did not occur. Peace in this case certainly resulted from the environment and not the culture itself. These Eskimos were fully capable of lethal violence against individuals. And even a remote, harsh environment does not preclude war, as shown by the warlike Eskimos in Alaska where conditions resembled Greenland.52

The Semang use bows for hunting, but do not know about shields or armor, so the bow probably is not used as a weapon. Semang culture makes a few references to past times of fighting with neighboring tribes, but relations with neighbors are now “fairly amicable,” and ethnographies do not refer to war. The diminutive Semang (who average less than 5 feet in height) appear to be a refugee people, driven into inaccessible “least favored corners” of the Malayan islands where they live a “poor and insecure” life.53

The Xinguano of Brazil are another rare example of a society with “no tradition of violence.” They “do not conform to the profile of the typical peaceful society,” particularly because tribes in the Xingu basin are not isolated from each other but interact closely. However, the entire basin is “geographically isolated” and apparently long “served as a refuge for peoples menaced by more aggressive tribes.”54

One survey of 50 societies finds four – the Copper Eskimo, Dorobo, Tikopia, and Toda – that did not have military organizations or warfare. The common factor was their isolation from their neighbors. Nonetheless, “individuals from all four groups did fight and kill outsiders when the occasion demanded.”55

Thus, the potential for war is universal in human society, except for a handful of cases in which unusual circumstances make war impractical. The actual practice of war is not necessary or preordained. The frequency of war varies greatly. War is more important in some cultures than others. Nonetheless, war exists in virtually all cultures, and the potential for war can suddenly come to the fore even in a relatively peaceful society. This generalization applies across cultures, across today’s national states, and throughout history and, arguably, prehistory. This finding extends the scope of gendered war roles to virtually all societies.


Given the strength and scope of gendered war roles, what possible explanations might solve the puzzle of their consistency? I explore 20 possible answers, drawn primarily from feminist theories of war and peace. Feminist theorists disagree in basic ways about how gender relates to war, but they have long treated the question as important. Many of their male colleagues do not seem to share this interest, however.

Seeing gender

In North American political science and history, male war scholars’ interest in the puzzle of gendered war roles has been minimal. The topic has not attracted the funding or publications among male scholars as, for example, the similarly intriguing regularity known as the “democratic peace” (democracies rarely fight each other). Feminist political scientists and historians – nearly all women – pay attention to gender in war, but others relegate gender to the dark margins beyond their (various) theoretical frameworks for studying war. Feminist literatures about war and peace of the last 15 years have made little impact as yet on the discussions and empirical research taking place in the predominantly male mainstream of political science or military history. This omission is measurable by counting the number of headings and subheadings in a book’s index on topics relating to gender. The typical political science and history books about war – the “big” books about war’s origins and history – score zero.56

Doyle’s recent and comprehensive survey of scholarship on war and peace contains six gender–related index entries but devotes only about one–tenth of 1 percent of its space to gender. All the gender references concern women; men still do not have gender. Similarly, when gender occasionally shows up in other mainstream war studies, it does so gratuitously, as a passing note – something that could be interesting, but plays no substantive role in any of the main competing theories about war. (This pattern is less true in recent years than previously, however, and less true in Britain and Australia than in the United States. Men there are more often both subjects and authors in gender studies.)57

By contrast, anthropology – in North America and since decades ago – gives serious attention to gender–related subjects in studying war. Margaret Mead’s conclusion in the first major anthropological symposium on war (1967) called for paying “particular attention…to the need of young males to validate their strength and courage, and to…the conspicuous unwillingness of most human societies to arm women.” Anthropological thinking that connects war and gender is not limited to one ideological perspective, nor just to female scholars. Also, anthropology engages gender even though women are poorly represented among anthropologists studying war. Similarly, independent scholars outside of anthropology, political science, or history – such as Gwynne Dyer (a man) and Barbara Ehrenreich – have engaged both the mainstream war studies literatures and feminist theories of gender in war. And in 1929, sociologist Maurice Davie devoted two whole chapters of his book on war to gender.58

The gender blinders in mainstream war studies carry over to the foreign policy establishment. For example, a recent mainstream foreign policy book about “contending paradigms in international relations” – which sounds promising for the inclusion of gender – lacks any reference to gender in its 19 chapters, all written by men. The influential monthly Foreign Affairs did not carry a single article about gender issues in 1990–96. In 1998, an article on gender appeared, written by a man and arguing that biological gender differences make women more peaceful, so the “feminization of world politics” over the last century (since the suffrage movement) has created today’s “democratic zone of peace.” Foreign Affairs treated the article as a novelty, retitling it “What if Women Ran the World?” on the cover and illustrating it with bizarre century–old cartoons and photos of women in poses dominating men (e.g., with boxing gloves).59

The gender blinders also extend to male postmodern international relations scholars. Each of several recent edited volumes in postmodern international relations contains a requisite chapter about gender, written by a woman, and typically no mention of gender at all in the chapters written by men. In fact, the author’s gender is a highly significant predictor of whether the chapter includes or omits gender (see Table 1.2). Thus, even in postmodern international relations, gender is ghettoized.60

Table 1.2 Author’s gender and attention to gender in 45 postmodern international relations chapters

  Includes gender Omits gender

Author is…    
Male 1 31
Female 9 4

p < .001 by Fisher’s Exact Test (see Blalock 1972, 287). Included chapters are those of Beer and Hariman eds. 1996, MacMillan and Linklater eds. 1995, and Shapiro and Alker eds. 1996.

Feminist scholarship on war Given so many men’s low interest level, most political science studies of gender roles in war come from a feminist perspective and most are written by women. In the International Studies Association, women scholars are seven times more likely than men to belong to the gender studies section, and this disparity is greater at the leadership level, even though the section welcomes men and has done organized outreach to them. The authors and editors of 25 international relations books that address war and peace from explicitly feminist perspectives consist of 21 women and one man (see Table 1.3). Nearly all the individual contributors to the edited volumes on this list are also female. Of course, many women scholars are not feminists, and a few male scholars do study gender. Yet, as Ann Tickner puts it, “there is something about this field [international relations] that renders it particularly inhospitable and unattractive to women.” Many recent signs suggest change in the discipline, and gender articles now appear occasionally in mainstream journals, but gender is still segregated conceptually from the subjects that most scholars of war study.61

Table 1.3 Major works of feminist political science scholarship on war, 1982–98

Judith Hicks Stiehm, ed. Women and Men’s Wars. [1982 journal issue] 1983.
Cynthia Enloe. Does Khaki Become You? The Militarization of Women’s Lives. 1983.
Betty Reardon. Sexism and the War System. 1985.
Birgit Brock–Utne. Educating for Peace: A Feminist Perspective. 1985.
Jean Bethke Elshtain. Women and War. 1987.
Ruth Roach Pierson, ed. Women and Peace: Theoretical, Historical and Practical Perspectives. 1987.
Cynthia Enloe. Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. 1989.
Judith Hicks Stiehm. Arms and the Enlisted Woman. 1989.
Adrienne Harris and Ynestra King, eds. Rocking the Ship of State: Toward a Feminist Peace Politics. 1989.
Birgit Brock–Utne. Feminist Perspective on Peace and Peace Education. 1989.
Sara Ruddick. Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace. 1989.
Jean Bethke Elshtain and Sheila Tobias, eds. Women, Militarism, and War: Essays in History, Politics, and Social Theory. 1990.
Rebecca Grant and Kathleen Newland, eds. Gender and International Relations. [1989 journal issue] 1991.
V. Spike Peterson, ed. Gendered States: Feminist (Re) Visions of International Relations Theory. 1992.
Ann Tickner. Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security. 1992.
Cynthia Enloe. The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War. 1993.
V. Spike Peterson and Anne Sisson Runyan. Global Gender Issues: Dilemma in World Politics. 1993.
Betty Reardon. Women and Peace: Feminist Visions of Global Security. 1993.
Christine Sylvester. Feminist Theory and International Relations in a Postmodern Era. 1994.
Sandra Whitworth. Feminism and International Relations. 1994.
Peter Beckman and Francine D’Amico, eds. Women, Gender, and World Politics. 1994.
Francine D’Amico and Peter Beckman, eds. Women in World Politics. 1995.
Jan Pettman. Worlding Women: A Feminist International Politics. 1996.
Judith Hicks Stiehm, ed. It’s Our Military, Too! 1996.
Jill Steans. Gender and International Relations: An Introduction. 1998.
Lois Ann Lorentzen and Jennifer Turpin, eds. The Women and War Reader. 1998.

Feminist scholarship on war, building on a long tradition, has grown rapidly since the late 1980s. As in other fields, feminist research often tries to bring out the role of gender, and of women, in social relationships. In doing so, however, feminist theorists follow several schools of thought, with different and sometimes incompatible assumptions and analyses about war. I will try – within the limits of this cursory review – to give a sense of how feminist theorists of different schools think about war and peace.

Strands of feminist theory “The feminist theory” of war does not exist. Rather, a number of feminist arguments provide sometimes contradictory explanations and prescriptions. Feminist political theorist Jean Elshtain describes a “polyphonic chorus of female voices… At the moment [1987], feminists are not only at war with war but with one another.” This chorus is not simple to categorize, and to cover a range of approaches I will need to oversimplify.62

Most feminist approaches share a belief that gender matters in understanding war. They also share a concern with changing “masculinism” in both scholarship and political–military practice, where masculinism is defined as an ideology justifying male domination. They see women as a disadvantaged class, unjustly dominated and exploited by men. (According to 1981 data, women worldwide are half the population and a third of the paid labor force. They work two–thirds of the hours, but receive only a tenth of the income and own a hundredth of the property.)63

Beyond these points of agreement, different feminist schools diverge. Various authors describe feminist theories in terms of three perspectives or schools of thought. (Similar categorizations of theories into three schools have been applied to economics, history, and international relations.) I sort feminist theories of war into three main strands, though most feminists combine elements of these approaches in various ways. They explain gendered war roles in different ways.64

Liberal feminism: sexist discrimination – women can be capable warriors.

Difference feminism: deep–rooted and partly biological gender differences.

Postmodern feminism: arbitrary cultural constructions favoring those men in power.

These strands roughly organize my hypotheses and thus my presentation of empirical evidence. Chapter 2 tests liberal feminism against the record of women’s participation in combat. Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 test difference feminism against evidence from biology and psychology. Chapter 5 and (in part) Chapter 6 test theories about the construction of gendered war roles, against historical and cross–cultural evidence.

Liberal feminism Liberal feminists argue that women equal men in ability, and that the gendering of war reflects male discrimination against women (i.e., sexism). Liberal feminism often frames gender inequalities in terms of a classical liberal emphasis on individual rights. Women have the right to participate in all social and political roles (including war roles) without facing discrimination. The exclusion of women from positions of power in international relations both is unfair to women and prevents half the population from making its best contribution to the society. Liberal feminists do not believe women’s inclusion would fundamentally change the international system, nor a given country’s foreign policy, nor war itself. Liberal feminist scholars often include women as subjects of study – women state leaders, women soldiers, and other women operating outside the traditional gender roles in international relations. This strand of work pays homage to women who succeeded in nontraditional positions, despite the obstacles they faced in a sexist society.

Liberal feminism does not treat war very differently from other aspects of social life in which men dominate the high–paying, advantaged roles. Soldiering as a job holds potential for future high–paying political and military leadership positions. Ten US Presidents were generals, and combat experience helped others such as George Bush and John Kennedy to win election. From a liberal feminist perspective, women’s exclusion as soldiers resembles their exclusion through history as doctors, lawyers, politicians, and other high–status professionals. Calls for the inclusion of women and the end of gender discrimination are not radical challenges to the status quo, according to liberal feminists.65

Liberal feminists argue that women have performed well when, under military necessity, they have been allowed to participate in military operations – such as the WACs shown in Figure 1.5 – but have faced persistent discrimination, including dismissal from such positions once a war ends. When the US military shifted from conscription to an all–volunteer force, after Vietnam, it became expedient to integrate more women into the military, especially since social pressures for women’s equality were rising and since the military itself was shifting towards more support troops relative to “combat” troops. Starting in the late 1970s, liberal US feminists supported extension of the military draft to include women: “Liberal feminists…[argue that] the best way to insure women’s equal treatment with men is to render them equally vulnerable with men to the political will of the state.” Liberal feminists reject the idea that women are any more peaceful than men by nature. Eleanor Smeal, as President of the National Organization for Women, once declared that “Peace is not a feminist issue.”66

Figure 1.5 US Army nurses arrive in Britain, 1944. [US National Archives, NWDNS–111–SC–192605–S.]

US helicopter pilot Rhonda Cornum, who was captured by Iraq in the Gulf War, exemplifies liberal arguments regarding women soldiers. She writes that while housed in a parking garage in Saudi Arabia, “my being female seemed to make no difference to most people,” and she was aghast at the idea of separating the ten women there from their units to live together. The lack of privacy “didn’t seem to bother anyone.” “Being a girl just didn’t matter.”

I think women are just like men; women who are motivated to be in the military have the same range of reasons as men. In terms of performance, there’s also that same range. I think some women will be terrific, some will be brainless, and the vast majority will simply do their job and do it well…[W]omen behave the same when they are captured as men do.67

Feminist critiques of liberal feminism The major criticism of liberal feminism from other feminists has been that it “ask[s] women to exchange major aspects of their gender identity for the masculine version – without prescribing a similar ‘degendering’ project for men.” By integrating into existing power structures including military forces and the war system without changing them, women merely prop up a male–dominated world instead of transforming it.68

Difference feminism

Difference feminists believe that women’s experiences are fundamentally different from men’s. In this view, the problem is not that men and women are different but that sexist cultures devalue “feminine” qualities instead of valuing, celebrating, and promoting them. Regarding war, difference feminists argue that women, because of their greater experience with nurturing and human relations, are generally more effective than men in conflict resolution and group decision–making, and less effective than men in combat. Some difference feminists see such gender differences as biologically based, whereas others see them as entirely cultural, but they agree that gender differences are real, and not all bad.

Variants and related approaches to difference feminism include “standpoint feminism” (women’s experiences provide a shared perspective or standpoint on the world), and “essentialist feminism,” meaning that gender has a core essence (used as an accusation these days). “Radical feminism” sees women’s oppression worldwide as rooted in patriarchy – male dominance of social life from the family to the economy, the state, and international relations – and sees reforms and integration into men’s spaces as inadequate. Some difference feminists favor gender separatism, in order to create a space for women that is not dominated by men.69

Difference feminists advance two theoretical claims relevant to war: first, men are relatively violent and women relatively peaceable. Second, men are more autonomous and women more connected in their social relationships.70

Violent men, peaceful women In this view, women’s caregiving roles and potential for motherhood best suit them to give life, not take it. Women are more likely than men to oppose war, and more likely to find alternatives to violence in resolving conflicts. (Hillary Clinton in 1996, for example, told a radio audience that her husband finds “action” movies “relaxing” but she does not like them, explaining that “I think that’s kind of a male thing.”) Thus, according to difference feminism, women have unique abilities as peacemakers. Even Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – an exemplary case for liberal feminism by virtue of her success as a “hawk” in the male–dominated establishment – holds some difference–feminist views. She argues that correcting the gender imbalance in foreign affairs is “not simply about fairness. Today’s world needs the unique set of skills and experiences that women bring to diplomacy. I am convinced, for example, that greater numbers of women both as ambassadors and as managers at the UN would lead to a greater emphasis on practical solutions.” She told refugee girls from Afghanistan that women around the world “are all the same, and we have the same feelings.” The idea of integrating women into mainstream politics in order to change war has male advocates as well, dating back to World War I.71

Some feminist scholars see an unprecedented political empowerment of women now underway, which could soon reach a “critical mass” that would transform world politics as countries adopted less warlike policies and reduced their military spending. Of 32 women presidents or prime ministers in the twentieth century, 24 held power in the 1990s.

The data on women in politics worldwide, however, make me wonder how close we are to a critical mass. In the 1980s, women made up about 5 percent of heads of state, cabinet ministers, and senior policy makers worldwide, and about 10 percent of members of national legislatures and senior officials in intergovernmental organizations. In the United States, fewer than 10 percent of legislators were women. Norway had the highest percentage of women legislators in the world, but over 98 percent of chairpersons of the powerful municipal councils were men, as were nearly 90 percent of Norwegian judges. (The ten countries with most women in legislatures were all either communist or Nordic countries, where legislatures held little real power.) In Sweden, men made up 90 percent of senior government officials. In China, 67 ministries were headed by men and the other five were vacant. Among the top 4,000 executives of Fortune 500 companies, fewer than half of one percent were women. From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, these data changed only incrementally. By 1997, women still held only 15 percent of seats in national legislatures in developed countries and about 10 percent in developing countries. As of 2000, women’s seats in legislatures worldwide stand at 14 percent (and only in six small Northern European countries do they exceed 33 percent). In 1995, the world’s UN delegation heads were 97 percent male.72

Many difference feminists have long believed that women cannot change masculine institutions by joining them, and are better off remaining apart from them (thus preserving valued feminine qualities). In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft argued that women deserved equal rights with men, but should not participate in war. Wollstonecraft did not see women’s maternal experience as making them opposed to war, but rather saw gender equality as compatible with a division of labor in which men served in the military and women served as mothers.73

Virginia Woolf’s 1938 Three Guineas answers a male friend who has asked what feminists might contribute to preventing war (as fascist aggression escalated in Europe and Japan). Woolf links the participation of men in war to the male–dominated power structures within Britain, notably the military, the university, government, and business. Woolf argues that “the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected,” and teases liberal Englishmen, who benefited from the oppression of women, for their fear of being oppressed by fascism (which she finds similar to patriarchy). Woolf tells men: “Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we [women] have never felt or enjoyed.” She rejects men’s patriotism: “[A]s a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” The international bonds among women create a transnational community not tied to the state system. Woolf’s approach – strategic disengagement of women from the war system – contrasts with the suffragists’ move to integrate women into the war system (via the vote) in order to change it.74

Women’s peace activism has a long history (see pp. 322–31). Peace was an important plank of the suffrage program, and pacifist women during World War I organized the Women’s Peace Party. Women’s peace groups helped win the test ban treaty in the early 1960s and US disengagement from the Vietnam War in the 1970s. During the 1980s, women played a leading role in the movement against nuclear war, and several peace actions or organizations (notably the Greenham Common protests in Britain) developed specifically feminine modes of politics to work for peace (see Figure 1.6).

Figure 1.6 Women peace activists circle the Pentagon joined by scarves, 1980. [Photo © by Dorothy Marder.]

The prototypical figure of a woman peacemaker is, ironically, the product of a man’s imagination. The Athenian playwright Aristophanes wrote a political comedy, Lysistrata, critical of the costly and unpopular Peloponnesian War. In the play, a young woman named Lysistrata organizes the Athenian and Spartan women to withhold sex from the men until the men stop the war. The women also raid the Acropolis to make off with the treasury that is financing the war. The men soon come to their senses and make peace. Spartans and Athenians become friends at a banquet and everyone lives happily ever after.75

Some feminists link men’s violent nature with male sexuality (see pp. 333–56). Observers have noted the phallic quality of many weapons, from spears to guns to missiles. Other writers see in war not so much an extension of men’s sexuality but an attempt to compensate for men’s innate inability to bear children (and, hence, the meaninglessness of their lives). Militaristic discourses play on men’s fears of meaninglessness, as when Mussolini said, “War is to man what maternity is to women.” Male insecurity is a source of male violence, according to some difference feminists.76

Autonomous men, connected women A second difference–feminist argument holds that men and women think differently about their separateness or connection with other people. A large literature in this area grows out of “object relations theory” in psychology (an offshoot of psychoanalytic theory). The argument in a nutshell is that boys differentiate themselves from their female caregivers whereas girls identify with their female caregivers. Therefore boys construct social relationships in terms of autonomous individuals, interacting according to formal rules, whereas girls construct social relationships as networks of connection. This gender difference might adapt men to kill in war. Although somewhat grounded in biology (via mothers’ nursing), the outcome is driven by childcare arrangements, which cultures can change.77

Carol Gilligan’s 1982In a Different Voice popularized the separation–versus–connection theme, and stimulated much research on girls (and, recently, on boys). Gilligan argues that girls and boys develop different moral systems – based on individual rights and group responsibilities respectively – although empirical evidence has tended not to support this idea. Gilligan also connects separation–versus–connection to different patterns of play among boys and among girls, including girls’ more stable friendships (see pp. 234–35). She argues that men tend to fear connection and women tend to fear competition, and she sees aggression and violence as responses to these fears. She proposes images of hierarchy and web as alternative models of social relationships for men and women respectively. Men seek to be alone at the top of a hierarchy, fearing that others will come too close. Women seek to be at the center of a web, fearing the isolation of the periphery. Others applied these ideas directly to war, arguing that women have a distinctive perspective on war based on “maternal thinking” (a perspective rooted more in culture than biology, but still shared by women only).78

One problem with Gilligan’s work and the genre it epitomizes, say critics, is that it universalizes the experience of white American women at a particular time and place in history. All women are not the same. Gilligan herself is careful on this point. She does not think the “ethic of care” is necessarily a feminine one, although it has been associated with females in “the advantaged populations that have been studied.” Anti–feminist critics also find Gilligan’s work empirically flawed.79

An important aspect of men’s disconnectedness, according to some difference feminists, is men’s and women’s different views of social relationships within groups. In this view, men tend to see their position relative to others in the group – especially other males – in terms of a competitive hierarchy. Women tend to see their position within a group in terms of mutual support. Hierarchical organization is widespread – and generally male dominated – in the military, business, religion, and other spheres of social life. In this situation, men are especially attuned to how they look in the eyes of their fellow men. Avoiding humiliation and maintaining face become especially important. By contrast, women are seen as more practical, less concerned with rank or honor, and thus better able to cooperate within a group without letting intragroup tensions undermine the group’s work. Difference feminists would rather value women’s cooperative abilities than encourage women to become more competitive, as liberal feminism sometimes does.80

Ecofeminism I place ecofeminism with difference feminism because it begins from radical connectedness. Ecofeminism fuses various practices and theories of feminism, environmentalism, and movements for social justice and equality. Ecofeminists argue that all forms of oppression are deeply connected, with the two most fundamental forms being gender oppression and “man’s” exploitation of nature. War is an extension of the aggressive and exploitative relationships embodied in sexism, racism, and the “rape” of the environment. This whole package should be addressed in a holistic way in order to get at the problem of war. Ecofeminism influenced the character of women’s peace movements in the 1980s and 1990s, and of the Greens political parties in Europe. For instance, the women pictured in Figure 1.6 above said, “We understand all is connectedness. The earth nourishes us…”81

One line of ecofeminist thinking focuses on the supposed overthrow of peaceful goddess–worshiping nature–based religions around 4500 BC. Rianne Eisler claims that a “partnership model” was prevalent in ancient times (notably in Crete) but was displaced by the now–prevalent “dominator model.” In the partnership model, which Eisler seeks to resurrect, gender differences are not “equated with inferiority or superiority.” Eisler’s account of peaceful prehistory, however, is empirically wrong (see p. 31).82

Ecofeminist Susan Griffin sees the separation of war from women’s daily lives as a form of denial (which cannot work because the mind knows everything on a deep level). She connects combat trauma with family traumas through the concept of secrets. Secrets have an “erotic edge,” she writes, because they move us “closer to a sequestered sexual body at the core of being.” Although war occurs in public, and child abuse in private, they lead to similar forms of denial.83

Irene Diamond traces war to an “ideology of control” that gives rise to various forms of oppression (and is even reflected in liberal feminism’s demand for birth control so that women can control their bodies). She suggests that seekers of control should instead open themselves to the possibilities of mystery, wonder, and spirituality. Thus, ecofeminism sees the problem of war in very broad terms, connecting peace to a deep restructuring of society.84

Feminist critiques of difference feminism Liberal and postmodern feminists question both women’s peace movements and linkages among gender, ecology, and social oppressions. Some contest the idea that women in the military can change the military (making it reflect feminine values). Others criticize theories about women’s peaceful nature, for adopting a strict male–female dualism that reinforces patriarchy, and for supposedly validating caretaking while obscuring the role of caretakers in supporting war and warriors. Elshtain seeks to “disenthrall” difference feminists of the opposite images of “just warrior” and “beautiful soul.” Contrary to the notion of “men’s wars,” she finds women complicit in the construction of gendered war identities. Other critics argue that “the traditional women’s peace movement is based on constricting stereotypes and rigid sex roles.” However, difference feminists respond that the ideals of femininity and motherhood can be rehabilitated to serve peace, and that women’s peace movements today do so better than in the past.85

The positions of difference and liberal feminists regarding war can be somewhat reconciled by acknowledging their different levels of analysis – the individual for liberal feminism and the gender group for difference feminism. The abilities of an individual are not determined by her or his group, so liberal and difference feminisms are not incompatible. The two genders may show different propensities on average, yet individuals in both genders may span roughly the same range of abilities. (Chapter 3 shows how this concept maps onto men’s and women’s bell–curve distributions for various measures.)

Postmodern feminism

A third strand, postmodern feminism, questions the assumptions about gender made by both liberal and difference feminists. Rather than take gender as two categories of people that really exist (whether they are very different or hardly different), postmodern feminists see gender itself, and gender roles in war, as fairly fluid, contextual, and arbitrary. Gender shapes how both men and women understand their experiences and actions in regard to war. Therefore gender is everywhere, and some scholars reveal and deconstruct the implicitly gender–laden conceptual frameworks of both theorists and practitioners of war. Some postmodern feminists analyze the uses of binary oppositions, which readily map onto gender, to structure models or theories:86

Masculine/subject   Feminine/object
Knower/self/autonomy/agency   Known/other/dependence/passivity
Objective/rational/fact/logical/hard   Subjective/emotional/value/illogical/soft
Order/certainty/predictability   Anarchy/uncertainty/unpredictability
Mind/abstract   Body/concrete
Culture/civilized/production/public   Nature/primitive/reproduction/private

Postmodernism generally rejects the idea of a single, objective reality. This makes postmodernism itself difficult to describe. Various writers describe themselves as poststructuralist, postpositivist, postbehavioral, or sometimes “constructivist.” All share a general skepticism about established categories and methods of knowledge, and all emphasize the role of culture in shaping experience. The idea of a coherent category, “postmodern feminism,” may not be viable, although I use it to simplify this brief overview.

For postmodern feminists interested in war and peace, women play many roles in war, some of them even seemingly contradictory, and masculinity too differs from place to place. For example, the World War I male artillery crew in Figure 1.7 was rehearsing a Christmas play when the alert sounded. Their ability to fight war in drag symbolizes the great flexibility and diversity with which war participants enact gender roles. Because they see this diversity as important, postmodern feminists also delve into the connections among gender, race, ethnicity, nation, class, and other aspects of identity. Postmodern feminism embodies a tension, however, between the postmodern emphasis on the diversity of women’s experience and the feminist assumption that women constitute a meaningful category.87

Figure 1.7 Gunners in dresses, World War I. [© Topham/The Image Works.]

Some postmodern feminists have analyzed the place of gender – not just women – in literary representations of war from both contemporary and historical times, and from a variety of non–European locales. Other feminists (using postmodern and more traditional methods) analyze the gendered construction of states and wars in various times and places.88

A strong version of postmodern feminist analysis – claiming that all gender roles are arbitrary and pliable – runs into some trouble with war. In such a view, “[w]hat is considered masculine in some societies is considered feminine or gender–neutral in others and vice versa; the only constant appears to be the importance of the dichotomy.” Yet this chapter has identified another cross–cultural constant – primary gender roles in war.89

Feminism and biology

For decades, feminists of all schools have fought anti–feminists regarding biology. In its crudest version, the argument is whether or not male superiority is biologically ordained. Many feminists are alarmed by arguments that lead in the direction of biological necessity as an explanation of present–day gender relations.

The basic argument that many feminists challenge states that gender roles in general, and those concerning violence and aggression in particular, are genetically determined, natural, difficult to change, and adaptive in an evolutionary sense. These accounts portray modern life – sexist and warlike – as a reflection of unchanging biological wiring since prehistoric times. Desmond Morris’s 1967The Naked Ape exemplifies this tendency: “for ‘hunting’ read ‘working’, for ‘hunting grounds’ read ‘place of business’, for ‘home base’ read ‘house,’ for ‘pair–bond’ read ‘marriage’, for ‘mate’ read ‘wife’, and so on.” Note that he did not say “for ‘mate’ read ‘husband.’” The account revolves around males. Females, be they primates or modern wives, are treated as passive.90

Leading sociobiologist E. O. Wilson argues that in the majority of animal species, “[m]ales are characteristically aggressive, especially toward one another.” Wilson argues that “temperamental differences between the human sexes are…consistent with the generalities of mammalian biology. Women as a group are less assertive and physically aggressive.” The degree of difference varies by culture, he says, but this is much less important than the consistency of the qualitative difference. The difference in behavior is “genetic[:]…girls are predisposed to be more intimately sociable and less physically venturesome.” Wilson and other sociobiologists see war as innate and (at one time) adaptive in human evolution. The soldier risks his life to protect or better the lives of other members of his family group, increasing his genes’ reproductive success, in this view.91

In addition to their substantive objections to these arguments, some feminists challenge methods of knowledge generation that they see as based on masculine qualities – such as objectivity, control, and theoretical parsimony (especially binary dualisms) at the expense of detailed knowledge about complex social relationships. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote, men describe the world “from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.” The seventeenth–century philosopher of science Francis Bacon cast nature as female and “used quite explicit sexual metaphors to demonstrate the requisite relations of domination and seduction that were to replace an earlier attitude of wonder and contemplation.” Feminists particularly object to “determinism” – the idea that our biology determines our destiny as genes simply play out their programs (see pp. 128–32).92

Feminism and international relations theory

In political science, feminist scholarship forms a theoretical perspective distinct from all the traditional approaches to war and peace (see Table 1.4). Beyond the obvious point that mainstream approaches omit both gender and women, some feminist political scientists argue that traditional theories of war reflect deep masculinist biases – their models of the world (like Bacon’s above) assume male superiority.93

Table 1.4 D’Amico’s comparison of approaches to international relations theory

  Realist Pluralist Critical Feminist

Actors States States, IOs, MNCs Classes, social movements People
System Anarchy Community Hierarchy Multiple hierarchies or patriarchy
Character Independence Interdependence Dependence Multiple relations

Source: D’Amico 1994, 57.

Realism Realism, the dominant theoretical school in international relations theory, is a particular subject of feminist rethinking. Realists conceptualize war and peace in terms of (1) territorial states operating as autonomous actors, (2) states rationally pursuing their own interests, and (3) an “anarchic” system of sovereign states (lacking a central government to enforce rules). Feminist theorists criticize each of these three assumptions. They note that the focus on the interstate level of analysis largely blinds realists to gender effects, since gender relations operate mainly at the group and individual levels. Some feminists argue that realists emphasize autonomy and separation because men find separation less threatening than connection. The assumptions of state sovereignty, then, reflect the ways in which males tend to interact and to see the world. These constructions date from the classical masculine–dominated states, notably in ancient Greece, which were models for modern Western states.94

The realist conception of rationality – formal, mechanistic, and selfish – has also been criticized by many feminists as a radically incomplete view of human nature. It is not that emotional females lack rationality – though some difference feminists find male rationality unnecessarily purged of emotion – but rather that rationality need not be defined so individualistically and myopically. “The nation is often called up in familial language…that is strangely different from the Realist representations of power politics and rational self–national interest.” Some feminists – like traditional liberals in nonfeminist international relations theory – see the alternative to realists’ anarchy as community. (The international community can be readily cast as familial: the director of a Gallup poll of Eastern European countries characterized the motivations of those wanting to join NATO as resembling what a “child does when it cuddles a mother, for no particular reason but to generally feel safer.”)95

Gender in classical realism Gender themes weave through several of the classical works favored by modern realists. Sun Tzu instructed Chinese state rulers 2,500 years ago on using power to advance their interests and protect their survival. (His book became required reading for US Marine officers in the 1980s.) In the most famous episode in Sun Tzu’s book, a king was thinking of hiring Sun Tzu as an advisor. As a test, he asked Sun Tzu if he could turn the king’s harem of 200 concubines into troops. Sun Tzu divided the women into two units, and put them under the command of the king’s two favorite concubines respectively. To show he meant business, he brought in the equipment used for executing people. Then he explained to the harem the signals to face forward, backward, right, and left. When he gave the signals, the women just laughed. Sun Tzu explained the signals again, but again the women just laughed. Finally, Sun Tzu found the “officers” (the two favorite concubines) at fault, had them both executed on the spot, and replaced them with the next most high–ranking concubines. Now when Sun Tzu gave the signals, the harem obeyed flawlessly. Sun Tzu declared that the troops were in good order and could be deployed as the king desired. In this story, as with the Greek Amazon myths discussed earlier, feminine and masculine seem to represent undisciplined nature and controlled domination respectively. The development of power begins by bringing the feminine under control by violence.96

Another favorite realist classic, Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War, declares that “the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.” What the strong have the power to do in the incident he describes – and in fact do – is to kill all the adult male Melians and take the women and children as slaves (as was typical in Greek warfare). Central to this key realist text is the division of males as people, who must be killed, from females as property, which can be taken.97

Machiavelli wrote: “Fortune is a woman, and it is necessary if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force.” In his short chapter on “How a State is Ruined Because of Women,” two men representing different factions of a polity competed for marriage to a rich woman whose father was dead. The two factions came to arms, each sought outside allies, and one side’s allies conquered the city leaving the winning faction dependent on an outside power. Machiavelli draws the lesson that “women have been causes of much ruin, and have done great harm to those who govern a city, and have caused many divisions in them.” Machiavelli lists rape and violation, along with the breaking of marriage promises, as the types of injury (i.e., to men, of course) that could make enemies unnecessarily. In his chapter on conspiracies, Machiavelli gives a half dozen examples in which women’s presence disrupts plans or creates an information leak leading to disaster. He endorses Aristotle’s warning that “the insolence of women has ruined many tyrannies,” and that quarrels concerning women can spark major political problems. Thus, the theme of gender domination runs through several classics of realism.98

Liberalism and peace studies Traditionally, liberals in international relations (including “idealists”) dispute the three main assumptions of realism, as feminists do. They pay attention to individuals, groups, and societies below the state level. They find in the psychology of individual and group decision making – including misperception, emotion, fatigue, bias, self–delusion, personal and bureaucratic rivalry, and groupthink – deep challenges to the idea of rational statecraft. Liberals also see international interactions as structured not by anarchic power relations but by norms and institutions based on reciprocity and even law. Liberals focus not on power over others but on power to accomplish desirable ends, which may require capitalizing on common interests. (Some feminists treat “power over” as a masculinist concept.)99

Traditional liberalism, then, would seem to have great potential for the inclusion of gender in studying war and peace. In fact, however, traditional liberalism has paid little attention to gender. Kant’s feminist critics say he exhibits gender bias. He downgrades human emotions and other qualities associated historically with women, giving them little moral weight because they lie outside the realm of reason. The idea of reason, central to Western liberal values, has a long history on the masculine side of a gendered dichotomy. The early idealist emphasis on international law, and the ongoing liberal emphasis on individual human rights, may reflect masculinist tendencies to see human interactions in terms of autonomous individuals governed by formal rules. Liberalism depends deeply on the idea of autonomous individuals, and the “notion of community in liberal theory is fragile and instrumental.” Liberals once explicitly excluded women from their theories, but recently have assumed that all humanity behaves in the same way.100

Liberal international relations scholarship in recent years has focused on the war propensities of democratic versus authoritarian states, seeking to explain the “democratic peace” – democracies fight, but almost never against each other. Some feminists argue that the enfranchisement and empowerment of women is a crucial aspect of democratization worldwide. (Early suffragettes thought women would vote against war more often than men, but this materialized as only a modest tendency.) The possible gendered aspects of democratic peace deserve systematic study.101

Neoliberalism, which emerged in international relations theory in the 1980s, abandons the traditional liberals’ critiques on all three realist assumptions, and argues that even so, realists’ pessimism about peace and cooperation do not follow. From feminist perspectives, neoliberalism moves backward from traditional liberalism by granting realists the very assumptions that feminists criticize. Ironically, though, a leading neoliberal theorist, Robert Keohane, is the rare high–status male international relations theorist who has engaged gender issues.102

Scholars of peace studies, like many feminists and traditional liberals, view war in the context of multiple levels of analysis rather than just the interstate level, see oppression as a cause of war, and support peace movements. Peace studies has been more accepting of the assumptions behind difference feminism – that gender differences are real, that women are more peaceful – than have most scholars in women’s or gender studies. Some feminists in peace studies worry that criticizing these “essentialist assumptions” would open rifts that could weaken peace studies. Despite these connections of feminism with peace studies, feminist theory has had a limited impact to date on peace studies overall, and again most of the relevant work is by women.103


The evidence presented in this chapter establishes that war is deeply rooted in the human experience, and that gendered war roles are permanent – a part of a society’s readiness for the possibility of war. Males occupy the ongoing role of potential fighters, even in relatively peaceful societies. Amazon myths aside, in only one documented case (Dahomey) did women make up a substantial fraction of combat forces in a regular standing army over many years. This regularity in gender roles in war contrasts with the much greater diversity found both in war itself and in gender roles outside war.

Although most male scholars of war bypass questions of gender, feminist theorists have elaborated a number of ways that gender affects war. In some areas, such as paying attention to gender and to women, the various feminist approaches overlap. In other areas, such as whether men are innately violent, the approaches often diverge or contradict each other.

From theory to evidence

I hope to survey the “state of knowledge” – a zone of shared understandings among experts in various fields of study, based on robust empirical evidence. In any research community, this consensus is roughly demarcated, with contested zones around the borders (and sometimes closer to the core). For any science, furthermore, the state of knowledge is always provisional, pending new evidence that may emerge. Nonetheless, for a given, specific, little question, in many cases some body of reliable empirical evidence can adequately answer it. The evidence may be complex and even contradictory in places, but it is not arbitrary. The evidence presented in this book is my attempt to synthesize the state of knowledge on the relationship of war with gender.104

The foregoing discussion gives complex theoretical debates short shrift, because this book is a dossier of evidence, not a theoretical contribution. As the theoretician Freud wrote, when asked by Einstein about ending war, “little good comes of consulting a theoretician…on practical and urgent problems!” With apologies to theorists, then, I will follow that famous deductivist, Sherlock Holmes, and turn to empirical investigation to sort out an array of theories:“‘Data! Data! Data!’ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’”105


1 Tuana 1983, 625; James 1997, 214; Oudshoorn 1994; Laqueur 1990, 8.

2 Forsberg 1997a, 17; Carneiro 1994, 6; Reyna 1994, 30; Ferguson 1984, 5.

3 Hobbes in Taylor 1976, 131; Kant 1795; Forsberg 1997b.

4 Aztecs: Hassig 1988; Keegan 1993, 108–14; Harris 1977, skulls 159; women: Chagnon 1996; Durbin and Bowlby 1939, 114; Chinese: Sun Tzu 1963; Brazil: Murphy 1957, 1025; Lebanon: Cooke 1987, 164.

5 Howard 1976, mercenary 37.

6 Dani: Ember and Ember 1990, 406; cf. Maring: Harris 1974, 64; Civil: Keegan and Holmes 1985, 141–43.

7 Ehrenreich 1997a, 125; Tiger 1969, 104; Van Creveld 1993, 5.

8 United Nations Women 1995; Segal and Segal 1993; Presidential Commission 1993, ground C31.

9 Eller 2000; few: Anderson 1967, 75; De Pauw 1998, 43–48; Kanter 1926, 32; Boulding 1992/I, 218–19; Alpern 1998, 7.

10 Seymour 1965, Trojan 628.

11 In Kleinbaum 1983, 7–8.

12 Davis–Kimball 1997, suggest 45, armor 8, same 48.

13 Davis–Kimball 1997, 47–48; Kleinbaum 1983, 8.

14 Hype: Wilford 1997a; Perlman 1997; Sawyer 1997; Davis–Kimball 1997, artifacts 47; Taylor 1996, 199–205; Fraser 1989, furthermore 18–19.

15 Keegan 1993, 136; Barfield 1994; Diamond 1997, 74–77, 91, 164, 358; Sanday 1981, 146; Ferrill 1985, most–arm 40; Watkins 1989, heroic 28, rout 31.

16 Henderson and Henderson 1978, mirage xiii.

17 Steward and Faron 1959, 190, 209, 223, 245; Dransart 1987, 62, 65; Shoumatoff 1986, 13, 36, 44.

18 Salmonson 1991, 96–97; Murphy and Murphy 1985, 130–33.

19 Fraser 1989, 19–22; Enloe 1983, 117–18; Kleinbaum 1983; Kanter 1926; Bennett 1967; DuBois 1982; Tyrrell 1984; Salmonson 1991; Wilford 1997a; Alpern 1998, 8; Macdonald 1987a, 8; Macdonald 1987b; Kirk 1987; Dransart 1987.

20 Kleinbaum 1983, flies 1, 202, 206–7; Washington Post, August 3, 1998, Albright D3; Brady 1997.

21 www.tombraider.com; Alta Vista search engine, June 23, 1999; Goodfellow 1998; personality: in Barboza 1998.

22 Lee 1979, 388.

23 Herdt 1987; Herdt 1981, 209; Huyghe 1986, 35; none: Goldschmidt 1989.

24 Lepowsky 1993; Wilford 1994.

25 Fabbro 1978, open 138, surplus 138; Ross 1993b, 38; Shostak, 1981, !Kung 239–46.

26 Engels 1884.

27 Species: Lorenz 1963; Itani 1982, 361, 367; Eibl–Eibesfeldt 1979, 231; Shaw and Wong 1989, 7; Van Der Dennen and Falger eds. 1990, 14.

28 Leacock 1981; 1982; Casey and Tobach 1991; Casey 1991, 17–18; Dyer 1985, 5–11, 5; Eisler 1987; De Pauw 1998, 26–33, 14; Benderly 1987, 69.

29 Ember 1978, rare 444; Eibl–Eibesfeldt 1974; Knauft 1991, 418; Van Der Dennen 1990b, 257–69; Kelly 2000; Robarchek 1990.

30 Ember and Ember 1994, 189–91; Meggitt 1977, 201; Cohen 1986; measure: Knauft 1987; Lee 1979, 398–99; Keeley 1996, 29–30.

31 Eibl–Eibesfeldt 1974, Canadian 136; Keeley 1996, Australian 30; Ember and Ember, 1997, pacification 4–5; Ferguson 1997, 331; Ferguson and Whitehead eds. 1992; Ferguson 1990, 51–54; Harding 1986, 96; Knauft 1993.

32 Yanomamö: Chagnon 1996; Chagnon 1967; Chagnon 1990; Harris 1984; M. Harris 1989, 311; Walton 1981; Keegan 1993, 104, pristine 94; Harris 1977, steel 67–78; Chagnon 1992, machetes 110, 105–9; passé: Reyna and Downs 1994, xiii; suppress: Ember and Ember, 1997, 4–5.

33 Reyna and Downs 1994, only xvii; Ember and Ember 1994, compare 188–89; Ember and Ember, 1997, ubiquitous 5.

34 Martin and Frayer eds. 1997; Keeley 1996, skeletons viii, 65–69, 174, 32–35, 89, 110; Leakey and Lewin 1992.

35 Ferrill 1985, 18–19, 38–44; Watkins 1989, 16, 22; O’Connell 1995; Ghiglieri 1999, 161.

36 Thomas 1959 harmless; M. Harris 1989, 288, 302; Shostak 1981, fierce–near 345; Lee 1979, 32.

37 Eibl–Eibesfeldt 1979, 171, from Wilhelm 1953, 155, from Weule 1916.

38 Malcolm 1994.

39 Thomas 1959, 10–11; Lee 1979, rare 370; Eibl–Eibesfeldt 1979, 88, 153–61.

40 Keegan 1993, 120.

41 Dentan 1979, 58, compartment 59; Keegan 1993, 120; Wrangham and Peterson 1996, 81; Wilson 1978, 100.

42 Harris 1977, 47.

43 Montagu 1976, 182–83.

44 Sun 1989; Headland ed. 1992.

45 Grimble 1953; 1972, 251–53.

46 Eisler 1987, signs 31, axes 36, battles 35–36; Boulding 1992/I, 214–17.

47 Easter: Keegan 1993, 24–28; Maya: Keeley 1996, ix; Demarest 1993, 111; Schele 1991, 6; Aborigines: Keeley 1996, 30; Tonkinson 1978, 32, 118–19.

48 Keeley 1996, feuding 29; Jean Briggs, personal communication 2000; Jenness 1970, knives 235; Stefansson 1921; McGhee 1972; Condon et al. 1996; Thalbitzer 1941; Mirsky 1937, slander 62, frequent 70.

49 Mosko 1987; Turnbull 1983, 20, 22; Turnbull 1961, 245, 275; Turnbull 1965, clubs 220; Schebesta 1933, 214.

50 Steward 1938, 176, 179.

51 Fringes: Gregor 1990, 107; Eibl–Eibesfeldt 1979, 162.

52 Mirsky 1937; Nuttall 1992; Thalbitzer 1941; Jean Briggs, personal communication 2001.

53 Schebesta 1973, 197, past 216; Evans 1937, amicable 39; Skeat and Blagden 1906; Lisitzky 1956, insecure 33–34.

54 Gregor 1990, 106–7.

55 Otterbein 1989, 20–21; Wrangham and Peterson 1996, demanded 81; Keeley 1996, 30.

56 [Number of index entries for women, men, female, male, feminine, feminist, masculine, gender, sex, rape, or prostitution – total is zero unless listed after year.] Historians: Howard 1976; Tuchman 1984; Ferrill 1985; Van Creveld 1985; Keegan and Holmes 1985; Kennedy 1987; Keegan 1993; Kagan 1995; political scientists: Aron 1954; Waltz 1959 (1); Waltz 1979; Beer 1981 (1); Levy 1983; Keohane ed. 1986; Goldstein 1988; North 1990; Vasquez 1993; Brown 1994; Porter 1994 (2); Doyle 1997 (6); Vasquez ed. 2000; cf. anthropologists: Fried, Harris, and Murphy eds. 1967 (2); Nettleship, Givens, and Nettleship eds. 1975; Ferguson ed. 1984 (4); Foster and Rubinstein eds. 1986 (13); Turner and Pitt eds. 1989; Haas ed. 1990 (8); Ferguson and Whitehead eds. 1992 (2); Reyna and Downs eds. 1994; other disciplines: Keeley 1996 (2); Dyer 1985 (2); Ehrenreich 1997a (31).

57 Doyle 1997; Van Creveld 1991, 222; Waltz 1959, 46; Beer 1981, 172; Porter 1994, 177–78; Katzenstein ed. 1996, 16, 47; Keohane ed. 1986; Rotberg and Rabb eds. 1988; Doyle and Ikenberry eds. 1997; Holsti 1985.

58 Foster and Rubinstein 1986, xii; Mead 1967a, 1967b; Fried, Harris, and Murphy eds. 1967; Nettleship, Givens, and Nettleship eds. 1975; Ferguson ed. 1984; Foster and Rubinstein eds. 1986; Rubinstein and Foster eds. 1988; Turner and Pitt eds. 1989; Haas ed. 1990; Ferguson and Whitehead eds. 1992; M. Harris 1989; Harris 1974, 83–107; Divale and Harris 1976; Casey 1991; Mead 1967b, 236; Di Leonardo ed. 1991; Shaw and Wong 1989, 181–82; Dyer 1985, 122–25; Ehrenreich 1997a, 125; Ehrenreich 1997b; Davie 1929, 23–45, 96–102.

59 Foreign Affairs 1997, paradigms; Steuernagel and Quinn 1986, 6; Hunt 1997; Fukuyama 1998, 34–40; Ehrenreich et al. 1999.

60 Whitworth 1994b, 50–55; Beer and Hariman eds. 1996; MacMillan and Linklater eds. 1995; Krause 1995; O’Brien and Parsons 1995; Shapiro and Alker eds. 1996; Pettman 1996b; Patton 1996; Sánchez–Eppler 1996; Ferguson 1996.

61 ISA headquarters, personal communication, June 13, 1997; Sylvester 1994; Pettman 1996a; Peterson 1997b; Alexandre 1989; Grant and Newland 1991; Sylvester ed. 1993; Murphy 1996; Stiehm 1982; Steans 1998; Steuernagel and Quinn 1986; Elshtain 1985; Tickner 1991, something 28; Whitworth 1994a, ix–1; Meyer and Prügl eds. 1999; Kelson and Hall 1998; Kelson 1999; cf. Ehrenreich 1997b, 21; signs: Keohane 1989; Tickner 1997; Keohane 1998; Marchand 1998; Tickner 1998; Murphy 1998, 93.

62 Elshtain 1987, 232–33; Flax 1990, 188; Cock 1991, 188.

63 Masculinism: Brittan 1989, 4; data: Tickner 1992, 75.

64 Harding 1986; Sylvester 1994; Whitworth 1994a, 11–23; Whitworth 1994b, 75–86; Burguieres 1990, 3, 9; Goldstein 2001, 124–39; variants: Carroll and Hall 1993; Pettman 1994; Jaggar 1983; economics: Ward 1979; history: Nelson and Olin 1979; international: Doyle 1997; Viotti and Kauppi eds. 1999; Goldstein 2001, 8–9.

65 Boulding 1992/I, 23; Huntington 1957, political 157–58; Tobias 1990, 164, 181–82; Addis, Russo, and Sebesta eds. 1994; Lorber 1994, 3; Howes and Stevenson eds. 1993; Schneider and Schneider 1991; Stiehm 1989; Stiehm ed. 1983; Isaksson ed. 1988.

66 Stiehm 1981; Stiehm 1988; Enloe 1983; Weinstein and White 1997; Jones 1990, state 125, 125–38; Elshtain and Tobias 1990, issue xi.

67 Cornum 1996, 9–12, 20.

68 Harding 1986, asks 53; D’Amico 1996, 380; D’Amico forthcoming.

69 Dinnerstein 1976; Fuss 1989; Ferguson 1993, 81–84; Hartsock 1983, 231; Peterson and Runyan 1993, radical 117–18; Runyan 1994, 201; Tickner 1992, 16; Sylvester 1994, 49–52; Pettman 1994, 197–98; A. Johnson 1997; Walby 1990; O’Brien 1981, 87–88, 91–92, 191–94; Mies 1986, 27; French 1994, 26; Cock 1991, 26, 28–29; Goldberg 1993, 14–15, 2.

70 Ruddick 1989, 141–59.

71 Ruddick 1989, 148; Di Leonardo 1985; Segal 1990, 261–71; Washington Post, October 22, 1996, Clinton D3; Erlanger 1997, feelings; Albright 1997; cf. Waisbrooker 1894, 6; dating: Fukuyama 1998; Cohen 1950, 108–9; Colby 1926; Hansbrough 1915, 40, 89.

72 Goldberg 1993, data 23–26; 1980s: Peterson and Runyan 1993, 6, 46–57; Jaquette 1997, developing 26; stands: International Parliamentary Union website (www.ipu.org), May 2000; UN: Seager 1997, 83.

73 Cock 1991, 187; Pierson 1987, 207.

74 Woolf 1938, public 217, teases 156, glory 9, country 166, 219, 163, 165; Ruddick 1989, 148; Pierson 1987, 220; Yudkin 1982; Andrew 1996, 120–21; Bourke 1999, 303.

75 Aristophanes 411 BC.

76 Cohn 1987; Gubar 1987; inability: Hartsock 1989, 139, 145; Kinney 1991, 47; Mussolini: Schoenewolf 1989, 86; Broyles 1984, 62.

77 Winnicott 1965; Dinnerstein 1976, 3–8, 37, 28–31, 93, 161, 176–77; Chodorow 1978, 141–70, 3, 8–10, 15–31, 83; Harding 1986, 131–34; Sayers 1986, 64–78; Elliot 1991, 99–146; Hartsock 1983, 237–39; Elshtain 1982, 345, 347; Elshtain 1987; Ruddick 1989; Brown 1988; Coole 1988; Brittan 1989, 133–38; Hirschmann 1989, 1230–31; Hirschmann 1992, 1, 11–13, 21; Held 1990, 297–302; Stevens and Gardner 1994, 65–82, 71–72, 113; Mansfield 1982.

78 Gilligan 1982, 8, 10, 31–38, 42, 45, 62, 63, 74, 173; Piaget 1932, 13–16, 76–83; Kohlberg 1976; Huston 1983, 397; Batson 1998, empirical 293–94; Turiel 1998, 883, 881–89; Lever 1978; Pollak and Gilligan 1982, 159; Tannen 1990; war: Reardon 1985, 88–92; Ruddick 1989, 143–57.

79 Hartsock 1989, 133; Hartsock 1982, 283; Benton et al. 1983; Weiner et al. 1983; Scheper–Hughes 1996, 353–57; York 1996, 325; Sampson 1988; Brittan 1989, 142; Harter 1998, 596; careful: Tronto 1987, 445, 239; flawed: Summers 2000, 124–32.

80 Brittan 1989, 77–107; Tannen 1990, 24–25, 75–76, 188–215; Gray 1992, 10–11, 19; Barry 1984.

81 Diamond and Orenstein eds. 1990; Diamond 1994, ix, Greens 48, 146, 29–30; Shiva 1993, 12–15; Boulding 1992/II, 332; Warren and Cady 1996, 12; Adams 1996, 83; King 1990; Harding 1986, 17; Elshtain 1987, 169–70; McAllister ed. 1982, nourishes 415; McBride 1995, v.

82 Eisler 1987, 42–58, xvii; Eisler 1990; Spretnak 1990, 9–11; Montouri and Conti 1993.

83 Griffin 1992, 4, 11, 16, 32–33, 38.

84 Diamond 1994, 5, 3, 13, 21, 47.

85 Question: Elshtain 1987, 243; Cornum 1996, 21, 4, 11, 12, 18; dualism: Wheelwright 1989, 16; Kaplan 1996, 165; Beckman and D’Amico 1994, 4; D’Amico and Beckman 1994, 3; Young 1990, 305–7; complicit: Elshtain 1987, 14–43, 164–66, 341–43; Cooper, Munich, and Squier 1989, xiii; critics: Carter 1996; Peterson and Runyan 1993, 123–29; Richards 1990, 213–18; Cameron 1991; Harris and King 1989, roles 1–3; A. Harris 1989.

86 Binary: Wilden 1987, 3–4; Flax 1990, 209–11; Peterson and Runyan 1993, 22–25, map 25.

87 Pettman 1996a, ix–x; Scott 1988, 48; J. Butler 1990a, 25, 2–4, 13; J. Butler 1990b; Butler and Scott eds. 1992; Ferguson 1993; Mohanty, Russo, and Torres eds. 1991; Trinh 1989; Darby ed. 1997; Walker 1988, 47–48, 57, 68, 100, 135–36, 162; Di Stefano 1990, 74; Jabri and O’Gorman eds. 1999; Flax 1990, 107–32, 18, 19, 110, 174–76; Harrington 1992; Bordo 1990, 136; Sedghi 1994.

88 Literary: Jeffords 1996; Huston 1982; Bowen and Weigl eds. 1997; Cooke and Rustomji–Kerns eds. 1994; Cooke 1996a, 3, 4, 16; Cooke 1996b; Cooke 1987; De Pauw 1998, 17; Cooper, Munich, and Squier eds. 1989; Cooke and Woollacott eds. 1993; Lynch and Maddern eds. 1995; Hanley 1991; Hobbs 1987; Gilman 1915; A. Harris 1989; Runyan 1994, 204–14; states: Pettman 1996a, 3–24; MacKinnon 1989; Brown 1988; Peterson 1992a, 33–44; Peterson 1997a, 185; Elshtain 1990, 256–58; others: Peterson and Runyan 1993, 17–44; Bem 1992, 1–3; Cohn 1987, 690–95; Cohn 1989; Cohn 1993; Elshtain 1982; Elshtain 1987; Enloe 2000; Enloe 1989, 4, 16; Enloe 1983, 207–10; Walker 1988, 97; Goodman 1984; Saywell 1985; tension: Peterson ed. 1992; Sylvester 1994, 52–63, 95; Alcoff 1988, 406; Harding 1986, 29; Hirschmann 1992, 33; other: Vansant 1988; Kitch 1991; Isaksson 1988; Inglis 1987; Moghadam ed. 1994, 5.

89 Harding 1986, what 29.

90 Morris 1967, 84; Wright 1994; Masters 1989a; Fausto–Sterling 1997; Fausto–Sterling 1985, 156–58; Tuana 1983, 624; Harding 1986, 93, 98–100; Oudshoorn 1994; Harris 1974, 77; Taylor 1996, 44–45; Di Leonardo 1991, 7; Chesser 1997; Strange 1997; Hunter ed. 1991, ix, xii; Oyama 1991, 64; Chodorow 1978, 18–23; Maccoby 1998, 291.

91 Wilson 1978, another 125, physically 128, genetic 129, 99, 116, 119–20; Wilson 1975, 254; Goodall 1999, 141–43; Dart 1953; Ardrey 1966; Barash 1977; Barash 1979, 187–88, 170–98; Konner 1982; Dawkins 1976; Axelrod and Hamilton 1981; Ridley 1997; Ghiglieri 1999, 238–40; Van Der Dennen and Falger eds. 1990; Shaw and Wong 1989, 182, 21, 179; Van Hooff 1990, 49–53; Peres and Hopp 1990, 123; Goldstein 1987.

92 Tickner 1992, truth 1; Coole 1988, contemplation 269; Harding ed. 1987; Peterson 1992a, 11–15; Peterson 1992b; Harding 1986, 23–26, 134–35; Keller 1983; Keller 1985, 158–76; Keller 1984, 47; Belenky et al. 1986; Goldberger et al. 1996, 7; Schiebinger 1993; Myers 1996, 106; Peterson and Runyan 1993, 25, 22–23; Tuana 1983, 631; Angier 1994b; Rosoff 1991; Sunday 1991; Hrdy 1981, 14; Oudshoorn 1994, x, 1–9.

93 Nelson and Olin 1979, 5–6; Beckman 1994; D’Amico 1994, table 57, 71; Elshtain 1987, 86–91; Peterson ed. 1992; Peterson 1996a; Krause 1995; Tickner 1992; Morgenthau 1948; Tickner 1991, 29; Grant and Newland 1991, 5; Reardon 1996, 317; Keller 1984, 46.

94 Waltz 1979, 19; Waltz 1959; Keohane ed. 1986; Nye 1988; Buzan, Jones, and Little 1993; Holsti 1985; Enloe 1989, 4; Jones 1996, 408–17; Keohane 1986, 2–6; territorial: Diehl ed. 1999; Goertz and Diehl 1992; Vasquez 1993, 123–52; Ruggie 1993; Huth 1996; Duchacek 1970; level: Levy 1985; Levy 1989; feminist: Tickner 1994; Tickner 1992, 74; Beckman 1994, 21; Burguieres 1990, 2; Sylvester 1992; Walker 1992; Peterson 1988; Grant 1991, 11–14.

95 Howard 1983, 22; Morgenthau 1948; Reynolds 1989; Tickner 1991, purged 30, defined 37; Tickner 1992, 73; Pettman 1996a: strangely 49; Ruddick 1990, 232; Brittan 1989, 198–204; Di Stefano 1990, 67–73; Hartsock 1983, 38–39; Keohane 1984, 120–32; anarchy: Bull 1977; Taylor 1976; familial: Perlez 1997, A14; Cohn 1990, 38.

96 Sun Tzu 1963; Trainor 1989.

97 Thucydides, 400 BC, 402.

98 Tickner 1992, force 39; Machiavelli 1996, 272–73; Machiavelli 1983, 398–424; Aristotle 1943, 251, 217–18; Pitkin 1984; Sylvester 1994, 80; Elshtain 1981, 92–99; Elshtain 1987, 169; Ferguson 1993, 73–75; cf. Hobbes: Coole 1988, 79–83.

99 Kant 1795; Angell 1914; Jervis 1976; Peterson and Runyan 1993, masculinist 45; power: Whitworth 1994b, 78; Beckman 1994, 26.

100 Elshtain 1990, Kant 261–65; Tickner 1992, instrumental–excluded 74; Tickner 1991, 37; Whitworth 1994a, 39–63, 45–47; Halliday 1991, 162; Harrington 1992, 65; Feste 1994, 41, 45; rules: Walzer 1977; Elshtain 1987, 154–55; Elshtain 1983, 343–44; Ruddick 1989, 150.

101 Russett 1990; Doyle 1986; D’Amico forthcoming; Regan and Barnello 1998; Kerber 1990, 90; Tickner 1992, 38; Hartsock 1983, 283; Phillips 1991.

102 Baldwin ed. 1993; Oye ed. 1986; Waltz 1959, 167–70; Tickner 1992, 31, 63; Grant 1991, 14–16; Keohane 1989; Keohane 1998; Murphy 1996, 529–30.

103 Turpin and Kurtz eds. 1997; Forsberg 1997a; Goldstein 2001, 146–58; Lorentzen and Turpin eds. 1998; Alonso and Chambers eds. 1995; Reardon 1985, 58, 39–106, 4, 25, 40; Reardon 1989, 20, 17; Reardon 1996, 315; Krogh and Wasmuht 1984; Brock–Utne 1985; Brock–Utne 1989; Burguieres 1990; Forcey 1989, 10; Forcey 1991, 341–42; Forcey 1993; Forcey 1995, rifts 11–12; Pierson ed. 1987; McAllister ed. 1982; Feminism and Nonviolence Study Group 1983; Carroll 1987; Ås 1982, 355; Vickers 1993; limited: Boulding 1984, 2; Klare and Chandrani eds. 1998; Woehrle 1996, 417, 420.

104 Kuhn 1970, 5.

105 Freud 1933; Hacking 1983; Doyle 1892, 120.

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