Maneuvers: The International Politics of
Militarizing Women's Lives
, by Cynthia Enloe
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

Review by Adam Jones
Published in Contemporary Politics, 7: 2 (2001), pp. 171-75.

Over the last decade-and-a-half, feminist theories of international relations have become one of the most vibrant subfields in the discipline. In the process, they have diversified to include liberal, radical, and post-modernist/post-positivist "strands." Each has sought to undermine the hegemony of realist and neo-realist framings -- typically denouncing classical I.R. as "one of the most gender-blind, indeed crudely patriarchal of all the institutionalized forms of contemporary social and political analysis,"(1) and stressing its failure adequately to incorporate a "gender variable" in the analysis.

No commentator has done more than Cynthia Enloe to explore the numerous roles that ordinary women play in the international system and global political economy -- as industrial and domestic workers; activists; diplomats and soldiers; wives of diplomats and soldiers; sex workers; and much else besides. In Bananas, Beaches, and Bases (1990) and The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War (1993), Enloe made a forceful case for moving subjects previously deemed peripheral or irrelevant to a central position in the study of international relations. Her new book Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives, cements her reputation as the great social archaeologist -- and popularizer -- of feminist I.R. Maneuvers is her most sweeping and ambitious work yet, and deserves a wide audience.

Enloe's major theme in this work is the process of militarization, which she defines as "the step-by-step process by which something becomes controlled by, dependent on, or derives its value from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria." (p. 281, emphasis in original.) She sees the process as pervasive across institutions in masculine-dominated societies. "I now believe more firmly than ever that the military is only one part of the story of militarization," she writes. "... Feminists from India, Zimbabwe, and Japan to Britain, the United States, Serbia, Chile, South Korea, Palestine, Israel, and Algeria all have found that when they have followed the bread crumbs of privileged masculinity, they have been led time and again not just to the doorstep of the military, but to the threshold of all those social institutions that promote militarization." (p. xi, 33)

As always, Enloe remains alive to many of the complexities and paradoxes of gender. Not for her the facile equation of women/femininity and peace, which has marked some (though few recent) feminist-I.R. explorations. Women's co-option, and often active cooperation, in militarized institutions is straightforwardly acknowledged: "A militarizing maneuver can look like a dance, not a struggle, even though the dance may be among unequal partners." (p. 10) No aspect of "domestic" life is too mundane to be overlooked. In Chapter 7, "Filling the Ranks," Enloe argues that "Making up a picnic basket can be militarized if it is packed with the intention of keeping up the morale of a soldier. Doing laundry for a son home on leave becomes militarized when the mother's washing is undertaken in recognition that a soldier on leave deserves to be relieved of annoying household chores." (p. 257)

The most obvious way in which women are integrated into militarized societies is as actual soldiers, a phenomenon that has only grown in significance -- and not just in "western" societies -- since the end of the Cold War. Enloe notes that "Thousands of job-hungry Russian women ... began volunteering for the Russian military in the 1990s, while their brothers were avoiding conscription notices in droves." (p. 47) In South Africa, meanwhile, "in the late 1980s, the apartheid regime had become so reliant on militarism to maintain the racist system and had by then run so short of while male conscripts to sustain that high level of militarization that not only did it have to enlist growing numbers of black and mixed-race males into its military but it also had to contradict its own Calvinist patriarchal values in order to recruit significant numbers of white women. By the end of the apartheid era [in 1994], the South African Defense Force was 11 percent women, the same proportion as the U.S. military at the time." (p. 284)

A key question for those concerned to bolster women's power and autonomy is: "at what point does women's effective agency, paradoxically, not roll back militarization but integrate women ever more thoroughly into a militarized culture?" (p. 271) Enloe grapples with this question at various points in Maneuvers. She offers -- to her credit, I think -- no hard-and-fast solution beyond the need for "carefully calibrated analytical tools with which we can measure the extent to which a woman's joining her government's military enhances her own autonomy and, by so doing, reduces [sic] the potency of those masculinity-privileging beliefs and processes that push most women to the margins of political life." (p. 48)

Nor does Enloe seek to caricature masculine dominance. "Militarized patriarchy is no more immune from contradictions than is nonmilitarized patriarchy," she contends (p. 130), noting the "persistent tension between hierarchy and male bonding" that lies "at the heart of relations between militarized men." (p. 57) Later in the book, Enloe writes that "Patriarchy has survived because of its facile adaptiveness, not because of its rigidity." (p. 285)

One of the most detailed and passionate chapters in Maneuvers is titled "The Prostitute, the Colonel, and the Nationalist" (Chapter 3). Here, Enloe not only continues the exploration of militarized prostitution that she began in Bananas, Beaches, and Bases, but deepens the analysis by defining prostitution as "an integral part of a distinctive national security doctrine" (p. 53), and placing sex workers at the heart of traditional I.R. concerns. There is much rich social history in this chapter (as there is in her discussion of women "camp followers" [Chapter 2], military wives [Chapter 5], and military nurses [Chapter 6]). The following passage, which neatly links the national and international levels of analysis, offers a fine example of the kind of theorizing that should put paid to the allegations of some of Enloe's critics that she is overly anecdotal in her approach:

Exploring militarized prostitution is important first because the lives of so many women in so many countries have been directly and indirectly affected by this institution. Second, the subject should attract our attention because so many men have had their expectations of, and fantasies about, women shaped by their own participation in militarized prostitution. Third, military policy makers' attempts to construct a type (or a particular array of types) of masculinity that best suits their military's mission are exposed by taking seriously their military prostitution policies. Fourth, we need to think carefully about militarized prostitution because calculations about it have shaped foreign policies and international alliances. Fifth, understanding any military's policies on prostitution will throw light on the thinking that lies behind its policies on rape, recruitment, sexual harassment, morale, homosexuality, pornography, and marriage. Finally, devoting analytical energy to unraveling the politics of military prostitution may help us explain why prostitution policies of a foreign military can often capture the attention of local male nationalists while those same protest leaders not only continue to ignore the prostitution policies of their own country's military but also stubbornly resist local feminists' efforts to make sexuality an explicit issue in the wider nationalist movement. (p. 51)

Aside from small mistakes of nomenclature -- Imelda Marcos of the Philippines becomes "Emelda," for example -- and a significant statistical error whereby she greatly exaggerates the death-toll at Gettysburg and US deaths in Vietnam (p. 214), there is a serious difficulty in Enloe's marginalization of the male subject, a trend I have criticized in her earlier work.(2) On occasion, Enloe does broaden the framing of gender and oppression, as with her discussion of child soldiers, "chiefly boys" (pp. 242-43); international emigration ("in no small part a history of men leaving home in order to travel beyond the clutches of the recruiting officer" [p. 245]); the brutal Russian military (pp. 257-59); and militarization in Bolivia ("depend[ent] on conscription of young men, especially young men from poor neighbourhoods" [p. 296]). But in general, men tend to enter her "gender" analysis to the extent that their mindsets and actions have an impact on women -- rarely as subjects deserving attention and empathy in their own right.

It could be argued that a book subtitled "The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives" is under no obligation to carry the analysis this far. But at times, the "missing male" leads to a one-dimensional and misleading depiction of the broader events that Enloe considers. A good example is the chapter on "When Soldiers Rape." It is to be commended for its rigour in constructing a typology and wide-ranging institutional analysis of militarized rape:

The conditions that do seem especially likely to produce militarized rapes in the name of natonal security are (1) when a regime is preoccupied with "national security"; (2) when a majority of civilians believe that security is best understood as a military problem; (3) when national security policy making is left to a largely masculinized policy elite; (4) when the police and military security apparatuses are male-dominated; (5) when the definitions of honor, loyalty, and treason are derived from the institutional culture of the police and the military; (6) when those prevailing institutional cultures are misogynous; (7) when men seen as security threats are imagined by security officials to be most vulnerable in their roles as fathers, lovers, and husbands; and mostly importantly, (8) when some local women are well enough organized in opposition to regime policies to become publicly visible. If the first seven of these eight conditions are permitted to develop, then militarized rape becomes more probable, even when the country is not engaged in open warfare. By the late 1970s, all eight conditions had become entrenched in countries otherwise as dissimilar as the Philippines and Chile. (p. 124)

But in addressing specific instances of mass rape, as in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Enloe signally fails to include males as anything but perpetrators of atrocities. In discussing Rwanda, for example, she cites the conclusions of Doctors without Frontiers that "every adult woman and every adolescent girl spared a massacre by militias was then raped" (p. 132). But she ignores the fact that virtually no Tutsi or oppositionist-Hutu male was "spared a massacre by militias." While women's ethnicity was viewed as malleable, and women were generally viewed as less of a "threat" than civilian males, no escape option, however grim, was available to men. The effect, intended or not, is to depict women as the primary targets of the Rwandan holocaust -- a significant misrepresentation, and one that tends also to preclude consideration of Hutu women's role as génocidaires (including their regular collaboration in the genocidal rape of Tutsi women).(3)

Likewise, Enloe cites the European Union's estimate that some 20,000 Bosnian Muslim women and adolescent girls were raped by Bosnian Serb forces. But her (quoted) depiction of rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing is again woefully one-sided:

Rape has been used as one method to terrorize civilian populations in villages and forcing ethnic groups to leave [according to the U.N. "Investigation into Rapes in Bosnia," which published its report in 1993]. ... Serb paramilitary units would enter a village. Several women would be raped in the presence of others so that word would spread throughout the village and a climate of fear was created. ... Those male villagers who had wanted to stay then decided to leave with their women and children in order to protect them from being raped. ... Often, men were deported or fled. Women were then often raped in their own homes or taken from their hopes to another location to be raped ... (p. 140)

This is little more than a parody of the Serbs' typical "ethnic cleansing" policies. Standardly, community males were given no opportunity whatsoever to flee, with or without their families. They were executed en masse, or carted away for incarceration in concentration camps like "the infamous Omarska," as Enloe refers to it (p. 146); Omarska is "infamous" in the feminist literature for the rapes of the 33 to 38 women held there, rather than the murderous atrocities (and frequently rape) inflicted upon the 2,000 or so male inmates.(4) Those who were generally allowed to flee besieged communities were women, the children, and the elderly. The most ghastly example of gender-selective slaughter was at Srebrenica in 1995, where more than 7,000 boys and men (including many elderly and infirm males) were systematically culled for mass execution or hunted down in surrounding forests, while virtually all children and women were allowed to flee to Bosnian government-controlled territory. This event, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II, Enloe never mentions. Her apparent disinterest in the other side of the gender coin makes it impossible for her, and many other feminist analysts, to appreciate the strategic and ideological linkages between the rape of oppositionist women and the mass murder (and other brutalization, including rape) of oppositionist men. The richness and humanity of Enloe's book are such that one regrets this inattention to the male experience: few, one suspects, could do it justice as she could.


1. R.B.J. Walker, "Gender and Critique in the Theory of International Relations," in V. Spike Peterson, ed., Gendered States: Feminist (Re)Visions of International Relations Theory, Boulder and London, 1992, p. 179.

2. See Adam Jones, "Does 'Gender' Make the World Go Round? Feminist Critiques of International Relations," Review of International Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4, 1996; and "Engendering Debate," Review of International Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2, 1998.

3. "Both at the national and international level," notes the UK organization African Rights, "women and girls have been described as the principal victims of the genocide in Rwanda, thus obscuring the role of women as aggressors. This is not true. Throughout the genocide, Tutsi men, particularly the educated and wealthy, or young men who were physically strong and feared as future RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] soldiers, were the primary target. It is precisely because men were decimated that most of the survivors are in fact women and girls, many of them widowed, orphaned, homeless, disabled and left alone with the burden of looking after the remaining members of their families." African Rights, Rwanda -- Not So Innocent: When Women Become Killers, London, 1996, p. 4. For a detailed and inclusive treatment of the "gendering" of the holocaust, which I believe represents an advance on the narrowly women-focused analyses that have predominated, see Adam Jones, "Gender and Genocide in Rwanda," Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 4, forthcoming 2002.

4. As Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic put it, much more accurately, in 1996: "Wherever they [the Serbs] captured people, they either detained or killed all the males from 18 to 55 [years old]. It has never happened that the men of that age arrived across the front-line." Quoted in Mark Danner, "Bosnia: The Great Betrayal," New York Review of Books, 26 March 1998, p. 40. For a gender breakdown of the internees at Omarska, see Helsinki Watch, War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vol. II, New York, 1993, p. 113, n. 154.

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