Hypothesis numbers match chapter numbers in this book. Summary assessment of evidence is in Chapter 7 pp. 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. 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.
Chapter 3 tests five explanations for the gendering of war based on gender differences in individual biology: 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: 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. I explore several aspects: Chapter 6 asks whether, beyond their identities as tough men who can endure hardship, soldiers are also motivated by less heroic qualities. The chapter explores several diverse possibilities: Chapter 7 concludes that the gendering of war appears to result from a combination of factors, with two main causes finding robust empirical support: 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. 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. 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. Norms regarding sexuality also vary greatly across cultures. Some societies are puritanical, others open about sex. 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. Even child care except pregnancy and nursing shows considerable variation in the roles assigned to men and women. 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 , skulls of their victims. The Dahomey also warred for captives, but to sell into slavery to European traders. 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. 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.
Later, European armies occupied colonies worldwide. Cuban soldiers in the s 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.
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 Serbian campaign of terror in Bosnia. 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 s, 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. 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.
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. 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. Very few held up under scrutiny.
Exceptions to this rule are numerous and quite informative see pp. In the present interstate system, the gendering of war is stark. Change since , although not trivial, has been incremental. In UN peacekeeping forces, women mostly nurses made up less than 0. 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. They supposedly lived in the area north of the Black Sea about years before the fifth century BC when the historian Herodotus reports hearing stories about them.
Supposedly they cut off one breast to make shooting a bow and arrow easier, although most artistic renditions do not show this. Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman art incorporated battles with Amazons on a regular basis see Figure 1. The Greek hero Heracles, as one of a series of quests, had to capture the sacred girdle of the Amazon queen, Antiope. Later, the Amazons retaliated by attacking Athens with a large army, possibly including allied Scythians who also lived north of the Black Sea.
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.
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. 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. These sites would have been much closer to the supposed Amazons that fascinated the Greeks though still to the east of them. Using a variety of objects hardly implies control of wealth.
Indeed, 40 of the 44 males buried at the site appeared to be warriors, while four males appeared to be other than warriors. 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.