War and Gender

December 15, 2010

Welcome to Women, War & Peace’s podcast series with our host, Amy Costello. Each week, Amy will be talking to people who have responded creatively to the plight of women living in conflict zones.

Are all little boys meant to be warriors? Are little girls programmed to stay out of the fray? How much does our gender determine our roles in war?

This week Professor Joshua Goldstein debunks the idea that biology hardwires men for fighting wars and women for staying on the sidelines. His 2001 book War and Gender looks at the way culture has defined gender roles in times of conflict and how those roles have stuck with us throughout history.

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  1. Sonny says:

    The subject is fascinating and the questions and implications raised by a study such as Joshua Goldsteins are absolutely necessary for any society where equality of the sexes is paramount. However, the academic discussion is unfortunately small and Joshua Goldstein has been maintained as the one who has written the book on the subject. His investigation suffers from a few missed opportunities and a generally poor argument. Mr. Goldstein missed a necessary component in investigating the contribution any culture’s mythology has on affecting cultural understandings and definitions of masculinity and masculine potential. Goldstein also misses any sociological discussion on the group dynamics of young boys as opposed to young girls which could lead to some insights. Where Goldstein presents a deliberate weak argument is in brushing off the biological physical superiority of males in nearly all mammalian species. As well Joshua Goldstein deliberately leaves out any psychological discussion of risk taking in adolescent males. All in all it is a passable effort but the discussion greatly needs a broadening in its academic discourse.

  2. Michelle says:

    The Israeli army trains both males and females. This is proof that both sexes can be desensitived for warfare and combat. Cultual values influence who is seceptible to aggression and violence.

  3. Barbara Jones says:

    Goldsein’s position that there are no biological differences between men and women that would explain why men are more “warlike” flies in the face of the studies by anthropologists like Dr. Judith Hand, whose research supports the opposite view. In “Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace” Dr. Hand connects the dots on how the biology of females necessitates a social environment of peace and stability in order to rear offspring. Women will fight to protect their young, but as a group they tend toward collaboration as opposed to aggression to get their needs met.

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