Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Is “Armchair Warfare” the Newest Threat to Institutional Masculinities?

Jamie R. Abrams's picture

More from this month's guest blogger, Professor Jamie Abrams from the University of Louisville School of Law. Her scholarly interests include integrating masculinities theory in feminist law reforms such as military integration and domestic violence; examining the tort complexities governing standards of care in childbirth; gendered conceptualizations of citizenship; and legal education pedagogy.


In the “Limits of Armchair Warfare,” an Op. Ed. contributed by experienced military veterans, the authors caution that the increased reliance on drones and drone pilots is part of “a disturbing pattern” devaluing frontline military service.  Citing specific examples, they assert that both military leadership and the American public share blame.  They suggest, “military leadership has become so enamored of the technological mystique of drones that they have lost touch with the realities of the modern battlefield.”  They further critique that the “American public, which has largely absolved itself of responsibility for sending nearly three million of its citizens to fight, neither knows nor cares to know the real price of war.”

The points raised by these military veterans are thought provoking regarding the transformative shifts in modern military service and military capabilities.  Yet, underlying this critique sits an undercurrent seeking to preserve dominant masculinities within institutional military culture.  I have written previously about the ways in which military service fused citizenship itself with dominant conceptions of masculinities historically and remain tethered today, even in a voluntary enlistment military. 

This Op. Ed. foreshadows that even as the military undergoes the full integration of women, the underlying reverence for masculine institutional hierarchies persists.  For example, the Op. Ed. piece bluntly states that “those on the front lines require real courage because they face real danger.”  Military culture has a deep history of constructing military identity on a model of institutional “othering” of various social groups, including women, gays and lesbians. 

This Op. Ed. leaves me wondering whether drone technology represents the new “other” that threatens the preservation of dominant masculine hierarchies in the military?  As women are formally integrated into all branches of the military and as technology transforms military service itself, I am hopeful that longstanding gender hierarchies can be abolished in ways that both advance the power and efficacy of our military and respect and celebrate the military service of all.

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