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Women and War: Women as Combatants

A guide of search strategies for and selected resources on the topic of Women and War.

Introduction

Listed under this tab is a list of selective scholarly publications and primary sources about women's active and proactive roles and positions in relation to wars. These publications and records showcase women as fighters and saviors in war, as advocates against violence, or as mitigators who painstakingly work for post-war recovery. 

Combat

Cohen, D. K., Huff, C., & Schub, R. (2020). At War and at Home: The Consequences of US Women Combat Casualties. Journal of Conflict Resolution. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002720964952

Studies how women fighting on the frontlines of the military affects public attitudes toward (1) military conflict and (2) women’s equality...

Golden, D., & Erdreich, L. (2020). Keeping mum: The mediation of military conflict in the everyday mothering of middle-class Israeli Palestinian and Jewish women. Childhood, 27(3), 369–382. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568220906213

The article examines how Israeli Palestinian and Jewish middle-class mothers mediate military conflict to young children, through silence and talk. This mediation is underpinned by dissonance between the mandate to protect children from the adult world and to ready them for it, and between the idea of children as individuals and conflict as collective engagement...

Prykhodko, I., Yurieva, N., Timchenko, O., et. al. (2020). What Motivates Ukrainian Women to Choose a Military Service in Warfare? BRAIN: Broad Research in Artificial Intelligence & Neuroscience, 11(3), 36–53. https://doi.org/10.18662/brain/11.3/108

The authors conducted a survey to identify the characteristics of the professional motivation of femaile military personnel (N = 477) of the National Guard of Ukraine with different professional status and found the main motives were self-realization in professional activity, achieving success in a military career and usefulness to society.

Heidemann, B. (2019). The symbolic survival of the “living dead”: Narrating the LTTE female fighter in post-war Sri Lankan women’s writing. Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 54(3), 384–398. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021989417723414

Examines the lingering presence of the female militant figure in post-war Sri Lankan women's writing in English...

Borton, Lady. (2018). Behind the Scenes, in the Forefront: Vietnamese Women in War and Peace. ASIANetwork Exchange, 25(1), 7–59. https://doi.org/10.16995/ane.276

This essay explores contributions to Vietnamese history by Vit Nam's first historical generals (who were women) as well as by women from the Vietnamese Communist Party's early years through the French-American War (1945-1954) and the American War (1954-1975). It discusses how women used Confucian subservience, gender-determined dress, and traditional roles to supply local soldiers, gather intelligence, and resist the French and American armies...

Gilmartin, N. (2017). “Without women, the war could never have happened”: representations of women’s military contributions in non-state armed groups. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 19(4), 456–470. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616742.2017.1303334

This article argues that conventional definitions of military contributions and combatant roles are imprecise, highly gendered and ultimately function as a mechanism to denigrate and exclude women's wartime labor. Based on in-depth interviews with former combatants, the article critically explores the ways in which republican women themselves conceptualize their contributions to armed struggle.

Kaufman, J. P. (2016). Women and children, war and peace: political agency in time of conflict. International Affairs, 92(6), 1499–1504. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2346.12756 

Based upon a review of four books about different aspects of war and conflict, the author argues that "women and children are more than their victims. They can be, and often are, active participants in all dimensions of conflict, from taking up arms to working for peace."

Cohen, D. (2013). Female combatants and the perpetration of violence: Wartime rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War. World Politics, 65(3), 383-415. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0043887113000105

Much of the current scholarship on wartime violence, including studies of the combatants themselves, assumes that women are victims and men are perpetrators. However, there is an increasing awareness that women in armed groups may be active fighters who function as more than just cooks, cleaners, and sexual slaves. In this article, the author focuses on the involvement of female fighters in a form of violence that is commonly thought to be perpetrated only by men: the wartime rape of noncombatants.

Prevention

Chase, M. (2020). “Hands Off Korea!”: Women’s Internationalist Solidarity and Peace Activism in Early Cold War Cuba. Journal of Women’s History, 32(3), 64–88. https://doi.org/10.1353/jowh.2020.0027

Unearths a revealing episode in internationalism and south-south solidarity by studying the Cuban left's Hands Off Korea campaign (1950–1951), a protest movement against the Korean War in which women played crucial roles as both intellectual authors and foot soldiers...

O’Sullivan, M. (2019). “Being strong enough to defend yourself”: untangling the Women, Peace and Security agenda amidst the Ukrainian conflict. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 21(5), 746–767. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616742.2019.1599981

The article discusses Ukraine's case demonstrates that "in a situation of active conflict, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda becomes strongly linked to military security." Drawing on interviews, documents, and narratives by feminist and public figures, the author argue "that the WPS agenda in Ukraine has taken a narrow militarized form as a result of a combination of three interrelated and mutually constitutive factors: the ongoing conflict, nationalistic feminism, and the role of international organizations..."

Armstrong, E. (2019). Peace and the barrel of the gun in the internationalist Women’s movement, 1945–49: Feminism, race, transnationalism. Meridians, 18(2), 261-277. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/15366936-7775685

The Asian Women’s Conference held in 1949, Beijing China, solidified an anticolonial, antifascist, and antiracist theory for organizing women transnationally, and drew its movement demands and strategies from the masses of women in anticolonial movements...

Yusuf, S. (2019). Women in peace or pieces? perspectives from sri lanka. Canadian Woman Studies, 33(1), 222-230. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2226333798?accountid=14509

The first formal space for Sri Lankan women to participate in a formal peace process was established during the peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)...a landmark achievement for women in peace-building in Sri Lanka, given that it shifted the participation of women in peace processes from the informal to the formal arena.

WILPF US interns: Learning what it means to be an advocate for peace. (2017). Peace and Freedom, 77(1), 14-15. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1918328963?accountid=14509

Internship report by Dianna Carlson at WILPF (The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom), a powerful organization that aims towards disarming/ending wars, advocating earth democracy and advancing human rights.

Karaman, E. R. (2016). Remember, S/he was here once: Mothers call for justice and peace in turkey. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, 12(3), 382-410. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/15525864-3637576

This article analyzes the construction of motherhood as a form of political agency in Turkey with particular references to the Saturday Mothers and the Peace Mothers, respectively, the mothers of the disappeared and the mothers of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters.

Rosul-Gajic, J. (2016). Women's advocacy in postwar bosnia and herzegovina. implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security. Journal of International Women's Studies, 17(4), 143-159. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1813893191?accountid=14509

This article addresses the question of how Bosnian women's NGOs have contributed to the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)...

Syrian women's forum for peace. (2015). Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, 11(2), 244-245. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/15525864-2886649

The goal of the Syrian Women's Forum for Peace, a civilian organization, is to ensure that Syrian women play an effective role in achieving peace and building democracy and that they participate in Syria's social and political life. They aim to achieve a unified vision for peace and to build solidarity among activist men and women through the forum.

Mitigation

Feng, P. (2018). Caring for the grandmothers: Empowerment and making peace for the former taiwanese "comfort women" in wellness workshops and song of the reed. Asian Journal of Women's Studies, 24(4), 510-525. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/12259276.2018.1527969

This paper examines the various efforts of TWRF (Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation) to care and provide wellness workshops to the group of elderly women who suffered tremendous physical and psychological traumas as former victims of sexual slavery during the war.

Langhi, Z. (2015). Libyan women's platform for peace. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, 11(3), 359-361. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/15525864-3142559

Introduces the NGO, launched by more than thirty-five women from various cities and backgrounds launched the Libyan Women's Platform for Peace (LWPP; lwpp.org) in October 2011 to ensure that women remain a vital part of post-Gaddafi Libya. They emphasize inclusive transition, women's rights, youth leadership, security, women's political and economic participation, constitutional reform, and education.

Tønnessen, L. (2013). Reform in post-conflict Sudan: Are female members of the National Assembly acting in the interest of Sudanese women? Ahfad Journal, 30(2), 90–106.

The paper examines the issue of quota as a rare occasion when women activists and women government officials have mobilized together across ethnic religious, ideologies and political divides...

Organizations & Facts