Women in War: A Case Study of Female Empowerment in the Australian Defence Forces (ADF)

Research paper presented in Oceanic Conference on International Studies (OCIS) 18-20 July 2012, Sydney, Australia



Australia’s recent Cabinet decision ‘allowing’ women to assume combat roles clearly demonstrates a willingness by the authorities to rethink the omnipotent ‘masculinity’ of its armed forces. This proposed conference paper will seek to address the difficult topic of women in the frontline. Emancipation of military women holds global contemporary significance, because, firstly, war has become more technological, providing greater opportunity for female involvement, secondly, because women provide a ready stream of new recruits in the face of population shortages, and, finally, because, particularly in Australia, greater female participation should lead to more transparency, awareness and maturity in the handling gender equality, perhaps overcoming a series of recent embarrassing events concerning ingrained male prejudices and the sexual humiliation of female military personnel. The notion of women warriors is fraught with controversy regarding female frailty and vulnerability. However, war is harsh, and it is little known, for instance, that US and UK military women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan number 113 and 8, respectively. Note also that 335 ADF women are deployed on overseas operations, including Afghanistan, accounting for approximately 10% of the ADF’s total overseas deployment. No female member of the ADF has been killed in these theatres of war, but the ADF will continue to serve in Afghanistan until 2014. Thus, in parallel with the broader social acceptance of gender equality, Australian women now have the right to fight for their country, but only time will tell whether Australian society has the stomach for the consequences.


Photo from http://www.defencejobs.gov.au/women/


Power point of the presentation can be seen here http://www.ocis.org.au/papers/Women%20in%20ADF.pdf

Full paper has not been uploaded since it is still subject to review for journal publication (let’s see how long this one take, academic paper took around 6 months!)

But please see other speakers’ papers that are listed in the programme (not many but at least giving you some perspectives), including writings by Craig Snyder on regional approach to security, Laura Allison on ASEAN human rights, Maria Rost Rublee on norms and the individual and Andrew Williams on contrasting view of self determination. http://www.ocis.org.au/page.cfm?p=programme


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