Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military

Quarterly Report on Women and the Military: Maneuvers. The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives

Maneuvers. The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives – Review

Daniela Rechenberger

Cynthia Enloe. Maneuvers. The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000. xi + 418 pp. Notes, selected bibliography, and index. $17.95 (paper) 0-520-22071-4; $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-520-22070-6.

Are You Already Militarized Today?

When we think of women’s militarization, women in the military or soldier’s wives first come to our minds. It is the contribution of Enloe’s Maneuvers to clarify that militarization “is a far more subtle process.” It is never “simply about joining a military” but it “creeps into ordinary daily routines” (pp. 2-3). Practically “everything can be militarized” (p. 4), be it food, toys, clothes, movies. Enloe examines many issues and their connection with militarization: women in the military, problems of lesbians/homosexuals in the military, the history of camp foloowers, the background of military prostitution and rape in wartime, experiences of military wives and military nurses and the process of militarization of ordinary things.

This latest book, therefore, is a development of Enloe’s Does Khaki Become You? in which she described the connection between militarized wives and women in the military. But because the “military is only one part of the story of militarization” (p. xi) Maneuvers provides a far more extensive exploration of the problem. This makes the book very exceptional. Especially impressive are the numerous examples from many different places. Enloe emphasizes that for understanding the mechanisms of militarization it is necessary “to resist the parochial temptation to monitor only American developments” (p. 281). Nevertheless the examples provide only a glance at other experiences. And sometimes the reader might miss interesting discourses held in other countries, as the “Comfort Women” issue illustrates. The author describes the “Comfort Women” as a kind of military prostitute (p. 78-89). But recent Japanese critics like Ueno Chizuko call this point of view deeply into question. We should not speak of former “Comfort Women” as prostitutes, not even forced prostitutes, because this backs up the military ideology and the division into Japanese and other Asian victims. The victims (and the discourse) are then again militarized.(1) We have to consider them as rape victims although the “Comfort System” goes beyond the usual cases of wartime rape.(2)

The strong points of the book are often surprising descriptions of how even simplest things can be (and are) militarized. Before reading the story, nobody would think of umbrellas as things the U.S. Army honestly regarded as subverting the authority represented by officer’s uniforms. Nonetheless, it is prohibited for male officers to carry umbrellas, while women officers are permitted to do so (p. 262). Although Maneuvers presents a broad basis to examine mechanisms of women’s militarization, which every woman should read “Evidence shows that militarization has not been rolled back uniformly in the 1990s”. (p. 12) and “the militarization of women has been (and is probably) necessary for the militarization of men” (p. 3).


(1.) Ueno Chizuko, Nashonarizumu to jenda (Nationalism and gender), (Aotsuchi sha), 1998, p. 125/139.

(2.) Yoshimi Yoshiaki, “Gun ianfu” mondai to rekishizo. Ueno Chizuko shi ni kotaeru (The “military comfort women” issue and historical points of view. An answer to Ueno Chizuko) in Nihon no senso sekinin shiryo senta (ed.), Shinpojiumu. Nashonarizumu to “ianfu” mondai (Symposium: Nationalism and the “comfort women” issue), (Aoki shoten), 1998, p. 123-142, here p. 137.

Reviewed for H-MINERVA by Daniela Rechenberger Department of Japanese Studies, Trier University

COPYRIGHT 2001 Minerva Center, Inc.

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