Women in the Men's House: Negotiating POWER in Military Settings

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Fatima FARINA, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
Maria Grazia GALANTINO, Unitelma Sapienza Roma, Italy
This paper inquiries on power relations among researcher-researched in the military setting, with a particular focus upon the role of gender. Given the specific gender regime of the military, based on a gendered division of labor and a gendered structure of power, both formal and informal, gender represents a fundamental category to understand and explain inequalities and sometimes-abusive power relations in this setting. Moreover, drawing on intersectionality theory a broader concept of “inequality regimes” has emerged, claiming that subjects are always situated at the intersection of several axes of power and systems of inequality.

This approach is particularly appropriate for analysing the researcher-researched relationship when the first is a woman doing research in a men’s house. On the one side, the research situation is often considered a one-way hierarchical process where power is exerted by only the researcher. On the other side, as a woman in a (quasi) all-male environment based on hierarchical order, also in terms of gender, the researcher can find herself in a subaltern position with relevant consequences in structuring the researcher-researched relationship.

Our field research experience in the Military, retrospectively examined in the paper , well clarifies how femininity represents the “otherness”, the “excluded” and sometimes the “guest”. The consequences are not done once and for all but they result from the interaction among subjects, with their multiple distinctive feature (role, status, rank, sex, age etc.).

Our analysis shows that the late transition to a mixed gender regime in the Italian military has not yet challenged the consolidated male hegemony; hence, gender played a crucial role in how research participants located, perceived and positioned us. Nevertheless, we were ‘inscribed in a multifaceted power relation’, where domination and subordination was in play from both sides and gender incongruence represented both a limiting factor and an asset.