‘How Can You Call Her a Woman?’ the Perceptions of Female Soldiers By Their Male Counterparts in the DRC Army

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Mulopo LAKIKA, ACMS - Wits University, South Africa
The patriarchal conception of womanhood has always considered women as tender, motherly, vulnerable and in constant need of male protection. This patriarchal portrayal of women also finds expression in the labour market, where women are excluded from some sectors viewed as exclusive preserve for men. This dichotomy also manifests in the wage differences between male and female staff. While patriarchal hegemony has prevailed in African societies, much attention has not been paid to some institutions like the army which employs both men and women. More so, less focus has been given to how men perceive their female counterparts in the armed forces. This paper emanates from my PhD research exploring the lived realities of former Congolese soldiers resident in Johannesburg. It seeks to provide an insight into gender hegemony in the Army. This paper uses unstructured interviews and Bourdieu’s concept of field to examine gender hegemony in the Congolese army. The findings of this study suggest that manhood or womanhood is not about genetic differences between men and women, but more about the capabilities to embody the hegemonic military masculinities. A female soldier entails some level of masculinisation, but I argue that female masculinisation of women does not change their genetic nature. Women who joined male-dominated institution put on male identity and rejected to be seen as vulnerable women. Refusing to be called women is a way of rejecting an identity relating to male domination.