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In (2010), and several other studies, Bibbings has shown that pacifist men were continually subjected to cruel treatment (despite their legal capacity to object) and much of their punishment and character assassination was gender-based – there was nothing more effeminate and cowardly than a man willing to stand up for his beliefs when the nation was mobilised behind the war effort and behind the very essentialised construct of the citizen soldier’s masculinity.Alongside disobedient masculinities in the history of WW1, are gender categories that seem to refuse comfortable conceptualisation, and this is especially pertinent when viewed through the lens of sexuality.Drawing from Eric Leed’s 1979 argument that the slaughter of mechanised warfare annihilated belief in heroism, and that hysteria was a protest against the inhumanity of industrial warfare, Elaine Showalter placed gender firmly at the heart of the issue.
Masculinity thus gained ground in scholars’ interpretations of how psychiatric medicine diagnosed and treated the condition.
Shellshock as a result of modern war was situated within both class and gender frameworks, as a ‘crisis’ of masculinity.
(Palgrave, 2013), I encouraged cross-disciplinary dialogue between scholars working in masculinity studies, in conversation with feminist scholars Cynthia Enloe and Judith Butler, to articulate different ways in which gender fundamentally shapes war and vice versa, with essays on internment (Matthew Stibbe), civil defence (Susan Grayzel and Lucy Noakes), physical and emotional wounding (Hazel Croft; Jessica Meyer), and male pacifism (Lois Bibbings).
Military masculinity may be resilient but it encounters a significant degree of both disobedience and outright opposition.
Laura Doan, however, fully integrated ‘queer critical theory’ into her analysis of how ‘heterosex’ operated in military education regarding venereal disease, for instance, and in what should become a classic intervention, her recent monograph The book offers a substantial critique of the inappropriate use of sexual identities in discussions about women and sex in WW1, while also providing a historically sensitive account of the fluid ‘topsy-turvy’ character of gender constructs in the period.
Using the example of female ambulance drivers and the formidable nursing team of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisolm, Doan aims to ‘disturb’ the assumptions about, and conflations of, gender and sexuality, based on a genealogical project; the need to retrieve gay ancestors.
Houlbrook wove this enduring form of idealised masculinity into the long history of soldier sexuality, focusing on the Guardsman as an emblem of British national identity and militarised masculinity, but crucially, also as an object of queer desire.
Though new research on male and female impersonation as part of vaudevilliean theatre inside military hospitals, practiced by nurses, doctors and some patients, follows Doan’s ‘disturbing’ approach, adding that men’s pain and suffering created intense and fraught intimacies within war hospital communities in which soldiers’ bodies were also disciplinary subjects. In 2008, a special issue on The Body at War: Wounds, Wounding and the Wounded explored masculinity in the fetishising of bayonet practice and combat (Paul Hodges), in medical ideas about wounding as passive and effeminate and mirrored in military patients self-representations (Ana Carden-Coyne), and in gendered concepts of death and resurrection among the representation of dead soldiers in France (Martin Hurcombe).
The expectations of stoicism and heroism placed on individuals were no match for the scale and reach of industrialised slaughter.
Mark Micale subsequently expressed dissatisfaction with the ‘crisis’ thesis.