Militarism is the prioritisation of a glorification and valorisation of the use of violence. It is idealised through military institutions and a violent expression of masculinity, but also reflects an orderly and regulated exercise of violence in contrast to the undisciplined violence of an uncivilised other. Militarism is therefore both gendered and racialised, and contradictory. It makes itself open for orderly, “civilising”, norms encouraged by human security and women and security agendas, while at the same time resisting a féminisation of its violent, masculinist imaginary by the very same agendas. The range of perceptions about the military are often linked to the qualities embedded within the idealised and hegemonic masculinities of the military (Whitworth, 2004). The particular ways in which masculinity' is cultivated in the military fosters a different culture that develops beyond civilian norms, including the relative acceptance of death (for one’s country') as well as being able to kill without penalty. Thus, the military can be perceived as an illegitimate actor with regard to the many ways it engages with civilians in complex operations and due to the real and perceived imaginaries of what the military represents (Hoogensen Gjorv, 2014a).

In feminist literature, “militarism” is a slippery term. Stavrianakis and Stern state that militarism can be “broadly understood as the preparation for war, its normalisation and legitimation” (Stavrianakis and Stern, 2018, p4). hooks notes that women “who advocate feminism see militarism as exemplifying patriarchal concepts of masculinity and the right of males to dominate others” (hooks, 1995, p59). Enloe, well known for her work analysing militarism, approaches the topic through process—militarisation and militarising: “To become militarised is to adopt militaristic values (e.g.: a belief in hierarchy, obedience, and the use of force) and priorities as one’s own, to see military solutions as particularly effective, to see the world as a dangerous place best approached with militaristic attitudes” (Enloe, 2007, p4).

As noted above, militarism has a dynamic, gendered, racialised, and colonial nature (Eriksson Baaz and Verweijen, 2018; Parashar, 2018; Kodriquez, 2018). Militarism increasingly reflected a divide between a professional, modern military system (European/Western) versus the “(deviant) opposite” (Eriksson Baaz and Verweijen, 2018, p59). This distinction has played a role in the way we understand the “civilising” of Western/minority world militaries where they integrate human security and gender-aware norms that are meant to inform their approach to operations (Kronsell, 2012). It complicates attempts to influence the masculinist nature of militarism through feminist norms such as gender equality and the inclusion of women in peacebuilding. Gender itself is complicated within the concept of militarism, as Enloe has referred not only to “militarism” but to “masculinised militarism” suggesting how masculinities move and are shaped by and through militarism (Enloe, 2007, p. 28; Cockburn and Enloe, 2012, p. 551). The gendered nature of militarism is integral to understanding the concept, where “military systems and militaries depend on women playing feminine roles in a larger sexual division of labor that is, in turn, propped up by a dominant social construction of masculinity” (Kwon, 2013, p. 215). However, femininities and masculinities shift according to context and “[mjasculine high politics, terror tactics and armed attacks work in tandem with feminised concepts of patriotic and courageous motherhood, war heroines, sacrificing and suffering womanhood and sexualised female warriors in both state and non-state militant projects” (Parashar, 2014, p. 37). Part of militarism’s power is its flexibility to accommodate varying expressions of race, otherness, masculinity, and femininity towards its overarching goal of normalising, prioritising, and glorifying violence and war.

Militarism is lastly presented as an external, negative force that is imposed upon an otherwise innocent, peaceful “other”, not least women and that which is categorised as “civilian”. When we talk about civilians and militarism and militarisation, it is often framed as civilians “becoming militarised” (Enloe 2007, p. 145), or trying to prevent “military values, beliefs, organisational culture, language and technology' from shaping different areas of the civilian life” (Mabee and Vutecic, 2018, p. 100), or “the idea of‘the military’ (either as an institution or as a notion) ‘extending into’ supposedly ‘civilian’ spheres and subjectivities” (Eriksson Baaz and Verweijen, 2018, p. 59). Indeed, as noted by Wibben (2018, p. 141), “most people seduced by and subject to militarist logics are not in the military”. Civilian and military are thus often polarized in the literature, with military values being strange or foreign to the civilian domain. This portrayal of “the civilian” as peaceful is not just prevalent in feminist scholarship; it has a long history in the development of laws of war, International Humanitarian Law, the concept of “humanitarian space”, and in debates pertaining to civil-military interaction (Grombach, 2005; Hoogensen Gjorv, 2014; see also Grewal, this volume).

In many respects the militaries and militarisms of various cultures reflect and reinforce preexisting and evolving gender norms that dictate the role and valorisation of force in society, while simultaneously practicing particularised, gendered norms that distinguish the military from civilian life. Even within militaries however, there exists a “dominant hierarchical distinction between masculine and feminine sustaining] other hierarchies within and between men and women in different categories of military life” (Hutchings, 2008, p. 392). Militaries have hierarchies of masculinities within the system whereby certain branches, units, or activities are valued over others, though all are “military”. For example, those who engage in direct combat activities, and not least those in special forces (i.e.: US Navy Seals, British Special Air Service, etc.) are valued and honoured over those in regular force positions in logistics, longterm operational planning, or civil-military interaction (CMI, including “gender advisors”). The glorification of the use of violence is not automatically present in all branches or functions in the military. However, militaries are nevertheless united by the assumption that if force is necessary, it will be employed. The civilian domain, on the other hand, is influenced by its own gendered norms that overlap with the narrower, militarised notions, but there is also much greater opportunity to voice alternative, anti-militarised nonns and practices. As a result, it is important to understand militarism on a continuum, that is deeply rooted within both civilian and military elements within a given culture. Combating (to use a militaristic term) militarism therefore requires exploring its roots in the civilian domain as much as in the military one.

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