The Militarization of Women in Japan

The lives of women and understanding of both themselves as well as the global sphere changes based on how one perceives things.  In all cases however, it is shown that their femininity is used as a tool of manipulation by the military.  In chapters 7 of Cynthia Enloe’s book, Globalization & Militarization she looks at Japan specifically and their use of women’s femininity over time.  It’s interesting to see how the female body can be used whether it be through exploitation or manipulation within one culture alone.

Women from all over East Asia were exploited in the World War II era by the Japanese governments.  They were used for sex by soldiers and lived in these spaces where everyone else had the same role.  They were called comfort women, and even though this is no longer practiced, it is still unjust that these women had to go through what they did.  What upsets me the most is the lack of empathy from the Japanese government about what happened; it’s like they try to erase history by not acknowledging that what they did cause many women to suffer.  A women’s organization in Japan (Violence Against Women Worldwide Network), set up a testimony system for the women that were a part of this exploitation.  Women from all over East Asia including, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and other countries testified about their experiences during their time as comfort women.  What they found is that they were treated like slaves and it was a form of using the female body as an object.  It was the military once again objectifying females for the “benefit” of male soldiers.

While the female body is a huge part of this exploitation by the military, it is also one’s identity that is being manipulated many of the times.  For example women that are joining the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are doing so for the idea of a better quality of life.  If we take a step back and see why there are a large amount of women doing this, it is because of the notion that it is safe and according to one woman, a good way to get ahead.

“Aspiring sincerely to international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes […]Land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

-Article 9 (Enloe p138)

Following World War II, the people of Japan felt as though they had suffered a great amount through war; the atomic bomb that was used on them left areas of the country devastated.  The attack alone wasn’t their main concern, but the health problems that preceded the event were catastrophic as well.  Thousands of people faced the health problems that came with the atomic bomb which led to Japan swearing off the use of war to settle international disputes.  In result, many women over the years thought it would be safe to join the Japanese Self-Defense Forces because of the lack of combat that would occur under Article 9.  But now with Japan sending ships off to the Middle East, many women feel as though this would be a violation of Article 9 and are unsure of what this might mean for them in comparison to what they thought they were signing up for.   A lot of them also don’t realize how consumer goods are encouraging them to sign up for the military or how these goods are militarized.

“ [..] Daughterhood, marriage, motherhood, secretarial and bookkeeping jobs, learning English, fast food, education, patriotism, entertainment, sexuality, consumerism, economic security, and fashion.  Militarizing femininities – in all their diversity—seems to be crucial for sustaining the Tokyo-Washington bilateral security agreement.  If no one pays attention to the politics of femininity in particular women’s lives, it is likely that any commentator on international politics will end up with an unreliable analysis on the politics that today perpetuate the Japanese-U.S. alliance. This does not mean that women control the alliance.  They clearly have little power in alliance negotiations.  But the male elites of both countries do rely upon a lot of women to think of their own feminized lives in ways that make militarization ‘normal’ and thus almost invisible.”

-Cynthia Enloe p153

Japanese Self-Defense Forces Flag

The fact that many of the women that have joining the Japanese Self-Defense Forces for easier access to goods and a certain services, really puts into perspective how this is working in favor of the military.  It also shows how goods are not always independent from the military but a part of militarization.  This is continued in Enloe’s final chapter in this book where she writes about how militarization happens on the personal level without us sometimes even realizing it.

“Once again, militarization happens to many more people than just those in uniform or just those who work in defense ministries or national security agencies.”

-Cynthia Enloe p158

Regardless of where we work or where we are, militarization is something that we are all exposed to.  Whether it is subliminally or more directly, we are constantly looking at things that make us want to promote military ideals.  This is extremely problematic because it teaches us to accept the ideas that come along with promoting militarization and ultimately cause us to look at the world in a way that exploits people, causes people to lose their identities, and form alliances that exemplify this patriarchal norm that encourages us to try to exert power over others.

If we can’t look beyond what the military is trying to teach us, regardless of where the military is from, it only causes us to continue to give into this cycle.  It brainwashes us to the point where we don’t even know what we are taking in from them.  Do you see this in your life? I definitely do; every time I walk into a clothing store I can’t help but be hit in the fact with products that promote the military fashion.  Besides goods, is this idea being pushed onto us in more subliminal ways? I think it would be interesting to examine how and where this happens.  It would also be equally interesting for us to try to see how this can be stopped.

Big boys don’t cry. Right? : A look at rationality vs. emotionality

Rationality vs. emotionality is discussed in chapter three of Cynthia Enloe’s book  Globalization and Militarism. Rationality is associated with manliness while emotionality is seen as feminine. This is seen throughout our social structure and in the way our society thinks about masculinity and femininity. Understanding these two concepts is vital to understanding how men and women are perceived in our society and in the military. The categorization of women as “soft” is used both to keep women out of the political and military field. It insinuates that they are not strong enough to handle the pressure associated with these professions. This categorization also pushes men away from acts that are perceived as “soft” or feminine like calling for peace and not waging war. An obvious flaw of this way of thinking is the correlation of peace to women and war to men. It insinuates that only real men declare war and enter into conflict while women are responsible for calling an end to battle. Of course this conceptualization is entirely problematic.

Acceptable military behavior

Unacceptable military behavior










So, when it comes to the structure of the military and who get to “sit at the table” those who are allowed are only those who have shown a fierce, aggressive stance. According to this belief of rationality and emotionality the only acceptable participants are men.  To be allowed a part in the discussion of national security you have to be able to debate unpleasant things, and handle these talks with fervor. The way a person is able to gain access to be part of the discussion of national security is through this rational sense and expression. Consequently women are not included in this because they are perceived as emotional and soft.   The conception that women are emotional and in the eyes of our society there’s no room or place for the emotional meaning there is no room for women.  Of course the truth is that these concepts have been built through the perception of those living in a patriarchal society leading to a bias and sexist understanding or women’s role and women’s power.

An example of this rhetoric of women being emotional was seen overwhelmingly in the 2008 democratic presidential primary when Hillary Clinton was running. When in an interview Clinton was giving she began to well up while talking passionately about how she feels for the country and how she wants to see the country move forward (and away from the Bush era.) After this surfaced in mainstream news, reporters began condemning her for being emotional then for being cold and heartless. She was spoken of by every news reporter in the mainstream media in some sexist way. Clinton was badgered for being to emotional and other news anchors joked about her passion and her tears being fake. Stating that she was to cold and masculine to genuinely be able to cry. She was the only primary candidate that had this done to them, evidently she was the only female candidate. She was also badgered about the way she looked and the clothes she wore all through the primary election. There was one reporter who joked if Clinton won the presidency the US would be in crisis every time she got her period.  We would have to stop the country a few days every month because she wouldn’t be able to handle her responsibilities. Certainly women are incapable of controlling their emotional and mental capacities when they’re on their period.

The practice of our society is that women hold little value and little power. Women are seen as weak physically and mentally. The structure of the military holds up this conception through the ideal that men are rational while women are irrational. A recent statement made my Rick Santorum, (a candidate in the republican primary for presidency who of late, dropped out) embodies the patriarchal design of our society’s structure of masculinity and femininity. In the speech Santorum stated that women should not be allowed to hold combat position in the US military because it may affect how the male soldiers will react during times of combat. He states that the men will become to preoccupied by the women’s safety and feel the need to protect them like our culture has taught them to do, making the men lose focus on their mission. He’s expressing that men are rational beings but once you throw a women into the mix a man has to express his masculinity by protecting women. These women hold no value as soldiers they only amount to a burden which the male soldiers will have to pick up.

The women who gain access to the military are confined to feminized jobs. Women are not allowed to enlist in the front lines instead women are centralized in jobs that resemble domestic work; jobs like cooks and nurses. Because women are not seen as rational, strong, and valuable enough to stand in a combat role in the military. Although I would rather not see more of the population enlisting in the military that should not be used as an excuse to keep women out of jobs they should be entitled too.

In chapter four Enloe continues her discussion with the extension that feminized characteristics are not only looked down upon in our society and through that women hold no substantial power. But their labor is also used as a last resort when men are no longer available. This can be seen throughout American history. If you look at World War 2 when men were enlisted in the military and engaged in combat with other nations the country needed a workforce so they enlisted women. Yet, when the war ended and the men came back they also took their jobs back and women were supposed to go back home and continue with their domestic duties. The patriarchal structure of society systematically denies women’s power and devalues their labor.

Creating a Feminist Curiosity

“Using a feminist curiosity is asking question about the condition of women- and about relationship of women to each other about relationship of women to men. It is also not taking for granted- thus it is insisting upon exploring….”

Have you ever thought why and what makes you curious? Well usually most of the people are curious about the things that one can’t get or that they desire to get. Yet why curiosity doesn’t strike us for the things that we already have. I am sure we never learn fully about anything or anyone that we have in our life, there is always something new we could discover within them. But we always tend to stop at that one point thinking that we know everything about them. That’s when the false notion comes in and we start to take things for granted. Our attitude of taking things, people and matters for granted has become so strong and permanent that we often tangle it with social and cultural values. Until we realize our mistakes for taking things for granted, it is too late. The relationship and harmony that we once created is destroyed, just because we thought we knew everything, just because we took everything for granted.

With this creative thought Cynthia Enloe has beautifully started her first two chapters of Globalization and Militarism. One of the points that really struck me and made me think was how she said that “One is not curious about the things one takes for granted” (Pg 1). This whole idea is definitely true, but it amazed me how we are not curios to learn and gain more knowledge about something that we expect it to be there till the end of our lives. We become careless not protecting it yet at the same time we believe it to stay with us forever unchanged. Or looking the other way why do we still accept things even if it doesn’t satisfy us? Why are we not challenging those rigid structures with new ideas instead of just taking it for granted.

Reading the first two chapters was very insightful. Cynthia Enloe has thrown a great spot light on Globalization and Militarization. The most conflicting and contradicting part to me was how she shows that there are so many people who are employees of big companies that makes weapons for militarization. Thousands of people are being able to support and take care of their family through this very form of globalization and militarization. Yet at the same time due to this very reason thousands of innocent lives are being destroyed every minute. Another interesting thing for me was like how she points out that media tends to ignore people who are working to fight problems that are rooted within the society and culture (like people working for gender impact analysis). And I think she has made an excellent point bringing out this topic, because it makes her topic clear that media and society lacks the idea of feminist curiosity. They have taken the gender impact for granted; they don’t see anything new or unusual about it to be discovered or even changed.

The other thing that really caught my attention where I did a deep analysis was to see how the government had the power to change a woman’s identity according to how they wanted it to be. It was really interesting to see how the Korean government with the help militarism could change and make the whole conservative society accept women working outside the home boundary. They encouraged women to work in shoe factory, at the same time created a pass for them to be a “respectable” young women and an attractive candidate for marriage. As we could see that everyone who followed this lacked feminist curiosity. No one asked or even questioned the government for why all of these changes were being bought up all of a sudden. I think it shows a very important point that how globalization can take over your own people too. Like how Nike controlled Korean women through Korean Men.

These two chapters were eye opening for me, as it made me aware that I too had taken so many things for granted without realizing. She particularly talks about women as cheap labor which I was aware of this whole time. But after reading her text it showed me that I too was accustomed to this whole idea. It made me realize how and why I had never questioned for why women were paid less even if they worked the same hours and job as men did. It showed me that how we lack feminist curiosity which could be the most important tool to discover and find solution to so many problems and inequality that exist in our society. It guides us to have feminist curiosity but at the same time it teaches us not only keep the curiosity within us but us to share it with the world so that it would become an issue. Issue that many people could share and exchange thoughts to make it better.

 “But nothing can become an issue if the exercise of curiosity remains private or if what you uncover is deemed unworthy of public response”.

The other very fact that I completely agree with is how we just learn about big companies that are producing large weapons, as that media fails to cover the small companies. I think because of this a lot of us are unaware of the dangers caused by these very small companies. I would agree to a point that people do lack feminist curiosity in this matter too, but as far as I know the small companies themselves are very private and hidden away from the mainstream world. It is difficult to locate them but as from this text we learn that it’s always good to have at least a general idea about such small companies.

“While it is usually the large companies producing the large weapons system that make the news, small weapons kill more people day in and day out around the world”

Overall for me this was a great text and I learned much from it. It provokes people to have feminist curiosity for so many matters that you always felt like you knew everything. Or even the matters that you always accepted the way it was. And I think that was the best part because it completely changes the way you always use to see things, it generates interest within you to find something new about things that you had taken granted for all these years. I felt that feminist curiosity could be the tool that would build better and a peaceful world.

Work Cited

Enloe, C. (2007). Globalization & Militarism . United States of America: Rowman & Littlefield.

Masculining Women in Positions of Power and Militarism as a Fashion Statement

In our society why do women feel the need to act or present themselves as more masculine in order to be taken seriously within a position of power? Specifically within the military?  And why is dehumanizing violence a fashion statement in our country? These are two questions which Cynthia Enloe attempts to answer in chapters 5 and 6 of her book, Globalization and Militarism, Feminists Make the Link.

One idea that I took away from chapter 5 is the way in which women are pressured into presenting themselves as more masculine as they gain power in society. One place that we can look at this outside of the military is at everyday jobs. As women in different parts of the world are given the opportunity to be in higher positions of power more and more, the feeling of pressure to conform to masculine ideals builds. For example, when women are promoted to positions typically given to men, they often feel the pressure to conform to the standards set by the men in their position before them. At least, this is my common experience when dealing with women in position of power. We all know the story of the female employee going out to the strip club with her male co-workers to try to fit that role. I think that this masculinization is incredibly problematic and that it is something that we should use our feminist curiosity to explore. I’m sure you can think of other spaces in which women are challenged to take on a more masculine presentation in order to be able to preserve power.

So a main point she made was that female soldiers feel the need to sometimes be more violent than their male counterparts. While her focus was on American women in the Abu Gharib and Guantanamo, this can be seen in other parts of the world as well. actually did a story about the nation with the highest ratio of women to men, Israel. What they found was that Israeli women soldiers tend to be more violent towards Palestinian civilians than men.

“According to one soldier, “A female combat soldier needs to prove more … a female soldier who beats up others is a serious fighter … when I arrived there was another female there with me … everyone spoke of how impressive she is because she humiliates Arabs without any problem.”’

I think this is right on with what Enloe talks about when she talks about female soldiers becoming masculinized. So very obviously, this is not just a United States issue, but rather one that occurs in most if not all militaries that include women in their ranks.

So does this mean that we should not allow women into militaries for fear that they might become masculinized? Definitely not. The obvious problem is that women are not taken seriously if they do not conform to this male perpetrated stereotype that soldiers have to be masculine. So as Enloe points out in the book, the military’s big questions is how can we admit women into this male dominated space (the military) without making her masculinized while also keeping the military from becoming feminized?

My answer to that would be, maybe we need a little feminization up in there.

I think we need to be less scared of what a feminized version of the military might look like, because obviously our own military is infatuated with doing nothing but dominating other countries, and specifically the people within those countries (think about the prisoners of war  and the many civilians who are raped by American soldiers). But, as Enloe states:

“In a patriarchal culture – in rich countries and poor countries, in countries with diverse cultural traditions – any person, group, or activity that can be feminized risks losing his or her (or its) influence, authority, and even self-respect. So long as any culture remains patriarchal, then, feminization can be wielded as an instrument of intimidation. -Enloe 96

So on that note, chapter 6 talks about the way in which the violence enacted in militaries becomes a fashion statement, and how we perpetuate this violence by wearing things such as camouflage or khaki. Why do we feel the need to dress up as the people who systematically rape civilians and torture prisoners? In what way is this “cool”? I’ve always wondered why camouflage was so big, long before I realized the alarming rate at which soldiers rape civilian women or kill innocent people, but then again I was raised to be skeptical of the military. So that might have something to do with it. I think this fashion came out somewhere in the middle of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and has continued since. People have seen wearing camo as a form of patriotism and supporting our troops, which is why is has gained so much popularity.


I seriously do not understand a culture in which we idealize military strength and masculinization so much. What kind of image are you giving off when you wear these kind of things? And what does that say about the society that we live in? It may seem trivial to be so hung up on what the current fashion trends are, or what people are wearing but when media is telling us that what we need to wear is clothes that accept and perpetuate masculinized violence, then I think we need to look at that very seriously. It furthers the idea in society that the military is an institution that should be idealized, rather than trivialized.

So obviously, this talk about military fashion was part of a bigger discussion Enloe was having about demilitarization, because camo as a fashion statement shows just how militarized our whole society has become. When we don’t question a six-year-old wanting to look like someone in a hyper-masculinized institution, we aren’t questioning the ways in which masculinity and militarism and globalization influence our lives. I think we need to implore a feminist curiousity into everyday life, and not ignore the things that may seem trivial to us, such as fashion statements.