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(Im)possible women: Gender, sexuality and the British Army

Bower, J; (2000) (Im)possible women: Gender, sexuality and the British Army. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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British Armed Forces personnel policy currently prohibits gay men and lesbians from military service. This thesis, informed by feminist and Foucauldian theory, comprises two discourse analytic studies: the first examines the ways in which gender and homosexuality are constructed in British military policy documents (The Discipline and Standards Paper and the Armed Forces Policy and Guidelines on Homosexuality); the second (an interview study) examines the ways in which 26 lesbians in the British Army construct accounts of gender, sexuality and military service. The policy documents analysed in Study 1 deploy a particular construction of civilian society (as diverse, individualistic, socially irresponsible and lawless) to re-establish and re-inscribe the moral boundaries around the military institution and to legitimate the military's divergent regulatory arrangements. The accounts analysed in Study 2 can be read as the reiteration and negotiation of a series of productive contradictions explicating participants' constructions of their experiences of the military. They construct an account of the military that renders lesbianism both possible (through its abundance) and simultaneously impossible (through its zealous regulation). Being a woman in this context is similarly constituted within contending exhortations for gender-role compliance and occupational competence. Taken together, these analytic texts (both Studies 1 and 2) are interpreted as representing a power struggle over the discursive domain in relation to the meaning and signification of non-conforming sexualities in the military context. In this respect, to justify and maintain gay and lesbian exclusion, the military policy documents expend considerable discursive resources in rendering homosexualities different and 'other,' whereas participants' discursive investments centre on rendering lesbianism 'normal' and thus viable in the military context. Although the exclusionary policy is directed primarily at gay men and lesbians, it also sustains and secures gender subordination in the military environment. Implications for political intervention with respect to the military policy are discussed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: (Im)possible women: Gender, sexuality and the British Army
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10123935
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