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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: July 2014

Special Feature. Women behind the Gun: Aiming for Equality and Recognition


The women and girls who are featured in this section have something in common: at some point in their lives, whether as adults or as children, legally or illicitly, they all became intimately familiar with firearms. Not all of them have actually had to fire their guns in the line of duty, yet most hold or carry a weapon as a demonstration of force. Most also reflect a desire to be recognized for their contributions-as combatants, as professionals, as equals.

Sexism and the threat of sexual assault can profoundly threaten the self-esteem and security of women in the military. A Dutch soldier recalls that she was advised to carry a gun to the toilets at night to protect herself from her male peers while stationed in Afghanistan. A former US Marine recollects that, during her first tour of duty in Iraq, she began to question her will to live as male Marines repeatedly demeaned her to signal their superiority. She welcomes US plans to integrate women in combat roles as a means of removing the ‘last gender-specific definition of performance’ in the military.

Former and current rebels also speak of an ongoing need for gender equality. A group of demobilized guerrilleras in Colombia seeks to prevent ex-combatant women from being forgotten, mischaracterized, and vilified.

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