GIR Seminar | Concealing Combat by Helpful Heroes: the Political Utility of Militarized Masculinities
This paper considers how models of militarized masculinity—the social constructions of masculinity that define the ‘ideal soldier’– are wielded by political elites to justify military violence. In a discourse analysis of Department of Defence materials, including recruitment campaigns and informational brochures, I trace a model of militarized masculinity—the “helpful hero”– that emerged during the War in Afghanistan and demonstrate that this ideal type emerged from competing preferences for “warrior” or “peacekeeper” branding of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). I proceed to illustrate how the helpful hero model functioned to legitimize combat in Afghanistan. I argue that the helpful hero ideal is a symbolic trope that functioned politically to obscure military violence. The paper concludes by problematizing this model of militarized masculinity and noting that representations of the helpful hero soldier function to obscure the role that the Canadian state has played in the contemporary ‘forever wars’ in Afghanistan and Iraq.
About the Speaker
Dr. Nicole Wegner is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Gender and War at the University of Sydney. Her research uses feminist approaches to understanding military policies and activities. Specifically, her work explores how narratives, images, myths, and symbolic representations of the military and military personnel influence foreign policies in Canada and Australia. Recent research publications include a semiotic analysis of military recruitment campaigns and a narrative analysis of troop support organizations during the War in Afghanistan.