“Sir, Yes, Sir” or “Ma’am, Yes, Ma’am”

After starting boot camp I have begin to more readily notice the undeniable association of militarism and masculinity associated with the sport as a training program. However, recently the femininity also associated with boot camp and the military has come into play. Body imaging, reflecting masculinity and femininity in the socio-cultural contexts of the military are key factors in the gender integration of the military. The focus of this blog is looking at how the military culture is present in our modern type of boot camp workouts outside the military. How has gender integration influenced the masculine and feminine ideals regarding military culture relating to boot camp, basic training and combat?  Female bodies are sexualized, but the military physique is not culturally appropriate for woman therefore there is a discrepancy in making bodies in relation to masculinity to form the identity of a man who is in the military. Here is an inevitable construction of masculinity in military. There is a natural masculine culture in the military but it has been noticed that there is feminizing in boot camp because  of  requiring you to work as a whole which shows dependence which is a feminine quality while independence is a more masculine quality.

Common gender discriminations are present in everyday ordinary lives of the military soldiers and staff working together. A new aspect of gender integration in the military has seen some interesting developments. The military is normally a masculine ideal and is only for the manliest and most masculine men. The ability to go through the excruciating process of boot camp is something most people believe that most women could not do and it’s probably true for the most part. In my personal boot camp fitness course which is a gymnastic course but a strenuous work out I am one of the only females and am tiniest in size and because of this I am seen as the weakest. However the fact that I am there is significant in itself. I bring a feminine ideal that could possibly emasculate the men that are there due to the competitive aspects.

A question to be explored is that although all boot camps are not basic training workouts associated with the military and not all boot camps are physical, yet the term boot camp stays with us and we relate it to the military. The military culture is used to develop masculinity in men and sexualizing male bodies as well as female bodies. Men’s bodies in the military must in tip top physique. However, females in the military do not have to strive for the same ideal that men do. Men’s culture is highly developed through militarism as seen in the article “Masculinity, Sexuality and the Body of Male Soldiers” by Nyameka Mankayi as militarization provides a superiority for men. She says “Many people go through military style workouts to achieve that ideal masculine male physique. People idealize military male bodies because they represent so much power, pride and physical appeal. Female bodies in the military however do not hold the same kind of power. “This construction leaves no or little space for women to be fully integrated and accepted in the military, as male bodies are viewed within dominant cultural discourses as superior to female bodies with respect to required performances for the military role (Agostino, 2003).”(Mankayi 28) Females will never hold that superiority and because females will never hold the superiority they have the power to demasculate men. Women in the military are not thought of as powerful and provide a threat against the men that are there. This integration problem is due to the phallus that men have. The integration has this obstacle because men will never want to be equal to women in this aspect. In the militarism point of view, women belong as nurses, in medical care and act as the caretakers which are very feminine qualities that have originated for many decades. Women are the caretakers and take care of injured and sick men as nurses rather than participating in combat.

This relates to the boot camp fitness courses because since they are coed there is the inter gender tension. This ideal that is found in the military is a cultural feeling that is seen in anything remotely related to the military. Gender integration in the military has been anything but easy. It has been said the females in the military are a disruptive force and they cause conflict as boot camp regimens are modified to fit woman and men are distracted by a female presence. There’s also the aspect of feminist that has been brought into place where author Regina F. Tutnik claims in her article “The First Wave: Gender Integration and Military Culture” that cooperating and self-esteem building are very feminine ideals found in boot camp and that the masculine ideas of competition and survival are now playing upon this idea of working as a units. For these reasons the spirit of feminism is found in the military due to the gender integration. In boot camp exercise classes is it not uncommon to work in partners of to motivate another person on the mats. Ideas such as these are opposite of those that are normally associated with independence that are found in men. Men go through boot camp as individuals and come out working in a unit due to the training the training they receive. This provides a new kind of military culture.


Culture is something developed overtime specific to a group of people and is always changing. Military culture has changed many times but what has remained the same is the Author Joseph L. Sorters in the book “Military Culture” addresses how military culture regarding both boot camp and combat are male dominated and traditionally masculine. However he does not hesitate to mention that like any socio-cultural and especially a national organization will start integrating women and minorities and as we have seen that is definitely the case. This has presented a problem in trying to balance new cultures with the traditional ideals in the military.  The first wave of integrating the ideals of both masculinity and femininity in the military has spread to all kind of boot camp styled cases nation-wide while working on gender integration in the process.

Works Cited

Mankayi, Nyameka. “Masculinity,Sexuality and the Body of Male Soldiers.” Research Gate. Research Gate, 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228485732_MASCULINITY_SEXUALITY_AND_THE_BODY_OF_MALE_SOLDIERS&gt;.

Soeters, Joseph L., Donna J. Winslow, and Alise Weibill. Handbook of Sociology of the Military. Vol. IV. N.p.: Springer US, n.d. Military Culture – Springer. Springer Link, 2006. Web. 28 Feb. 2014. <http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/0-387-34576-0_14&gt;.

Titunik, Regina F. “The First Wave: Gender Integration and Military Culture.” Armed Forces and Society. Sage Journals, Dec. 2000. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://afs.sagepub.com/content/26/2/229.short&gt;.

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1 Response to “Sir, Yes, Sir” or “Ma’am, Yes, Ma’am”

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    You bring up a lot of interesting points about the gender tensions that arise in military culture. By juxtaposing actual military boot camp with fitness boot camp, you have the opportunity to consider the crossover between the culture and representation of the military. It is a comparison of the military in its lived form and representation and the cultural imagination of military via boot camps. You have a lot of ideas going on in here, and clarity will be important as you move forward, especially when dealing with such complex ideas and terms.

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