Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High-and-Tight: Gender, Folklore, and Changing Military Culture

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9780807046609: Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High-and-Tight: Gender, Folklore, and Changing Military Culture

For decades scandals about women in the military have persisted, from Tailhook and Aberdeen to reports of sexual assaults and misconduct in the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Army, and, recently, in the U.S. Air Force Academy as well. In this bold and unflinching book, Carol Burke tries to figure out why this keeps happening.

A folklorist who taught as a civilian professor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for seven years, Carol Burke analyzes the military as an occupational folk group. Observing that both the official and unofficial convey significant information about military culture, she examines every detail of the military: from the "high-and-tight" haircut and chants sung in basic training to the pranks and jokes, the drinking games, and the hazing of new soldiers.

Burke explores the minute ways that "the cult of masculinity" persists in all branches of the United States military today, and she unearths fascinating details and offers eye-opening anecdotes about basic training, military dress and speech, the history of the marching chant, the disdain some veterans still harbor for Jane Fonda, and the colorful-and sometimes questionable-rituals of military manhood.

She argues that acts of harassment keep recurring because historically the military has been "what made a man of you"-in other words, an exclusionary all-male institution. But, Burke contends, military culture is made-not born-and now it's time that the military consciously changed its policy of "gendered apartheid" so it can evolve into the gender-, race-, and sexuality-neutral democratic institution it deserves to be.

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About the Author:

Carol Burke is associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Irvine. The author of five books, her work as a folklorist ranges from explorations of the folk life of rural Midwestern families to the penal system to the modern military. She lives in Irvine, California.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly:

Drawing on research, interviews, observations of ROTC training programs and seven years of experience teaching at the Naval Academy, Burke vividly describes how basic training breaks down new recruits’ former identities and instills military discipline. Shaving recruits’ heads, issuing new clothing, forbidding them any of the freedoms of civilian life and depriving them of sleep are just parts of the process. Any weakness on the part of trainees is dealt with, Burke says, by comparing them negatively to homosexuals and women. Burke, a folklorist and English professor who now teaches at the Univ. of California, Irvine, has previously analyzed the lives of rural women and those of inmates (Vision Narratives of Women in Prison). With regard to the military’s use of gender, she relates numerous informal and brutal initiation rites that are marked by unacknowledged homoeroticism, coupled with humiliation. According to the author, military hazing rituals have led to, at best, the marginalization of female recruits and, at worst, to incidents of sexual aggression towards women (a la the Tailhook scandal)-and now, some will argue, toward prisoners. Burke reads what she says is the institutionalized hatred of Vietnam anti-war activist Jane Fonda as a militarized myth of "the seductive woman who turns out to be a snake." She argues that the macho culture of the military is not only unjust, but will be irrelevant in a future where brute force will not be the primary military need. While Burke focuses on what she sees as weaknesses of military culture, she delivers her findings in an even tone, and with accessible examples, including a debunking of the mythic elements of Jessica Lynch’s captivity narrative.
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