This article analyzes the gendered performances of American military women during the US-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Through an examination of Lioness teams and female engagement teams—all-female teams used to navigate “cultural norms,” present the US military as humanitarian, and facilitate engagements with occupied civilian women—the article argues that the affective labor of women soldiers and marines was strategically instrumentalized for population-centric counterinsurgency warfare. In addition to the gendered labor women perform as counterinsurgents, the article also considers the emotional and often maternal labor military women perform among their comrades, as a means to develop relationships as well as to protect themselves from sexual violence. Ultimately, this article is invested in developing a conversation about women's military participation that considers how gender matters to war, how gendered subjectivities are constituted by, and instrumental in, US imperialism, and what potentially subversive subjects may emerge as a result.
1 October 2015