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Explore the experience of American women in the military

Arms and the Enlisted Woman

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Judith Hicks Stiehm

"A vivid and provocative account.... Stiehm's assessment of the myths that sustain 'this man's army' reveals the reasons for enlisted women's ambivalent status—and throws a new light on some of America's real military problems."
Betty Friedan

"This book is about America’s most unknown soldiers-enlisted women in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines." Focusing on the decade from 1972 to 1982, Judith Stiehm uses personal narratives, interviews, policy statements, and other material to explore the experience of American women in the military—their reasons for enlisting, their roles, their self-image, and the way they are viewed by civilians.

Although there are now more than 200,000 women in uniform, Stiehm asks why the policies concerning enlisted women "so often appear to fly in the face of both logic and evidence." Her analysis of the effects of change in military policy on women of different ranks and ages reveals how certain functional myths (e.g., "war is manly") are challenged by the presence of women. The result has been an uneasy accommodation.

Arms and the Enlisted Woman includes a vivid first-person account by a female veteran of one woman’s experience in the Air Force. Honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant after six years of working as an airplane mechanic, this woman describes the struggle to be taken seriously and treated equally, and to excel in a non-traditional field. She also relates the joys of seeing a job well done and being part of a cohesive team. Her mixed reaction to her military career epitomizes the difficulty with which enlisted women have been assimilated.

Stiehm also analyzes the rapidly shifting military policies concerning women as well as the reasons for certain erroneous but persistent beliefs about them, and remarks, "One thing seems to be certain. To the professional military the enlisted woman is a raw nerve."

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Reviews

"Digging beneath the accumulated rubble of military studies and statistics, Stiehm discovers that ‘defensiveness rather than sense’ drives much military policy on women.... Her brilliant contrasts of the successive generations of enlisted women illumine the frequent and incongruous shifts of policy which endanger women’s careers, and shed light on the obstructions to bonding and networking among military women...not only does Stiehm encapsulate an enormous quantity of useful data on enlisted women, both in her text and in her appendices, but she also tackles the underlying problems, offering for their resolution the stimulating suggestions of an honest, daring, and original mind ranging over little-known territory which the author herself has thoroughly explored."
Minerva

"This is potentially a blockbuster book of great importance. The author is a very good writer...her book is not only of interest to military types and to the soldiers themselves but also to feminists concerned with the shape and tenacity of gender roles in our society."
Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Northwestern University

"In the author's view, the principal problem of females in the service is their very presence, which prompts such questions as whether women should be drafted, whether they should serve in combat, whether they can do all the jobs in the military and how to cope with pregnancy, particularly in unmarried servicewomen. Stiehm reports on attitudes in all four branches of the service, among enlisted men and women, both noncommissioned and commissioned officers, as well as the public. ...a reference work..."
Publishers Weekly

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About the Author(s)

Judith Hicks Stiehm, Provost of Florida International University, is the author of Bring Me Men and Women: Mandated Change at the W.S. Air Force Academy.

Subject Categories

Women's Studies

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