Particular accepted gender roles are enforced throughout peacetime and war, often with violent consequences. Initially this essay will explore the meaning behind gendered roles, their creation, and their importance in modern society. Using a case study of the conflict and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this essay will then investigate the prevalence of sexual violence in war.
Gender is a social construct and does exist independently. It is an invention of society that dictates what is ‘masculine’ and what is ‘feminine’. Cultural practices and norms further permeate the construct of gender, with stereotypes and the dictation by media and governing bodies regarding how the sexes should identify. Gender associates ‘feminine’ with female, and ‘masculine’ with male, and suggests that these characteristics should be sex-exclusive. Female and male are, themselves, constructed at birth on the basis of the child’s genitals; intersex children are frequently subjected to physical change in an attempt to ‘organize’ them into a particular social category. Gender dictates the roles humans are to play in society, and thus children are taught from an early age the accepted characteristics of their gender. In adulthood, the teaching appears to continue, as a plethora of media outlets and a variety of social discourses outline the behavior that those of a particular gender must exhibit. Social depiction of gender dictates what hobbies we should pursue, how we communicate with others, the type of work we’re supposed to do, and even the sex we should be attracted to.
Creating a hierarchy in society is only possible if there are points of difference between people, and thus particular physical elements of a human are chosen and significance is placed upon them. These features, such as genitalia or skin colour, are the natural aspects of a human, and therefore appear to justify and ordain immutability to the associated social constructs.
Patriarchy is the salient feature of gender as a social institution (Lorber 1994), and men’s subordination and exploitation of women is recurring theme of gender-based politics.
Women are increasingly sexualized in a media context and in the broader context of society. Their representation as highly sexualized creatures in media encourages the roles of masculinity and femininity, and only assists in reinforcing the masculinity of men, especially in war, where the portrayed femininity of women assists in permeating the soldier’s role as the protector and the physically and socially dominant gender. The sexualisation of women and young girls is reinforced in war; women are forced into situations in which they are treated as inferior, and often face sexual violence, used as a weapon of war. The subordination of women is implied by the social concept of patriarchy in itself; systems of hierarchy in many societies have proved that power is intrinsically interwoven in the very structure of a society. In a male dominated...