Women, Peace, and Security



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The panelist provides a rhetorical analysis of the 2015 book, Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, focusing on the “audience” aspect of the rhetorical triangle (author, audience, message). The book is first presented as a celebration of women’s meaningful participation in combat through the Cultural Support Team (CST) program appealing to a public audience. It is viewed as a celebration of women’s abilities to succeed in hypermasculine environments while simultaneously maintaining feminine characteristics. Subsequently, the speaker offers a critique of the book’s instrumentalization of gendered labor, given feminist critiques of stereotypically feminine labors performed by the CSTs.

Finally, another perspective on the book’s glamorization of the performance of military masculinities alongside stereotypical femininities without solving any of the underlying tensions about masculinity or femininity in the context of warfare is shared. As a possible solution, the panelist situates “tactical femininities” within the context of strategic feminism to reclaim ownership of the strategic aims that drove both the CSTs and Ashley’s War. The session calls for the careful examination of the language we use to tell the stories of women in combat to varied audiences.

Publication Date

May, 2023


U.S. Naval War College


Newport, Rhode Island


WPS, women soldiers, Ashley’s War, women in combat, military masculinities, tactical femininities, gendered labor, Cultural Support Teams (CST)

Military Masculinities, Tactical Femininities, and the ‘Third Gender’ in Ashley’s War”