From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Experience in the cantonments of 1917 and in the sanitation of active troops convincingly showed that war is today, as much as ever, 75 per cent an engineering and sanitary problem and a little less than 25 per cent a military one. Other things being approximately equal, that army will win which has the best engineering and sanitary services. The wise general will do what the engineers and the sanitary officers let him. The only reason why this is not entirely apparent in wars is because the military minds on both sides are too superb to notice that both armies are simultaneously immobilized by the same diseases."--Rats, Lice and History (1935) by Hans Zinsser
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g. military junta, supporting or promoting economic expansion through imperialism, and as a form of internal social control. As an adjective the term "military" is also used to refer to any property or aspect of a military. Militaries often function as societies within societies, by having their own military communities.
The profession of soldiering as part of a military is older than recorded history itself. Some of the most enduring images of the classical antiquity portray the power and feats of its military leaders. The Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC was one of the defining points of Pharaoh Ramesses II's reign and is celebrated in bas-relief on his monuments. A thousand years later the first emperor of unified China, Qin Shi Huang, was so determined to impress the gods with his military might that he was buried with an army of terracotta soldiers. The Romans were dedicated to military matters, leaving to posterity many treatises and writings as well as a large number of lavishly carved triumphal arches and victory columns.
Stereotypes of the military
A military brat is a colloquial term for a child with at least one parent who served as an active duty member (vice reserve) in the armed forces. Children of armed forces members may move around to different military bases or international postings, which gives them an unusual childhood. Unlike common usage of the term brat, when it is used in this context, it is not necessarily a derogatory term.
Military in the media
Soldiers and armies have been prominent in popular culture since the beginnings of recorded history. In addition to the countless images of military leaders in heroic poses from antiquity, they have been an enduring source of inspiration in war literature. Not all of this has been entirely complementary and the military have been lampooned or ridiculed as often as they have been idolised. The classical Greek writer Aristophanes, devoted an entire comedy, Lysistrata, to a strike organised by military wives where they withhold sex from their husbands to prevent them from going to war.
In Medieval Europe, tales of knighthood and chivalry, the officer class of the period, captured the popular imagination. Writers and poets like Taliesin, Chrétien de Troyes and Thomas Malory wrote tales of derring-do featuring Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Galahad. Even in the 21st century, books and films about the Arthurian legend and the Holy Grail continue to appear.
A century or so later, in the hands of writers such as Jean Froissart, Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare, the fictional knight Tirant lo Blanch and the real-life condottieri John Hawkwood would be juxtaposed against the fantastical Don Quixote and the carousing Sir John Falstaff. In just one play, Henry V, Shakespeare provides a whole range of military characters, from cool-headed and clear-sighted generals, to captains, and common soldiery.
The rapid growth of movable type in the late 16th century and early 17th century saw an upsurge in private publication. Political pamphlets became popular, often lampooning military leaders for political purposes. A pamphlet directed against Prince Rupert of the Rhine is a typical example. During the 19th century, irreverence towards authority was at its height and for every elegant military gentleman painted by the master-portraitists of the European courts for example, Gainsborough, Goya and Reynolds, there are the sometimes affectionate and sometimes savage caricatures of Rowland and Hogarth.
This continued in the 19th century, with publications like Punch in the British Empire and Le Père Duchesne in France, poking fun at the military establishment. This extended to media other print also. An enduring example is the Major-General's Song from the Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, The Pirates of Penzance, where a senior army officer is satirised for his enormous fund of irrelevant knowledge.
The increasing importance of cinema in the early 20th century provided a new platform for depictions of military subjects. During the First World War, although heavily censored, newsreels enabled those at home to see for themselves a heavily sanitised version of life at the front line. About the same time, both pro-war and anti-war films came to the silver screen. One of the first films on military aviation, Hell's Angels, broke all box office records on its release in 1929. Soon, war films of all types were showing throughout the world, notably those of Charlie Chaplin who actively promoted war bonds and voluntary enlistment.
The First World War was also responsible for a new kind of military depiction, through poetry. Hitherto, poetry had been used mostly to glorify or sanctify war. The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, with its galloping hoofbeat rhythm, is a prime late Victorian example of this, though Rudyard Kipling had written a scathing reply, The Last of the Light Brigade, criticising the poverty in which many Light Brigade veterans found themselves in old age. Instead, the new wave of poetry, from the war poets, was written from the point of view of the disenchanted trench soldier.
Leading war poets included Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, John McCrae, Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg and David Jones. A similar movement occurred in literature, producing a slew of novels on both sides of the Atlantic including notably All Quiet on the Western Front and Johnny Got His Gun. The 1963 English stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War! provided a satirical take on World War I, which was released in a cinematic version directed by Richard Attenborough in 1969.
The propaganda war that accompanied World War II invariably depicted the enemy in unflattering terms. Examples of this exist not only in posters but also in the films of Leni Riefenstahl and Sergei Eisenstein.
Alongside this, World War II also inspired films as varied as Bridge on the River Kwai, The Longest Day, Catch-22, Saving Private Ryan, and The Sea Shall Not Have Them. The next major event, the Korean War inspired a long-running television series M*A*S*H. With the Vietnam War, the tide of balance turned and its films, notably Apocalypse Now, Good Morning, Vietnam, Go Tell the Spartans, Born on the Fourth of July, and We Were Soldiers, have tended to contain critical messages.
There is even a nursery rhyme about war, "The Grand Old Duke of York", ridiculing a general for his inability to command any further than marching his men up and down a hill. The huge number of songs focusing on war include "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and "Universal Soldier".
Masculinity in the military
Masculinity and perceptions of masculinity plays an important role in the military. Military organizations form roles and responsibilities that they expect members to adapt to especially under adverse and life-threatening conditions. Just like it is used within society, masculinity is a word that is associated with the military quite often as gender hierarchy exists in relation to gender subordinated gender constructs. Studies of masculinity within the military have been conducted with British servicemen and it was determined that military forces are masculine institutions and the military culture support this. According to soldiers, toughness, endurance, physical prowess and aggression are requirements to be an effective soldier. Military cohesion is created by social rituals which entails almost total subordination to the group and a sense of depersonalization. In addition, military culture is characterized by extremely high levels of social cohesion that is considered essential to the unit's operational efficiency. . This masculine emphasis separates rather rigidly the male from the female and puts them in conflict with one another. There have been some attempts of changing this perception late in the 20th century as women in combat have been portrayed in movies like "G.I. Jane", "Saving Private Ryan", and "Down Periscope".
Masculine emotional control
Military service offers men unique resources for the construction of a masculine identity defined by emotional control, overt heterosexual desire, physical fitness, self-discipline, self-reliance, the willingness to use aggression and physical violence, and risk taking. Emotional control is a very important part of military training and is incorporated into operations. Training exercises are designed to elicit strong emotions that one may face on the battle field. Soldiers are taught to control anger, fear, and grief as to not get in the way of difficult judgments. This type of training creates the 'warrior mindset', but it comes at a cost as it leaves many soldiers without a healthy way to process emotions and events faced by the battle field. Unfortunately, this is believed to be the main cause of the high rate of suicides amongst soldiers. This masculine imperative for emotional self-control places men in a prestigious position and superior to women, since women are believed to be more emotional than men. The presence of women in the military challenges this ideology.
Masculinity in military women
Femininity does have a place within the military, as it does in society, although to a much lesser extent. The increased number of women in the military undeniably signifies a shift in policy. However, current debates focusing on women's contributions to war efforts only serve to consolidate the dominant position of military masculinities within the institution. Focusing on women's difference and women's ability to contribute to strategic military objectives, they fail to challenge the very nature of the armed forces and militarism more widely. Women's role as peace makers and life bearers is thus constructed in opposition to that of the soldier/combatant. Femininity and women are therefore excluded from this essentially male and masculine institution
Though women have long served in the Army and currently make up 15% of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and 30% say they served in a combat zone, recent reports attest to their continued marginalization within Army ranks. Women in the military are marginalized because they violate one of the premises of military indoctrination and the myth of an exclusively male-dominated world. As a result of their transgression, not only are women excluded from key aspects of military life, but they are also subjected to violence with great frequency. Recent studies indicate that between 43-60% of female enlisted personnel experience some form of physical or sexual harassment or violence. This physical and sexual abuse attests to the exclusion of women within the military. Recently the pentagon lifted the ban on military women within the military women in combat roles.
Militaria are another way of depicting the military. Militaria are antique artifacts or replicas of military history people, firearms, swords, badges, etc. collected for their historical significance. Today, the collecting of militaria items such as toy soldiers, tin soldiers, military models is an established hobby among many groups of people.
- List of countries by military expenditures per capita
- List of militaries that recruit foreigners
- Military invention
- International humanitarian law
- Military–industrial complex