Women in the netherlands

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Women in the Netherlands Armed Forces Rene Moelker & Jolanda Bosch 1 Introduction: The Visibility of Women in the Netherlands Armed Forces

Changes regarding gender roles are remarkable. Some areas of social life are freed from archaic norms and behavior has become more permissive whereas working life seems subject to scrutiny, regulations and heightened civilizing norm setting. One example mayillustrate the changes in gender sensitivity. The gate to the castle of The Royal Netherlands Military Academy is impressive. People walking underneath the walls that give entry to the courtyard will see the names of graduated cadets carved in stone. Some cadets have placed plates, and one of these plates by a group of eleven cadets graduated in 1988 reads: "Aux Femmes, Aux Chevaux, A ceux quiles montent (...) Vive la Cavalerie!" Clearly this is a prank by adolescent men with a healthy hormonal system working overtime. But when one considers the sociology of humor it is also something different. In her brilliant book on humor Giselinde Kuipers (2001: 178) analyzes jokes and explains why they sometimes are an expression of good humor, but bad taste. A good joke is an invitation to laugh,but it is also a little conspiracy at the costs of a group that is excluded. When a joke is told well, it may be difficult not to laugh even though one disagrees completely with the content. Humor is strong and it is almost impossible to object to a well-told joke. The dangerous side of these jokes is that they invite people to join the little conspiracy. The joke "aux femmes, aux chevaux" belongsto military culture and invites people to join a conspiracy that is at the expense of women. The message is hidden in humor and that is why it seems innocent. But it is not innocent because it assigns women to a subordinated role. Gender sensitivity (see Bosch 2003) is central to the integration of women in the military because it can help to lift cultural barriers and eventually, the plate "auxfemmes, aux chevaux" is not really an expression of gender sensitivity. However, despite neolithic expressions of gender insensitivity the position of women in the armed forces has changed and these changes have been subject to study for a few decades. Some of the research into the position of women in armed forces is historical in character (Dekker/Pol 1989; Kloek 2001; Kruyswijk-van Thiel 2004).Some studies go back to the start of integration policies and experiments in integration in the 1980s (Guns 1985). Some of the research relates to the present and points at the changes in the tasks of the military (i.e., the advent of peacekeeping) and its conse81

quences for the position of women (Bouta/Frerks 2002; Sion 2004; Carreiras 2004). In other publications the topic of women in thearmed forces is positioned within the context of managing diversities and emancipation (Richardson/Bosch 1999; Richardson/Bosch/Moelker 2007). With the exception of Bosch/Verweij (2002) the 'invisibility' of women in the armed forces and the theme of 'culture' are seldom addressed. Despite all policy efforts women are often invisible in the military organization. It is not only a quantitativequestion of there being too few women, but also a question of the dominant masculine culture that not so much denies the presence of women, but systematically neglects it. The presence of women is not a topic for popular discussion unless wrapped in military humor. The equation of women to horses mentioned above illustrates the point. The visibility of women in the military organization is clouded bythe culture of the organization, but also by the aspects of the Dutch general culture (especially norms and values related to maternity that are maintained by men and women). It is not blunt discrimination that hinders the growth towards a more equal position of women - most forms of open and blunt discrimination are simply forbidden by law - nor is it lack of integration promoting policies, but...
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