What More Could a Woman Ask For? Issues of Gender Equity in the Canadian Forces

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Riswold, Kursten
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This research provides a discursive analysis of contemporary Canadian Forces [CF] recruitment materials, written policies, and procedures that are aimed at gender equity. The analysis and discussions are grounded within a feminist perspective that realizes and questions the socially constructed relationships between men and women. A critical discourse analysis uncovers the degree to which selected CF discursive genres have represented and reproduced women as unequal members within the CF. The CF has implemented singular strategies that are aimed to accommodate the physiological differences between men and women but have not considered women’s unique situation in order to facilitate gender equity goals. CF recruitment materials were examined to reveal patterns in how men and women are represented in CF culture. Organizational policies that address maternity and parental leave entitlements, pregnancy, and family care responsibilities were analysed for their ability to address the career needs of pregnant members, and mothers. Discursive genres have been accessed through public domains, and include application materials made available from the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre. Supplementary materials were used for clarification and explanation. I determined that the CF uses an androcentric perspective to delineate codes of behaviour and acceptance within the organization and define what it considers to be ‘good’ CF membership. Besides endowing positions of power to men, Bem (1996) points to the important assumptions about this perspective as what truly enables it to maintain the status quo by transforming male – female differences into female disadvantage. Personal truths within this perspective are understood to be universal by defining others as either the same or different in relation to the self. Those who are different from one’s self are categorized as non-normative and their function is depicted and valued in relation to the dominant group. A feminist perspective has determined a male centered perspective by revealing the CF’s failure to adequately anticipate the needs of women, in particular, its pregnant members and mothers. The recruitment materials and policies represent an understanding of women as helpers and supporters within the organization, and failure to significantly represent them as active participants of its Institutional (combat) culture. The language within the textual hierarchy generalize and regulate member’s lives in a way that reveals dominant beliefs and discourses about women in productive work and women in the military, particularly with regard to maternity, identity formation, and assimilation into CF culture. Macro level texts focuses on how texts are to be understood and acted upon in order to influence broader societal outcomes while meso and micro-level texts are active in the production and consumption of the text as well as their syntax and language that determine the specific outcomes of local level work (Howitt, 2007; Smith, 2006). These textual levels within the CF inform dominant institutional discourse in a way that renders women’s specific needs and experiences as marginal or ‘other’. The organization does not acknowledge within its texts the ways in which gender enacts differences in women’s lives in way that limit women, in particular, those who are mothers, from joining the organization’s highest positions and achieving full membership and fair representation within the Canadian Forces and international security.
Canadian Armed Forces , Women , Military , Sex Discrimination Against Women