Date of Award
© 2016 Sawyer Alberi
Doctor of Education (EdD)
L. Anne Flammang
Research on women’s portrayal in media generally suggests that women continue to be sexualized and objectified as war trophies in the classic Hollywood warrior culture film. The age old question of whether life imitates art or vice versa is important to consider when examining the question of how this popular culture medium contributes to the conflicting expectations of today’s women in combat roles. What is the reality of women’s roles in the US Military compared to the roles portrayed by warrior film media? History tells us that women have been on the battlefield in one way or another since there has been battle. Whether in sanctioned medical or support roles or as women disguised as men so they could fight in combat, women were and are present in combat. In January 2016 women began the process of integrating into combat roles in the U.S. Military. The integration of women into combat roles represents a significant social and cultural change for the US Military. This study provides one perspective about how gender roles in media are seen and how these images contribute to the conflict between the lived experience of military women and broader cultural expectations. The findings can inform leaders within and outside of the U.S. military about women’s capacity to serve competently in combat. This study used the Bechdel test and then documented gendered roles, the gender in the gendered roles, and the characterization of the roles in warrior culture film media. This data is then compared to information about women in events, times, or campaigns that are depicted in the films. Out of 11 films and TV episodes, only one film and one TV show passed the Bechdel test. Every film reviewed had gendered roles, with some female gendered roles by portrayed by males until that male had an opportunity to go through his personal rite of manhood. The characterization of the female gendered roles reflected the stereotype that women needed protecting and were weak; women were depicted as prostitutes, snipers, as war trophies or experiencing sexual trauma. This study found that women may not have been in the specific units portrayed in these films, but they were present. Women are excluded from Warrior Culture Film Media and are not depicted as strong warriors. Women are not portrayed accurately when compared to real life in the military. The results will be used to inform leaders in the U.S. Military about how gender roles in media are portrayed and how these images contribute to the conflict between the lived experience of military women and how they appear in media. Images of warrior culture and the roles of men and women in that culture in popular media conflict with more equitable and evolving gender-neutral military staffing expectations.
Alberi, Sawyer Marie L., "GI Jane Versus Sergeant Jane Doe: How Women’s Images In War Movies Contribute To Conflicting Expectations Of Women In Combat" (2016). All Theses And Dissertations. 59.