Feminist Advocacy and War on Terror Militarism


  • Isra Ali


In the era of the War on Terror, female U.S. service members and veterans have successfully advocated for formal recognition of their combat service. These women are able to articulate an anti-misogynistic, anti-racist, anti-homophobic message that is highly critical of the military, while remaining palatable to mainstream media and successfully engaging the support of some military leaders and politicians. Their success is due to organizations like the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). The use of Female Engagement Teams (FETs) in Afghanistan and The Lionness Program in Iraq give women specific ways of documenting their combat experience, contributing to SWAN’s ability to gain visibility and pursue changes in law and policy. A critical discourse analysis of SWAN’s use of digital/social media and web presence illustrates how SWAN uses War on Terror militarism to effectively advocate for marginalized groups within the military. Though they invoke the participation of female soldiers in global warfare, however, a discussion of the impact of this militarism on populations of women in Iraq and Afghanistan is almost entirely omitted. The result of this is an advocacy that relies on characterizing female service members as exceptional soldiers, and frames feminist values as in line with the project of boosting military strength, rather than diminishing it.