‘‘Dykes’’ or ‘‘whores’’: Sexuality and the Women’s Army Corps in the United States during World War II

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  ‘‘Dykes’’ or ‘‘whores’’: Sexuality and the Women’s Army Corps in the United States during World War II
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  ‘‘Dykes’’ or ‘‘whores’’: Sexuality andthe Women’s Army Corps in the United Statesduring World War II M. Michaela Hampf   Anglo-Amerikanische Abteilung des Historischen Seminars, Universita¨ t zu Ko¨ ln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923, Cologne, Germany Synopsis When the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was founded in the United States in 1943, utilizing American womanpower was amatter of military expediency. At the same time, military service provided many women with mobility, education, and greater economic and personal autonomy. Women soldiers were subject to rumors and hostility by the public and media that found thestereotypical ‘feminine’ to be irreconcilable with the stereotypically masculine ‘soldier’ and considered both lesbian andheterosexual women’s sexual agency a threat to military masculinity and established gender roles. Archival records of the USArmy show that women’s sexuality was controlled by discourses of desexualization and/or hypersexualization, by policiesdenying their sexual agency and of their victimization. The WAC leadership created an image of the ‘‘respectable’’ femalesoldier based on assumptions about the class and race nature of sexual morality. During the Second World War (WWII), military psychiatrists’ focus on homosexuality shifted from criminal to medical concepts. Concerns over lesbianism in the Corps, whichwas the apotheosis of cultural anxieties over women’s entrance into the military, highlight the performative nature and the closeconnections between the categories gender and sexuality. D  2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Introduction A women’s Army to defend the United States of America! Think of the humiliation. What has become of the manhood in America, that we haveto call on our women to do what has ever beenthe duty of men? 1 In more and more Western societies, women playincreasingly important roles in the armed forces.More than 60 years after the above quoted statement was made in the congressional debate over theestablishment of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps(WAAC), the conflicts expressed in it still strike afamiliar tone. Present debates on women soldiers incombat or multinational peace operations and onthose killed, wounded or taken prisoner in war zonesshow that military masculinities and femininities are ahighly contested terrain. Whether women soldiers are perceived as threatening military efficiency or wheth-er, on the contrary, their presence is hoped to ‘‘civ-ilize’’ peacekeeping forces and to promote thesuccess of nation-building and conflict-resolvingtasks—these debates highlight the close links be-tween the categories gender and sexuality (Elshtain,1987). This contribution attempts to shed light on thediscursive construction of women soldiers’ sexualityduring World War II (WWII). As the categories 0277-5395/$ - see front matter   D  2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2003.12.007www.elsevier.com/locate/wsif Women’s Studies International Forum 27 (2004) 13–30  ‘woman’ and ‘soldier’ in the United States of the1940s were thought to be immensely difficult, if not impossible to reconcile, lesbian soldiers were doublyothered. They were silenced and rendered invisible inorder not to challenge society’s and the military’sestablished androcentric, heterosexist order. ‘The mil-itary closet comes in ‘‘White’’ and ‘‘Colored’’, ‘‘His’’and ‘‘Hers’’ versions [ . . . ]’ (D’Amico, 1996, p. 3).The different forms of women’s identity and agencyexamined in this article are situated in the larger historical context of gender and sexuality in themilitary in order to avoid what  Penn (1991, p. 190)calls ‘‘a gendered history that is desexualized or asexual history that is degendered’’. My aim is tounderstand how military culture and military power operate to construct and legitimate the asymmetricalsocial positions that produce intelligible bodies andthe fiction of binary categorical identities. While I amnot arguing that the inclusion of women in a militarythat depends on their exclusion, is per se subversive,understanding the  dispositif    of sexuality at work inthe military could be a first step in thinking a non-gendered, civil/ized concept of citizenship. 2 I will first examine a few examples of themilitary, political and cultural discourses and repre-sentations that surrounded the Women’s Army Corps(WAC) and show how they are structured by thecategory gender. 3 The category sexuality and itsimplications for the concept of the citizen–soldier is the focus of the second part. With the inclusion of women in the army, there appeared lesbian soldierswho seemed to threaten both the carefully con-structed ‘‘respectability’’ of the women’s corps aswell as the ‘‘genderedness’’ of the established mili-tary order. A major shift occurred in the way themilitary organization encompassed and subordinatedits members’ sexualities when physicians and psy-chiatrists introduced the concept of homosexuality asa mental illness that came to replace the concept of sodomy as a criminal act before and during WorldWar II (Duberman, Vicinus, & Chauncey, 1989;Greenberg, 1988). The third part will focus on thisshift and on the specific problems the Women’sArmy Corps faced in applying the new psychiatriccategories of homosexuality to women. In the fourth part, I consider the effects of the newly implemented policy of medicalization on women soldiers bylooking at US Army records from the NationalArchives and Records Administration (NARA), other military and civilian archives and manuscripts fromthe Library of Congress. Two case histories of formal investigations against women indicted aslesbians at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia frame the ter-rain in which Wacs negotiated their identitiesthrough practices of subjection (Butler, 1997, p. 2). 4 The construction of the woman soldier The construction of the woman soldier in theWomen’s Army Corps during World War II was basedon the intersection of gender, race, sexuality and class.The military is a gendered and hierarchical institutionin which ‘‘widely disseminated cultur al images of gender are invented and reproduced’’ (Acker, 1992, p. 565; Shaw, 1991). Within the military institution,gender is present in different, but interdependent andoverlapping processes, practices, images, ideologies,and distributions of power. Historically, the emer-gence of nation states was closely linked to the professionalization of the armed forces. In the process,the military came to be seen as a symbol for thesovereignty of the state—the concepts of citizen,soldier and man fused and the figure of the malewarrior had to be legitimized thr ough the necessity to protect ‘‘womenandchildren’’ (Eifler, 1999 cited inEnloe, 1999, p. 157; Eifler & Seifert, 1999). Militaryinstitutions utilize ‘‘gender technologies’’ (De Laure-tis, 1987) in order to foster an ideology of heterosex-ual masculinity that transgresses the boundary of themilitary and permeates civilian discourses. 5 In thetradition of late 18th century, bourgeois revolutionsas well as in the American republican tradition of thecitizen–soldier, military service and citizenship areclosely linked. Participation in the military has servedand continues to serve as a determinant of the rights of citizens. Kerber (1998) has traced the link betweencitizenship and the right and obligation, respectively,of bearing arms from pre-Revolutionary times on. Sheshows how the concept of citizenship became tightlylinked to race and manhood, which was sharply andritually contrasted with effeminacy. The constructionof a hegemonic military masculinity is centered oncombat, its mythical core, and has depended on theexclusion of the ‘‘other’’, the ‘‘overt homosexual’’,the ‘‘feminine’’, the ‘‘ethnic other’’.  M.M. Hampf / Women’s Studies International Forum 27 (2004) 13–30 14  In World War II, the military occupational struc-ture changed significantly. Due to technologicalfactors, its emphasis shifted from the combat armsto a much larger administrative and technical support apparatus. The military required a growing number of skills that resembled those needed in the civilianworkplace (Moore, 1996, p. 25). Thus, the militarycould employ women and ethnic minority personnelto work in communications and clerical functionswithout changing the organization’s stratified struc-ture. The officer elite was still made up of white menwhile African American men and all women wereexcluded from leadership positions in combat. Al-though only 12% of all male soldiers saw combat during World War II, the status as ‘‘warrior’’ and‘‘protector’’ was reserved for white men, reinforcingwhite women’s role as the ‘‘protected’’ and, in turn,African American women’s role as ‘‘unprotected’’(Meyer, 1996, p. 85).African American women thus found themselvesin a double minority position. They were confrontedwith racial constructions of gender and genderedconstructions of race that influenced every aspect of their service. Most Army posts were segregatedeven in states that had no segregation laws, althoughthe Army claimed it was merely following local lawsand practices (Meyer, 1996, p. 90). In contrast to theassignment of traditional ‘‘women’s work’’ to Wacs,the WAC leadership had no intention to underminethe Army’s system of racial segregation. AfricanAmerican servicewomen also faced specific resent-ment by African American male soldiers. CharityAdams Early, commander of the 6888th CentralPostal Directory Battalion in Europe, rememberedthat ‘‘the presence of successfully performing Negrowomen on the scene increased their resentment. [ . . . ]The efforts of the women to be supportive of themen was [sic] mistaken for competition and patron-age’’(Early, 1989, p. 187). Many African AmericanWacs, as well as their supporters in the AfricanAmerican community, saw their service as part of alarger struggle for racial justice. In several instances,their resistance against discrimination, segregationand malassignment foreshadowed the protests of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960(Meyer, 1996, p. 5).Although not formally incorporated before the 20thcentury, women had long been part of military forcesof the United States. The first permanent women’smilitary branch to be established, the Women’s ArmyAuxiliary Corps (WAAC) was created by act of Congress on May 15, 1942. 6 Oveta Culp Hobby,formerly chief of the Women’s Interest Section of the Bureau of Public Relations of the War Depart-ment, became the first director of the WAAC. Hobby,a Texan involved in various ‘‘women’s activities’’, thewife of the former Texan governor and a former statelegislator herself, stated that she was ‘‘about asunmilitary a person as ever existed’’. When Hobby,‘‘[a] slender, quietly pretty, very feminine woman, aSouthern lady with an aura of breeding and gentility,wearing a straw sailor hat and a stylishly plain suit [ . . . ]’’ took her oath of office on May 14, 1942, her appearance certainly posed no threat  (Hock, 1995;Pogue, 1973, p. 107). Although the Auxiliary CorpsAct gave women only partial military status, fearswere voiced that a situation would result in which‘‘women generals would rush about the countrydictating orders to male personnel and telling thecommanding officers of post s how to run their busi-ness’’ (Meyer, 1996, p. 44). On July 1, 1943, Con- gress converted the Auxiliary Corps into the Women’sArmy Corps (WAC) which was part of the Army andthus assigned the women soldiers full military status.The WAC provided women ranks and pay comparableto those of their male counterparts but at the sametime limited their options and made them subject tothe Army’s disciplinary code. 7 In total, 140,000 wom-en served in the Women’s Corps during WWII(Treadwell, 1954).Women’s entrance into the Army was accepted by male officers and political leaders under the banner of expediency. In mobilizing for WWII, thecreation of the women’s corps allowed the Army tofill the increasing number of clerical tasks or ‘‘wom-en’s jobs’’ with semimilitary personnel in order tofree male soldiers for combat positions. In general,areas of deployment of female soldiers were similar to their job opportunities in the civil labor force. Asa labor resource for military planning, auxiliarieswere more reliable than civilian employees becauseonly personnel with (some) military status could becontrolled 24 h per day. What was most important for military planners was that the military, not civilian legislators, could control and discipline thesewomen.  M.M. Hampf / Women’s Studies International Forum 27 (2004) 13–30  15  A number of civilian and military groups haddramatically conflicting visions about the concept of ‘Female Soldiers’. During WWII, the influence of white women’s rights organizations was rather limit-ed. Most of them did not stress the connections between military service and citizenship, but saw inwomen’s service a temporary sacrifice and contribu-tion to the war effort which was not expected to take part in the reorganization of gender roles in a postwar society. African American press and women’s organ-izations, such as the National Council of NegroWomen, and socialist women did, in contrast, point out the importance of military service, not only for theadvancement of African American women but, gen-erally, for the progress of the equal rights cause andgreater justice in the postwar society (Erenberg &Hirsch, 1996; Litoff & Smith, 1997; Moore, 1996). 8 Mobilization and the massive wartime migrationoffered many women increasing access to jobs,wages, the possibility of economic autonomy and adecrease in parental control. Along with more than 16million men who became soldiers, nearly as manycivilians—most of them women—left their homes. 9 Inthe civil work force as well as in the military, participation of women as breadwinners or soldierswas seen as deviant from existing gender roles, but nevertheless necessary to win the war  (D’Emilio &Freedman, 1988, p. 260). Opponents to even a tem- porary participation of women felt that not only theefficiency of the military was threatened, but also thetraditional system of male dominance and the roles of female homemaker and male breadwinner were chal-lenged. Increasing economic and sexual independenceof women subverted the roles of the ‘‘protector’’ andthe mythical spaces of ‘‘front’’ and ‘‘home’’ (Yuval-Davis, 1999).The WAC bill was also vigorously opposed bywomen’s peace organizations, in part in an uneasyalliance with right-wing organizations: Mildred Scott Olmsted of the Women’s Committee to Oppose Con-scription (WCOC), declared in a radio broadcast ‘‘Women are naturally and rightly the homemakers[ . . . ] They play their part during the war by ‘keepingthe home fires burning’’’ (Kerber, 1998, p. 249). The far-right group Mothers of Sons warned, ‘‘this billwould nationalize our women and complete the sovi-etization of our country.’’ 10 Mainstream media wereextraordinarily concerned with a development of masculine appearance and a potentially more aggres-sive and assertive sexuality in Army women, whichwas thought to challenge male dominance. Whilesome were supportive of the WAAC, others urgedwomen not to join the corps. ‘‘Stay as feminine as possible. Who wants to go out with an ersatz man?’’warned a commentator. 11 Women’s sexual agency became a symbol for gender deviance, as becameclear in the stereoty pe of the ‘‘mannish woman’’(Meyer, 1996, p. 6). The perceived masculinizationof women by the military posed the threat of femini-zation to the military as a whole.Likewise, concerns about sexual deviance werearticulated in the media through the stereotypes of the cross-dresser and camp follower, which in popular usage was synonymous with ‘‘prostitute’’ and usuallyimplied a woman of ‘‘loose sexual morals’’. 12 Accu-sations of promiscuity among Wacs in connectionwith the segregated nature of the Women’s Corpseven led to the allegation that the WAC was a prostitution cadre designed to fulfill the sexual needsof male soldiers. 13 Thus, during this slander cam- paign, the furnishing of birth control information andcontraceptives was taken as a ‘‘proof’’ by somecolumnists that the Army indeed encouraged andenticed heterosexual promiscuity, perhaps even spe-cifically with servicemen (O’Donnell, 1943; News- week articles in 1943, cited in Meyer, 1996, p. 33). 14 ‘‘If my daughter is a member of an organized group of whores’’, wrote one father of a Waac, ‘‘I want to knowit and get her out of the WAAC.’’ 15 Limited and transgressed by domestic and foreign policy issues, these discourses created a fundamentaldilemma for the leaders of the women’s corps. Inorder to protect them from sexual exploitation, dis-crimination and violence by the military, its membershad to be presented to the public and the military asfull-fledged soldiers with equal rights and a publiclyacceptable, i.e., feminine, image. To counter publiccontroversy, the WAC leadership presented the publican image of the corps that resembled a boardingschool for white middle class daughters. 16 Director Hobby, who as a former newspaper publisher knewhow to employ the media in her public relationsefforts, emphasized an image of respectability andcountered the potential sexual autonomy of Wacs by adisplay of asexuality. Sexual respectability was de-termined by race as well as class. Working class  M.M. Hampf / Women’s Studies International Forum 27 (2004) 13–30 16  women were stereotypically assumed to be moresexually active than middle-class women, and Afri-can American women were portrayed as promiscu-ous by nature (Meyer, 1996, p. 36). Women’ssexuality was policed by regulations such as thehigher enlistment requirements and the WAAC’sseparate  Code of Conduct  . According to these reg-ulations, women who had transgressed the limits of respectability in displaying a ‘‘conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the WAAC,’’ meaning publicdrunkenness and extramarital sex or, in the case of the WAAC, any form of sexual intercourse, were to be discharged immediately. In contrast to the Army,there was no room for rehabilitation by means of  punishment or disciplinary measures. When an at-tempt was made by the Surgeon General to intro-duce a venereal disease control program for Wacssimilar to that for male soldiers in the Army, it met strong resistance by Director Hobby and the Director of the Army Nurse Corps. Both believed in higher moral standards for women and feared that even theterm venereal disease control would affect recruitingadversely. Throughout the war, venereal disease wasa cause for rejection of women, although the Sur-geon General argued that from a public healthstandpoint it would be best to treat them, as wasdone with men (Treadwell, 1954, pp. 615–616).Civilian scientists of the National Research Counciladvocated that all Waacs be educated in matters of sexual health and that contraceptives be issued or dispensed from slot machines in WAAC latrines(Treadwell, 1954, p. 616). This approach was out of the question for Director Hobby, who was con-vinced that because of the ‘‘high type of womanexpected in the Corps’’ (ibid.) no such measureswould be needed and that Army regulationsconcerning these matters intended for male personnelwere not applicable to female personnel. 17 This policy reaffirmed the military’s sexual paradigm that men were not to be held responsible for the con-sequences of their heterosexual encounters, as were‘‘the others’’—their partners, who were assumed to be civilians and females. The corps only contained‘‘honorable’’ women, and honor in the case of theWAC was defined as heterosexual orientation, whitemiddle-class background, modesty and chastity(Meyer, 1996, p. 64; Peiss et al., 1989, pp. 4–6).A WAC pamphlet assured parents that ‘‘[your daugh-ters will] make the kind of associations you want them to have at home’’. 18 ‘‘Sodomists’’ and ‘‘cross-dressers’’ Before the peacetime mobilization of 1940–1941,homosexuality had never been an issue for the Armyor the Navy. Instead, they had targeted as criminal theact of sodomy, defined as anal and sometimes oral sex between men, not homosexual persons. The Articlesof War, Article 93, first codified ‘‘consensual sod-omy’’ as a dischargeable offense in 1920. Same-gender sexual relationships in the Armed Forces havea long tradition in the United States Armed Forces.General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who trainedthe Continental Army at Valley Forge, is believed tohave had male lovers, and Lieutenant Gotthold Fred-erick Enslin was drummed out of the ContinentalArmy for sodomy on 11 March 1778. The military’sfirst lesbian soldiers fought, disguised as men, in the15th Missouri regiment during the Civil War  (Cham- bers, 1999, p. 287). Thus soldiers and officers whoengaged in same sex relations were court-martialed,usually imprisoned and dishonorably discharged onthe grounds of their behavior, not their sexual identity per se. 19 In World War II, a dramatic change occurred.In October 1940, several million men had registeredfor the draft and the Selective Service System wasnow in a position to exclude certain groups of citizens. 20 The second reason for the fundamentalreorganization of the management of homosexualswas the psychiatric profession’s growing authority todefine homosexuality and its influence on military personnel policy. In 1942, the revised regulations for the disposition of homosexual personnel reflected ashift in the interpretation from a criminal offense to a psychological illness. The varying policies of thedifferent services were at the end of WWII replaced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).Article 125 prohibited sodomy, defined as anal or oral penetration, whether consensual or coerced and re-gardless of whether it occurred between heterosexual,homosexual or married couples. For the first time,assaults with the  intent   to commit sodomy, indecent assault and indecent acts were also covered (Article134 UCMJ; D’Amico, 1996, p. 6). Persons who engaged in oral or anal same-gender sex were sub-  M.M. Hampf / Women’s Studies International Forum 27 (2004) 13–30  17
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