|About the Book|
Focusing on the Vietnam War, this dissertation demonstrates the centrality of gender and race in U.S. international relations with the decolonizing world. In reality and in symbol women are crucial to the Vietnam War narrative, shifting attentionMoreFocusing on the Vietnam War, this dissertation demonstrates the centrality of gender and race in U.S. international relations with the decolonizing world. In reality and in symbol women are crucial to the Vietnam War narrative, shifting attention away from the combat moment and challenging the notion that the Vietnam War, in fact and in legend, was the exclusive terrain of U.S. troops. Gender was a key aspect of the war ideology, and the U.S. military command used symbolic representations of American and Vietnamese women as part of its attempts to create a rationale for the war and to sustain the will to fight. In additionally, womens work as morale boosters, office employees, nurses, hostesses, bar girls, and prostitutes carried gendered and racialized meanings about what roles were appropriate for women in the war.-An examination of the roles and categories the U.S. military, policymakers, and public and private institutions created for men and women in the Vietnam War effort reveals that Cold War notions of masculinity, embodied in gendered warrior culture, exerted a powerful influence over American ideas about the Vietnam War. However, realities of the war experience challenged those ideas. Discussions of women, gender, femininity, and masculinity were very present in foreign policy documents, policymakers conversations, soldier folklore, and boot camp philosophy. In the context of the Vietnam War, American women often symbolized the girl next door---all that was wholesome and worth fighting for in the meaning of America. Vietnamese women represented the enemy, all the more dangerous in their mysterious beauty.-Although gendered ideas about power shaped the Vietnam War, an investigation of the lived experiences of women and men on the ground in Vietnam exposes the tensions, contradictions, and limitations of those ideas. American women were present in military roles and in combat zones. Vietnamese women worked in offices alongside U.S. servicemen. Back in the U.S., women inspired antiwar GIs and veterans to reject the entire culture surrounding militarized masculinity and to imagine alternative ways of defining manhood.