Gender-Charged Munitions: The Language of World War I Munitions Reports

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Women's Studies International Forum

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World War I, Great War, feminism, feminist theory, sexist language


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Language Description and Documentation | Women's Studies


Modern historians of culture agree that World War I created profound and irreversible upheavals in western societies, bringing the consequences of industrialism into private life in a way which would no longer permit sentimentalization of hearth and home and no longer nourish Victorian literary styles. The shift was aesthetic as well as political, psychological as well as intellectual, sexually charged, and economically based. World War I, then, offers a dramatic test case for issues at the core of feminist literary scholarship.

Focusing on primary sources, most of them out of print and available only in special collections, the author analyzes metaphors and tropes employed by male and female writers in World War I reports on women munitions workers. These writers metaphorically suggest that women were drawn to munitions work specifically because its duties were linked with sexuality and maternity: shells, for example, are described as wombs which women eagerly stuff with explosives. Ignoring the ''male'' nature of the act they describe, the men explain women munitions work as instinctive, maternal, and sexually-titillating. ''Gender-Charged Munitions'' examines the language of munitions reports and its implications to feminist critical theory.


Elsevier Science