Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Challenges To Masculinity In World War 1

Challenges To Masculinity In World War 1 In the years 1914 to 1918 half of all men between the ages of 15-49 left behind their usual lives and jobs to toil on the battlefields and war related occupations during the First World War. Of 8 million men mobilised, some 1.7 million were wounded and 722,000 killed (Bourke, 1994). Sometimes referred to as the war to end all wars 5 million men served and survived and every frontline soldier experienced loss; it made an unforgettable impact on those who lived through it (Gregory, 1994). 7% of all men between the ages of 15-49 were killed in battle (Bourke, 1996). Men who fought in the trenches had memories of living with the dead, fears of death, close escapes of death, killing and bereavement. It is no wonder men were traumatised and broke down (Gregory, 1994). In this essay, I will show how this trauma challenged the idea of a man being masculine and how this is linked to challenges of ethnicity. Masculinity for many people is what differentiates men from women or femininity (Bour ke, 1996). Ethnicity is a social construction representing â€Å"the cultural values and norms which distinguish members of a given group from others† (Giddens, 2001:689). What was unbearable about modern warfare was its passivity in the midst of extreme dangers. Modern warfare was more psychologically difficult than warfare in the past because the men had to remain for days, weeks, months in a narrow trench exposed to constant dangers (Bourke, 2000). The trauma of world war one made society less secure, the period following the Great War is portrayed as the decline in Victorian values. The world wide economic depression meant fewer jobs and for those men who were unemployed found themselves no longer the breadwinner of the family (Bourke, 1996). Before world war one, those who were without limbs were mostly working class, for example children of the poor, adult factory workers, dock labourers and miners. However, after the war men who had been very fit had become war amputee s, for example 70% war amputees were aged younger than 30 but also 10% officers (Bourke, 1996). The war affected all classes. The trauma of world war one made all men from different classes who were amputees invisible in the labour market. Labourers had no incentive to give jobs to disabled men. This became very embarrassing for soldiers; advice and help from officials such as the Heritage School at Chailey recognised that there was little they could do to ease what must have been a difficult alteration for wounded men. Crippled soldiers had to be made in to men again, because they were often reduced to being children (Bourke, 1996). The war had a dissolving effect on the class structure of Britain, although still being a class-conscious society the emotional stress of war brought males classes closer together. Before the war, not having an arm or a leg meant you were poor but because of the war all classes were affected. Going out to work was an important milestone on the road to m anhood and a source of pride, there was a link between masculinity and â€Å"living wage† that required defending (Bourke, 1994). Although the majority of disabled veterans found employment, 100,000 disable ex servicemen were unemployed in 1920 (Gregory, 1994). It did not matter about your class anymore, during the war all men had to live in the trenches regardless. Those men who had suffered losing a limb during the war regardless of their class faced challenges to their masculinity because they were no longer the breadwinner of their families (Bourke, 1994).

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