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Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1898-2001 (Columbia/Hurst) Paperback – July 10, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


This ambitious, well-researched volume will surely stimulate a diverse audience ranging from military practitioners and activists of various stripes to scholars working within a number of disparate fields.

(Paul Higate, University of Bristol)

Probably no single person deserves more credit for the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' than Belkin. As director of the Palm Center, he effectively parried homophobic justifications for excluding gay men and lesbians from the U.S. military, all the while learning unforgettable lessons about the complex culture of military masculinity. This book converts that wisdom into deep scholarship about, and a moral indictment of, the sexual culture at the basis of American military might. This gripping account of the strength and weakness, sadism and masochism, masculinity and femininity, boundedness and porosity, cleanliness and filth that together make up military masculinity -- both at the most intimate level of a single troop's corporeality and at the vastest expanse of American imperial power -- will shock even those who knew all along that inclusion in the U.S. military would be an ambiguous triumph.

(Janet Halley, Harvard Law School)

One of the smartest analysts of today's United States military, Aaron Belkin challenges the too-simple presumption that an uncomplicated militarized masculinity dominates American soldiers' lives. Instead, through grittily graphic cases, he reveals a dense web of gender confusions and contradictions that foster a culture of obedience inside the military, while nurturing a dangerously undemocratic set of myths among civilians. A timely, significant book.

(Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War)

Belkin's fascinating, original, and authoritative book shows that over the past century the U.S. military has instilled not just hypermasculinity but also its opposites -- intimacy, femininity, queerness, male rape -- to create gender confusion in the ranks and then offer blind obedience to authority as the remedy. A must-read book for anyone interested in gender and war.

(Joshua Goldstein, author of War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa)

We tend to assume that military masculinity is made through an often brutal suppression of 'unmasculine' human qualities like empathy, nurturing, compassion. Aaron Belkin explodes that facile narrative, and reveals the contradictions at the core of the warrior's identity. The implications for our understanding of gender and American culture more broadly are profound.

(Michael Kimmel, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology)

This volume reframes our evolving understanding of sexuality and the falsity of the masculine/feminine dualism, and places this process within the context of historical, cultural, and political change in America.

(David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization, University of Maryland)

A vigorous and fascinating account of military masculinity and its contradictions, embodiment, and links to empire. Sometimes funny and sometimes dismaying, Belkin's book conveys a strong sense of the emotional violence behind the public face of the armed forces.

(Raewyn Connell, author of Masculinities)

A tour de force. Belkin reveals the cultural and historical meanings of masculinity in the military of yesterday and tomorrow, including symbolic and psychological contradictions posed by masculine/feminine, strong/weak, dominant/subordinate, victor/victim, civilized/barbaric, clean/dirty, and straight/queer. A great contribution to contemporary scholarship and policy.

(Gilbert H. Herdt, editor of Moral Panics, Sex Panics: Fear and the Fight Over Sexual Rights)

Belkin prosecutes [enlisted life] for the macho rot under its polished decorum.

(Dan Zak Washington Post)

Bring Me Men provides a valiant showing of query into the culture of masculinity and its meaning for the U.S. military and its position of power (and wealth) on the global stage.

(Annessa Babic H-Diplo)

About the Author

Aaron Belkin is associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University and director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been a MacArthur Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University. He has published more than twenty-five books, chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles. His most recent book is How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."


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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia/Hurst
  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1st edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231702841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231702843
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never bought into the belief that military service certifies one's competence, trustworthiness, and authenticity (nor those who serve on the police force, work for the government or the clergy). The author of this book states the military requires absolute obedience to orders and the abdication of conscience and reason which I agree and again would ascribe this to the police, government or clergy. The military's behavior internationally (assassinations,torture, financial support of dictators, killing of civilians) and their treatment of minorities, women and homosexuals leaves little to admire. Lots of surprising facts and information, this book really pulls the curtain back on military culture.
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By Pen Name on February 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
A simple, yet great, guide to the U.S. Armed Forces. Provides a look at all the major components and goes into great detail; an excellent companion.
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By Tirzah on September 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was both compelling and very disturbing. I work for a military organization; also a family member works at the Naval Academy. Several close friends are in the military or retired from the military. It makes me wonder what horrors they have suffered from the military culture. Yet do they accept that this is normal part of military life?
The book is written by an academic and its style is very academic, so it can be hard to follow some times. And it is horrifying. But a good read!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a practical view of real history with international comparisons. The obvious conclusion is that American military are myopic when compared to other military such as Israel. I read it with interest.
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Format: Paperback
Bring Me Men is a compelling trip through American military culture over the last century. Author Aaron Belkin focuses on the odd concept of "military masculinity": odd because it's a form of masculinity that is not helpful to the military and, stranger still, not even consistently masculine.

Bring Me Men is an exquisite cross between Andrew Bacevich's book "The New American Militarism" and William Ian Miller's "The Anatomy of Disgust." Belkin explains that the peculiarly American brand of military masculinity is steeped in parts of humanity that can disgust us (filth, sexuality, penetration, sadism, and weakness), and these bizarre conceptions of masculinity are in turn a microcosm of how the U.S. conducts foreign relations. Military masculinity is a fantasy-world depiction of maleness and authority that is often at odds with our values, both civilian and military, and at odds with traditional masculinity itself.

It's this contradiction that will fascinate readers. Belkin is a researcher and scholar who may have been the person most responsible for ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He worked closely with the military to ensure its policies would be based on facts and experience, not fear and emotion. He succeeded, but gay service members were just another in a long line of scapegoats on which the military has projected the problems it most wanted to deny in itself.

The stories are the most irresistible part of Bring Me Men. From tales of sanitation engineering during the Spanish-American War to recent efforts to bury reports of heterosexual male-on-male rape at military academies, Belkin bypasses the shiny patriotism of the 9/11 era and digs into the softer rot beneath.
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