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Defence Research Network

Interested in all things defence? Take a peek inside our

Monthly Members' Newsletter

Let us fill your August Bank Holiday with a bumper pack of DRN news, events, and ideas...

For new friends, welcome! We are an interdisciplinary network of Masters, PhD and Early Career Researchers focused on defence, security and military topics in relation to policy, strategy, history, culture and society. We hope you find our network interesting, exciting, informative and supportive.

For old friends, thanks for your continued involvement. We would be nothing without you! This August, we are diving into the Women, Peace and Security space, filling our diaries with a host of new webinars and conferences, learning about gender-specific support for female veterans, and asking how much hair matters to military inclusivity (spoiler: a lot).


Scroll down to get up to date with the news, opinions, and events from our members...

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"...women are very much combatants in this battle. This is a unique moment to examine frontline nurses as the foot-soldiers of this campaign and explore what it means for our understanding of women as combatants."

Who earns a place on the 'frontline' is a question that has been debated almost as consistently, and as contentiously, as the futility of war itself. Although it was 2018 before women were able to serve in all combat roles in the British Armed Forces, history has shown us that perseverance and a rebellious streak enticed women to the battlefield centuries earlier. The implicit masculinity of the soldier is questioned as far back as Boudica, through to Agnes HototChristian 'Kit' CavanaghHannah Snell and many many more. Infamous WW2 French Resistance fighter and "most decorated heroine of WWII" Nancy Wake once told an interviewer "I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas." 

That being said, as the character of war changes, the 'frontlines' are shifting too - seemingly ridding us of rigid ideas of soldiering. Gone are the days when women must conceal their femininity to serve their country; the British Army now directly appeals (albeit not without criticism) to a new type of recruit, one which embraces all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and faiths. Yet, will Britain's "modern military" be able to overcome deep-seated ideals of masculinity underpinning war and soldiering? 

Arguably 2020's most discussed 'war' has been against an invisible enemy. The immediate, globalised security threat posed by COVID-19 has encouraged masculinised martial rhetoric to dominate political discourse, with widespread invocation of WWII stoicism as our nurses, doctors, and supermarket, transport, and delivery workers transform into heroes. The military overtones of this response, however, ignore the disproportionate presence of women on this frontline. In a brilliant, newly published blog, our DRN Chair Hannah asks how these women will be remembered, and what could change for gendered perceptions of war fighting? 

This, we are sure, will be among the many big questions tackled in an exciting series of webinars hosted by the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and others to commemorate the twentieth birthday of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in October of this year (more details below!). How far has this feminist peace project come since its inception? And, what can we do to ensure that gender remains a focal point when discussing war, peace, and security? In our own commemoration, this newsletter is dedicated to these questions. We hope that this can be an ongoing conversation within the DRN as we move forward. 

As always, we wish you a happy and healthy month! 
In the News... 
What does Kamala Harris' nomination mean for peace and security?
As the first Black women and person of Indian-American heritage to appear on a major party ticket, Harris' Vice Presidential nomination was a historic moment for the United States, particularly as calls surge to end racial injustice and police brutality. Yet it begs the question, a
side from the much needed representation she brings for female, Black, Brown and multi-racial Americans, what does Harris' promotion mean for the safety and security for American citizens?
The New York Times called her both a "top cop" and a "progressive prosecutor", charting her time as San Franciso district attorney and California attorney general. She has since expressed the need to "reimagine how we do public safety in America," yet some doubt her sincerity, criticising her for failing to "hold police accountable for gross misconduct".
Comparatively less is known about Harris' potential impact on peace and security globally. During her presidential bid, contender and  Hawaiian Representative Tulsi Gabbard accused her of continuing "the status quo regime-change wars," suggesting that Harris represents a Hawkish, rightward leaning choice for the Democrats. Yet, most commentators align Harris with Biden's centre-left politics, emphasising her commitment to diplomacy, human rights, and the rule of law. The Council on Foreign Relations and Vox have published useful analyses in this regard.
What do you think? Let us know on Twitter!  
LSE's Women, Peace and Security Forum

The LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) has recently launched its WPS Forum, a space for critical conversations on gender, peace, and security. 

Bringing together leading scholars, activists and practitioners, the WPS Forum hopes to host 2-3 forums in a calendar year. Their first forum showcases the new book '
New Directions in Women, Peace and Security' (more about this below!), bringing together its contributors in conversation and critical engagement around the themes of the publication. Toni Haastrup and Jamie J. Hagen
kick it off with:

 Race, Justice and New Possibilities: 20 Years of the Women, Peace and Security agenda
In which they discuss the embeddedness of racial hierarchies within the practices of the WPS agenda.

We are really excited to see how this project unfolds! Keep up to date here. If you would like to propose a forum on a new piece of research and/or publication, email Nicky Armstrong and Dr Sarah Smith: n.armstrong@lse.ac.uk / s.j.smith1@lse.ac.uk.
Peace Operation Training Institute: Online Courses

The Peace Operation Training Institute offers online learning courses in a wide range of topics related to peace and humanitarian relief: humanitarian concepts, history, logistics, mission component and gender awareness. Recognised by the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations,their courses are affordable ($60 - $75 USD), available in multiple languages,and include a printed textbook. After taking an End-of-Course Exam, you will receive a Certificate of Completion.
Even better, a number of these courses on Gender Awareness are being offered FREE, in partnership with the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and UN Women:
Other free courses offered are: 
The Institute also has a wide selection of course-related videos and webinars that are available for free for all to watch, find them here.
(Virtual) Events...
We might be stuck inside, but this isn't going to stop us connecting as a community. Make sure you've got a strong Wifi signal, because you're going to want to join all of these upcoming webinars...
  • Wonder Women & Rebel Girls: Women Warriors in the Media, 1800-present
Friday 4th September, 1.30pm (BST).
The Centre for War Studies, University College Dublin invites you to join them for for live online discussions on women warriors from around the world.

Beginning with a keynote from
Dr Emma Butcher entitled: "War is an Ecstasy, Risk is Wild’: Girls Writing War in the Nineteenth Century", the programme includes discussions on gender and sexuality, nationalism, propaganda, activism, and exclusion.

Held over Zoom, you can register for the event 
here. To find out more, see the full programme of events, and watch the pre-recorded papers (from 31st August!) check out their website.

Follow @wwrg_ on Twitter for updates!
  • LSE Webinar: The role of academia in realising the promise of the WPS agenda
Tuesday 8th September, 1pm - 2.30pm (BST).
As the WPS agenda reaches 20 years old, LSE Centre for WPS is holding a webinar to examine the role, contributions and potential of academic institutions – in research, advocacy, education and cross-sector engagement – in addressing the gaps that exist, determining how best to prepare and serve the next generation and contribute to the full realisation of the WPS agenda.

The speakers include: 
Jeni Klugman, Managing Director of Georgetown University’s
Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
Joana Ama Osei-Tutu, Head of the 
Women, Peace and Security Institute at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.
Jacqui True, Professor of International Relations and Director of Monash University's
Gender, Peace and Security Centre, and Global PRIO Fellow.
Torunn L. Tryggestad, Deputy Director at 
Peace Research Institute Oslo and Director of the PRIO Gender, Peace and Security Centre.

Chair: Sanam Naraghi Anderlini MBE, Director of the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and founder of The International Civil Society Action Network.

The event will be held on Zoom, and registration opened yesterday - so be quick! 

For more information and to register, follow this
link.
  • Visions of Feminist Peace: A virtual programme exploring feminist peace
Monday 14th September - Friday 2nd October.
To commemorate the WPS agenda at 20, the 40th anniversary of CEDAW, and 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing's Declaration and Platform for Action, the LSE Centre for WPS's Feminist International Law of Peace and Security project is running a series of digital events and outputs entitled 'Visions of Feminist Peace'. 

The programme will bring together academics, advocates, practitioners, activists, artists, and students to showcase the plurality of peace visions, experiences, and discontents. Through webinars, performances, and interviews, they hope to contribute to the development of interdisciplinary, inclusive, intergenerational feminist visions of peace. 

Register
here to find out more and receive updates.
  • BISA Postgraduate Network event - Critical Military Studies: Panel discussions
Thursday 8th October, 2pm - 4pm (BST). 

This October, BISA are running two exciting one-hour panel discussions focusing on gender and Critical Military Studies. They will be asking:

  • What challenges do female combatants face during their assimilation in combat roles? 
  • How to tackle hegemonic masculinities in the military?

The first panel will explore the core issues that female soldiers face while trying to integrate into roles traditionally fit for male soldiers. The second will address why hegemonic masculinities are toxic for both genders and how they can be tackled in state institutions including the military. Their impressive list of speakers includes our Committee Chair, Hannah! See the full list below... 

Panel 1 (2pm - 3pm):
Dr Alice Cree, Newcastle University
Dr Ayelet Harel-Shalev, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Hannah West, University of Bath

Panel 2 (3pm - 4pm): 
Dr Natasha Danilova, University of Aberdeen
Dr Emma Dolan, University of Aberdeen
Dr Emily Yarrow, University of Portsmouth

There will be a singular Zoom link for both panels, and you can register
here.

  • ASCN New Zealand - Military Service, Women and Veterans

The Australasian Services Care Network's webinar series is continuing into September and October with a focus on military servicewomen, female veterans, military sexual trauma and abuse, as well as LGBTIQ veterans.

Their programme will run as a series of webinars and panel discussions, with an international virtual symposium on Military Service Women and Veterans planned for late October/early November, and one on Military Sexual Trauma and Abuse in late November/early December 2020. 

*NOTE* These events take place in New Zealand Standard Time. Below I have noted the time in British Summer Time, which is 11 hours behind.

Dr Daniel F. Perkins
11.00 pm (BST) Tuesday 8th of September
Register
here.
Dr Noah Riseman
11.00 pm (BST) Wednesday 16th of September
Register
here.
Dr Jillian Shipherd and Dr Michael Kauth
10.00 pm (BST) Wednesday 30th of September
Register
here.
Dr Shira Maguen
10.00 pm (BST) Wednesday 7th of October
Register
here.

To find out more about the series or to register your interest in further webinars, contact Steve Shamy at the ASCN (New Zealand) Secretariat at email ascn.nz@gmail.com.
You can check out the rest of ASCN's work on their
website.
  • Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium
Cranfield University is looking for contributions for this year's (virtual) Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium. Held on the 10th November 2020 between 10am- 4pm (BST), the Symposium is designed for researchers of all stages in  the defence and security space, providing the opportunity to learn from and present to experts from across the sector. Due to ongoing health and safety concerns, this event will take place online, and the organising team are looking for contributions in the following areas:
Paper presentations (20 mins plus 10 mins for questions)
3MT (3 Minute Thesis) competition (one PowerPoint slide)
Poster competition
Digital image competition (one image and 100-150 words)

Some key dates for your to remember are: 

Submission of abstracts by 16th September
Acceptance notification by 30th September
Paper/3MT/poster/digital image, accompanying presentation material to be submitted by Monday 19 October

What's more, all participants will have the opportunity to enter a draw to win a ticket to the SPIE European Security & Defence Symposium in 2021.

For more information and to register, check out their website.
  • China-Africa Research Initiative Conference 2020

Tuesday 22nd September to Friday 2nd October, 2pm - 3.30pm (BST).
The China-Africa Research Initiative invites you to join them for their 6th annual conference, held virtually over 8 days in September and October.

This year’s theme is "Strategic Interests, Security Implications: China, Africa, and the Rest."
The programme is as follows:

Tuesday 22nd September: Development-Security Nexus
Wednesday 23rd September: Security Engagement, Military Exports & Arms Sales
Thursday 24th September: Keynote speech: China's Changing Role in African Security 
Friday 25th September: Emerging Technologies and Security Implications
Tuesday 29th September: Featured Roundtable: Chinese Sharp Power and Africa
Wednesday 30th September: Peacekeeping & Humanitarian Programs
Thurs 1st October: Commercial Interests and Private Security Companies
Friday 2nd October: Regional Actors, Multipolarity, & Comparative Perspectives

Panels will be held on Zoom from 2pm to 3.30pm (BST) (9am to 10.30am EDT)

*NOTE* this event is held in Eastern Daylight Time, 5 hours behind British Summer Time. 

For more information and to register, click
here.
  • Royal Air Force Museum Conference 2020: The RAF in a World Transformed, 1945–49
Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th of September, from 9.45am (BST).
The Royal Air Force Museum is hosting a virtual conference  to explore the RAF's transition from war to peace. Asking how how the RAF reacted to a period of widespread changes between 1945-49, the conference will bring together a wide range of academics authors. It will also feature a keynote - 'The Flyer Confronts the Post-War Age: Survival, Guilt and Politics' - given by
Martin FrancisAll of the conference papers can be watched live online, with Q&A sessions included.

Tickets are free, however there is also the option to buy a 'Support Us' ticket for £6. Find out more
here, and book your tickets here.
As always, keep an eye on our Twitter for new events and opportunities posted/retweeted every day!

Planning a future event?
If you are planning a defence-related event and you would like to reach an audience of like-minded researchers, we'd love to come along! Drop us an email and we can include it in our next newsletter.
 
If you are interested in any of our events but don't want to go alone, or simply want to expand your network, please reach out on Twitter or drop us an email and we can connect you with fellow DRN members who may be planning to attend.
Supporting our Community... 
Salute Her: Forward Assist's Women Veterans Project 

Forward Assist is a fantastic charity supporting military veterans adjusting to civilian life through community engagement, emotional well-being services, and cutting-edge research. 

Part of their work is dedicated to understanding the lived experiences of female veterans and providing gender-specific support for their post-service needs.
'Salute Her' aims to provide a wide variety of activities to increase confidence, reduce social isolation and promote physical and emotional well-being among female veterans. They have developed a bespoke gender-specific mental health support service, including ‘one to one’ virtual support sessions for survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.

The project has published 
'No Man's Land', its current research findings, on their website. There is also a handy little executive summary here.
Hear more about Forward Assist and their research into female veterans' experiences transitioning into civilian life in this video.
Opportunities...

If you would like to advertise any upcoming opportunities, please let us know via email.

RAF Museum Academic Prizes 2020

The RAF Museum has recently announced its plan to sponsor a series of academic awards for students of all stages of study whose research explores the historiography of the RAF, or relevant areas of archaeology, international relations, strategic studies, law and ethics, museology or air power. They will also consider works which help expand knowledge of operational conditions, adversaries or the context of the RAF’s history.
Applications open on 1 September 2020 for:

• PhD Bursary (£1,500)
• Masters Prize (£250)
• Undergraduate Prize (£150)

Applications close on 25 October 2020.

For more information and how to apply, see their
website and/or contact Dr Harry Raffal here.

#DefResChat: Women, Peace and Security

In this month's Twitter Hour we discussed women in the military and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Thank you to everyone who joined us! For those who couldn't make it, we'd love to continue the discussion and share resources over the coming weeks - particularly if your interest has been piqued by this newsletter! You can find a quick update of our chat below: 

Q1) How does gender shape how we think about war?

It was agreed that war is inherently gendered, in its simplest form women are usually framed as 'victims' requiring protection whilst soldiering is viewed as a masculine role - protector & warrior.

We discussed what makes the 'stereotypical' soldier, as well as gendered notions of who 'deserves' protecting. We agreed that it is interesting to think about how gender intersects with race here, for example the construction of the 'enemy' from racialised masculinities. 

Gender also influence what we think war is. While war has traditionally been regarded as 1,000 battlefield deaths - deaths of (predominantely male) soldiers - a move towards human security is recognizing that security does not begin and end on the battlefield.

We also discussed the role of gender in excluding some from combat roles - it was one of the main reasons why it took til 2018 for all combat roles to open up for women in the British Army.

It was also suggested that stereotypical ideas about gender have also resulted in marginalisation in operations that focus on kinetic effect, and  constrained military operational effectiveness in contemporary conflict.


2) What have been the biggest turning points for women’s military service in the last decade?

We discussed the National Army Museum's timeline of women in the Army, which charts the major turning points in women's relationship with the military since the 1600s.
 
My favourite part of this timeline has to be "1813-64 A surgeon of the Empire: Dr James Barry had a distinguished career as an army surgeon. On his death, he was discovered to have been a woman."

Kathleen Sherit's 'Women on the Frontline: British Servicewomen's Path to Combat' is also a great place to look to learn about women's service careers. So much changed in the early 90s: women at sea, operational flying.

3) ‘How successful has the Women, Peace and Security Agenda been in bringing together practitioners, policymakers and academics, particularly in protecting against gender-based violence in warzones?

Although there are many stories of success, it is important to highlight some superb critical and post-colonial critiques to the WPS agenda, which are summed up perfectly by Swati Parashar in this chapter.

4) What resources (books, films, podcasts, websites, networks) would you recommend to learn more about Women, Peace and Security?

Thank you to everyone who recommended resources! We have brought them together in our updated WPS resource page, which you can view here.
 

Keep your eyes peeled on our website for the next #DefResChat, and don't forget to check for more info on Twitter and our website.

You can also find all our previous #DefResChats on the Archive section of our website.

Make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat to join the conversation.

Find Out More
What we're reading...
In Conversation
This month, we had the pleasure of talking with Dr Victoria Basham, Associate Professor in International Relations at Cardiff University. 
Victoria is Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Critical Military Studies Journal, and former president of the European International Studies Association (2017-2019). In our interview, she gives us an insight into her current projects, what's at the top of her reading list, and top tips for aspiring authors. 
  • What are you currently working on?
I like to work on multiple projects at once so my ideas can cross-fertilise so I'm currently working on quite a bit! In recent years I've discovered the joys of co-authoring and so everything I'm currently working on involves other scholars. I also believe strongly in the virtues of slow academia which also allows me to work on multiple projects at the same time. I then, if I'm lucky and have worked hard enough, get a flurry of publications but more importantly, ones I'm usually prouder of. So, I'm currently working on the case of Marine A and what it tells us about the particular ways we make sense of war crimes and the limitations of that, on vernacular understandings of insecurity in the 2017 London Bridge terror attack and the Grenfell Tower fire, on why international relations needs to pay more attention to scandals, on how women's unpaid labour in the home sustains militarism, and on questions of military social harm and what harms societies are willing to tolerate.    
  • What got you into your field of study in the first place?
I became a critical military studies scholar by accident in some ways. I knew I really wanted to write a PhD but initially I thought I was going to research cultural and social barriers to accessing drug rehabilitation resources in the NHS but I didn't get the funding the first time around. I was poised to go off and do a masters and revise my proposal to try again next year when Paul Higate, now at the University of Bath, who taught me as an undergraduate and whose work I greatly (and still) admired, suggested that I should apply to do a PhD with him examining diversity and equality policies and practices in the British military. I hadn't considered the military as a site of research before that point but in my young mind I think I thought that I could tackle the military's problems and then go on to sort out the NHS. But once I started my research on the military I was hooked and now I work on war, militarism and political violence - hopefully someone else has done or will do that work on the NHS!     
  • What are you currently reading, and is it any good?
Like my work process, my reading also involves dipping in and out of a range of books at the same time. I've had some heavy administrative duties in recent years but I'm now on sabbatical so I'm trying to catch up with my academic reading. Not having access to my office due to the pandemic has led to a lot of book buying recently and there's a ton of books surrounding me that I can't wait to get my teeth into including Nivi Manchanda's Imagining Afghanistan and Thomas Leahy's The Intelligence War Against the IRA. On the go right now are Jairus Grove's Savage Ecology, Eyal Weizman's Forensic Architecture, Jelena Subotic's Yellow Star, Red Star and Maria Rashid's Dying to Serve. They are all so intellectually enriching. I'm also reading Rosewater by Tade Thompson which is great - I love sci-fi. I also consume fiction podcasts and audiobooks whenever I can, usually when commuting and swimming so there's a bit less of that at the moment. It's really important to me to make time for fiction - I think it improves my writing and it's definitely good for my soul.   
  • What advice would you like to give PhD students and ECRs that you wish you had been told?
I'm not sure that this is something that I wasn't told or just wasn't ready to hear but I think it took me a long time to realise that my PhD was a process and that my progression through it wouldn't always be steady or linear. It felt to me like a series of pennies finally dropping when I finally solved a part of the giant puzzle I was grappling with but sometimes there were huge gaps between one penny dropping and the next. It's easy to lose heart in those periods and I still have them now. What I've learned is to stop guilt-tripping myself quite so much when I'm stuck on something and to go away and do something else. The brain needs time to process stuff. I also again, not necessarily because I wasn't told it myself, want to advise everyone in academia but especially PhD students and ECRs to take time out. I appreciate this is an easy thing for me to say as someone no longer precariously employed but there really is more to life than academia. Those researching PhD's and just out of them face ridiculously hard challenges around employment and publishing and at the end of the day, rent needs to be paid but giving yourself and the people you love time is the best thing any of us have to offer. Oh, and don't let anyone tell you that academia or even lecturing is the only path available to you once you do a PhD. Academics have mad skills!  
  • Who have been the most influential academics on your professional career?
There are way too many to mention. There are of course many brilliant people I could name but academia is a collective practice. Our ideas come from our interactions with each other and I think we should find more ways to acknowledge this; to see ourselves as part of a wider community committed to co-producing knowledge. It's such a shame that our institutions and so many of our practices mitigate against this by judging us solely as individuals. So, I will just say thank you to everyone who has had an influence on my professional career, which of course is by no means limited to academics. 
  • What are your top tips for getting published?
 As an editor of a journal and a book series I get asked this question quite a bit. I think my main tips are: 
  • Work to the format - if you're writing and submitting an article it needs to offer up something novel and in a concise way. Books allow you to draw out a wider set of ideas an arguments but they still need a coherent overarching argument that draws the constituent parts together. Journal articles or contributions to edited books are not the same as chapters in a PhD thesis, and books are not the same as PhDs. Each chapter of your PhD needs to build something into your overall thesis whereas a journal article or chapter for an edited book needs to offer something more bounded and complete. PhD's require you to conform to certain conventions and to include particular things. Books give you more freedom to explore and communicate your argument so the way you situate your core argument and unfold it is likely to look very different. 
  • Work to the scope and aims of the Journal/book series - take the time to look at what the Journal or book series say they publish and to read some of the things that they actually have. Most of the desk reject decisions I make are not so much about the quality of the work, but about the fact that it doesn't fit with what we publish.   
  • Have a clear argument and, once you know you have the right audience, make sure you tell readers why your work matters. I often see really interesting research but from authors who haven't told me about its significance or what fields or debates it contributes to. I also see people underplaying the value of their analyses. Whilst it's really important not to suggest your work is uniquely original if it isn't, it's also important to be clear about why other people should read, cite and get their students to work with it. 
  • If you're not sure, ask - I get a lot of submission inquiries for the journal and the book series. I would hope that most editors would work with prospective authors to some extent to help them determine if their idea for a publication is a good fit and on how they might develop it. Sometimes it takes editors time to respond as we usually have a lot going on and editorial work comes on top of the day job but it's still well worth starting a conversation with an editor if you're unsure about anything. Hopefully their advice will go some way towards helping you to figure out where your work needs to go and what shape it needs to be in when it goes there. But don't just ask editors. Ask peers, mentors and non-academic folks in your life - the latter can be especially helpful if you want to know if your argument makes sense.
Thank you so much, Victoria! 
Want to go back and read last month's interview? You can! We are cataloguing all of our In Conversation pieces separately on our website. If you know someone interesting who would be willing to take part in our In Conversation series, please let us know via email. 
*NEW BLOG* Nightingale’s legacy: Women on the COVID ‘frontline’

Our fabulous chair Hannah has written a new piece for Defence-In-Depth, the blog series run out of the Department of Defence Studies at Kings College London. In her blog, Hannah explores the history of women's presence on the frontline of major crises, charting how women's efforts have continuously been sidelined in favour of stereotypical masculine soldiering, "dismissed from the military story for not being in uniform". Hannah asks how women’s labour against the most recent global security threat, the coronavirus pandemic, will be captured in historical records, arguing that the feminisation of this frontline puts its combatants at risk of being forgotten. Read the full blog here.

Have something to say? Defence-In-Depth is always looking new authors, and we'd love to see more DRN contributors to the blog. Just get in contact with them via the Defence Studies Department, and don't forget to check out their other publications.
The British Army and #MeToo
Last month, we published our conversation with Lieutenant-Colonel Diane Allen OBE, veteran and author of recently published 'Forewarned: Tales of a woman at war... with the military system'. As one of the first women to train at Sandhurst, Diane spent 30 years serving the British military before retiring last year. Her new book explores her experiences as a women in the military. While you can read her entire interview over on our blog, we've provided an except below which highlights her motivation to write, the British Army's #MeToo moment, and her important new Project 2021: Tales of Women who Served.
  • What motivated you to write your book, Forewarned?
Initially, it was a cathartic process – I felt so raw when my military service ended abruptly that I needed to write down what happened. Then I put the draft away and focused on finding civilian work. But gradually I met others who had suffered similar experiences and were also trapped in the woeful service justice system. Through this network, I was given the opportunity, in 2019, to speak to the defence select committee.
And I realised my story was quite unique – from having been one of the first women at Sandhurst, then being part of immense societal and military change, to setting up new military units and being awarded an OBE. But sadly, I found my ending was not unique. That too many of us had found that a whole military career can be taken away in an instant and had been ostracised and punished for speaking up. I felt that as a senior officer, who now had the lived experience of the ‘dark underbelly’ of the military, I could publish my story to put a human face on the problems. And encourage others to speak up too.
  • What is Project 2021 and how can people get involved?

I talk about this on the website too – the project aims to capture as many tales as possible of the experiences of women who have served. Women and men have already been contacting me to share their stories – over a 100 tales, with charities also speaking to their people, to ask if they would like to participate. The project covers recent military history – from the open misogyny, legislative constraints, and sexual inequalities of the 70s and early 80s, through rapid change in the 90s, to the covert and unpleasant “toxic pockets” of today. It will not all be negative – it aims to be a balanced look at the better opportunities for women serving now, as well as the pitfalls. And it isn’t all about toxic men or the Army – there have been tales from the RAF, the RN, from civil servants and also from those pointing out that women in power positions can be equally toxic. Sometimes it is good men who have been the voices of equitable treatment.

I would love if the Defence Research Network would get involved. Either as researchers into the facts, to tell their own tales, or to help me analyse the common themes. Due to the nature of the stories, everyone will retain control of their own data; I am setting up a formal consent process before any story will be included, even if anonymised, or before I share with researchers. I am excited to announce that I have already partnered with a senior academic and am forming a research team to look at some key areas that could improve; for example better designed surveys, better education & mentoring systems for those currently serving. I suspect your members could help.
I am also working with a MP and with a professional journalist to bring these stories into the public domain. As a report and then as a book if we can find a publisher. That is Project 2021.

  • You have been quoted as saying that the British Army needs its ‘#MeToo moment’, how optimistic are you that this will happen?
I am cautiously optimistic because of the network I am part of now. I can’t do it alone. But by working with MPs, academics, journalists, lawyers and several excellent charities to expose the true scale of the problem, I think we can nudge the MoD to take a proper look at what is still going wrong.
In autumn, I will be part of a formal government review. I do believe that most people working in the armed forces are good, it is just that an awful system and some leaders more interested in their career than their responsibilities are allowing toxic pockets to thrive. Strong leadership can push the bullies and misogynists back, but only cultural and systemic changes can permanently control it. The alternative is that the parallel justice and support systems that are developing via the charity sector will continue. The MoD should be appalled it has delegated the duty of care for their people to the charity sector. Of course, our parliamentary review may also mean that the government is now tired of waiting for the MoD to do the right thing – it might mandate change.
Watch Diane speak to Sky News about experiencing incidences of misogyny and sexism within the British Army.
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Pause for thought...

“It also says a lot about how the Army feels about inclusion. I feel like now it’s okay to be me.”

In 2017, the US Army relaxed its 2014 widely criticised grooming regulations which put a ban on a number of hairstyles - twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows - popular with black women. The reversal was largely celebrated by Black servicewomen, who saw the change as a demonstration of a commitment to inclusivity and shift in the military's attitude towards Black women.  

Yet, writing at the end of last week, Lieutenant Colonel Angela M. Peters
argues that more education and flexibility on Black women's hair is needed for the US Army to truly create an inclusive environment.

What do you think?


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