(En)Gendering Violence: Masculinity and the Fight for U.S. Airstrikes on Syria


  • Jessy Zhu


Military, Syria, Iraq, Defense, Gender


From March 2011, when protests first shook Syria, to September 2014, when Obama launched an air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), those who supported American intervention into the Syrian Civil War commonly employed gendered language and rhetoric. Two tropes were most widely used: first, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS needed to be “civilized” through masculine domination; and second, that Obama was weak and unmasculine for not pursuing an aggressive foreign policy approach. In the academic field of feminist international relations today, much of the existing scholarship centers around the American invasion of Iraq in 2001, which was similarly characterized by extremely gendered rhetoric. This paper builds off of that existing research and draws on around three years of news articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor published in the New York Times to argue that the rhetoric of military intervention into Syria was mired in harmful gendered tropes and stereotypes.