Journal Review


The article, “Drawing (on) Women’s Military experiences and Narratives-Israeli Women Soldier’s challenges in the military environment,” by Harel-Shavel et al. seeks to address the experiences of women in military services and how to find meaning from what they experience in the military context. The authors analyze 20 images drawn by the Israeli military women who served in the military 2 to 4 years ago. Three themes were produced from the content analysis of the narratives and pictures: The military being their professional jobs, other responsibilities in situations that are life-threatening and the interaction between gender hierarchies and military. Harel-Shavel et al. conclude that despite the non-combatant women soldiers being protected from the army’s violence, they were still exposed to danger indirectly.

Military service is a very specific setting involving distinct types of spaces. It also exemplifies very diverse experiences, unlike those in the civil life of many young women. Most often, the women experiences are conceptualized from the men’s experiences. Harel-Shavel et al., in their article, raise the question of how the women interpret their experiences during their service in the military. Understanding their conceptualization within the military spaces and also listening to their narratives expressions and silenced voices are emotional in the context of army experiences.

The military environment and society, in general, reveals how the hegemonic masculinity reinforce the gendered identities practices (Weitz, 2015). From the authors’ assessment of the agency women and their experiences within the military context, women are perceived as active representatives in the army, who can control their resources, challenges, and spaces based on their gendered viewpoints within the settings of the military. Further, they give an example of the women’s perspectives and narratives which were affected by their marginal positions in the army and the society.

Critique of the article

The article addresses the emphasis of the Feminist Theories in International Relations, Feminist security studies (FSS), and Feminist Geography on their necessity to provide more research regarding conflict and military traditionally. Current research draws the approaches on how the authors have to look at wars, security concerns, and insecurity with the interest of feminist that leads them to investigate beyond the security studies confines. FSS researchers suggested that the narratives and experiences of women were an essential part of hierarchic institutions and global wars. From this, the authors concluded that it was worthwhile listening to and characterizing the voices of women as part of analyzing the experiences of women in conflict. Therefore, they found out that spillovers of violence into the lives of women were worth investigating since they suggest new perspectives on global conflicts, security, and military institutions.

Harel-Shavel et al. selected research articles, including other articles from the field for analysis and review. Their methods were thorough, and their main intentions were to assimilate the results that were researched earlier into a single document which could be used as preliminary points for future studies. Golan stated that Israel had been a society that has been involved in armed conflicts since the prestige days because of its history over the centuries and also its precarious nature. Levy added that Israel has also been instituting compulsory military service for men and women since the Israel Defense Forces were established in 1948. Therefore, it was an obligation for Israeli women on serving the military as a symbol of equality. This affected the way women were exposed to insecurity and violence and also their everyday practices narratives.

Other scholars such as Lomsky, Sasson, and Sharif adopted a more liberal and empirical approach of the military being considered as a socializing and enriching developmental stage in young soldiers lives, including both men and women. For them, the military service has been meaningful in Israel, contributing to collective security and leadership. They also believe that non-combatants are commendable, just like the male combatant in the military. Additionally, the military service is perceived as a significant socializing experience for soldiers, which is also associated with patriotism, glory, heroism, and dangerous combat. However, non-combatant soldiers like women self-define their stressful experiences in the military context. The researchers explored their topic well, but they are called on to dig deeper and incorporate the experiences of women in the military contexts to challenge the perspectives about security in the military.

The main strength of the arguments made by the authors of the article is through their utilization of art based method in exploring the stressful and difficult experiences faced by the noncombatant women in the military. The authors were able to gain more insight into the hidden narratives of the women through the art, which enables them to expose the dilemmas, thoughts, and difficulties on their self-detained stressful experience. It also enabled them to reach the spaces beyond heroism and war being marginalized by the mainstream analysis. Despite being a taboo in social discourse, the soldiers can share their experiences of being insecure through art-based methods and drawings. This enabled the authors to draw more conclusions from what the soldiers experienced through the drawings. The soldiers were able to express their fears from terrorist attacks in their base, lack of experience, and bodily experiences through the drawings.

Another strength of the author’s arguments is that they were able to construct three main themes from the findings. The first theme was based on the death and danger situations that were experienced by young women. A good example was that of a paramedic who expressed how they had to wear jackets and helmets against the bombs since the soldiers had begun falling and they were also given guns making them even more scared of the situation. Most of them felt sadness and fear as well as a great responsibility for such situations. Another example was that of a soldier whose drawing was of a time she thought a terrorist got into the gate of their base when she was on duty. The situation made her so scared since he was guarding the base alone. This theme was of great significance since it showed how women in the military, especially those in nonviolent jobs, were indirectly affected as they were not protected from any danger or violence.

The second theme was based on military service as the main professional job of the soldiers. Soldiers had to interact in difficult ways for those beyond and below them, and they were also responsible for other people. An example was that of a woman soldier who expressed how she disliked because of being a secretary making her feel like she was failing in her job. The contexts created a lot of stress since more often, they experience very intense schedules, death situations, and even extreme physical discomfort. The last theme shows how soldiers were required to interact in a more hierarchical framework than the other organizations beyond the military. The framework was so rigid, and most of them were experiencing humiliation. A good example was that of a soldier who had a urinary infection, but the officer in charge denied her permission to see a doctor. The soldier was made to sit on the floor, which humiliated and made her feel like she was in prison. Despite her pain, the officer was shouting at her. This shows the awful experiences that the women soldiers were experiencing in the military.

The main weakness which is evident in the findings of the research is that the researchers did not provide enough information on the experiences of women in the military. They only relied on their art and drawings, making most of their findings biased. The experiences of women in the military, as presented by the authors, can alter people’s perceptions and also make those aspiring to join the military change their minds because of fear. In terms of methodology, the narratives of the women were complex and contradictory, which could not be easily described through generalized categorizations and binaries. The researchers should have conducted in-depth interviews, questionnaires, and more secondary analysis to provide more understanding of the scope of the research. However, the research is significant since it allowed the expression of difficult feelings and thoughts, especially for the difficult experiences which could not be expressed using the other methods of research. The authors’ argument was important since they were able to theorize the experiences in the context of military institutions, a path that should be followed by future research.

Personal Reflection

Despite the great advances in the physical performance of women not only in the United States but also in the entire world, it remains impossible to ignore the fact that women are weaker than men. As Harel-Shavel et al. present the experiences of non-combat women in the military context, women have been experiencing many difficulties since their situations are most often ignored and perceived as liabilities. They also fail to acknowledge their importance, especially in encouraging the significance of the male soldiers. Most often, they are the sources of motivation to the males, making them focus on their goals to avoid being exposed by their superior female peers.

The research has provoked happiness since it has unveiled the experiences faced by women in the military in a way that most researchers would not have thought of. The use of art based methods has managed to avoid macho and hero descriptions to give illustrations, which include the hardships faced by females in the military. This method is a success since the other methods of research usually do not provide accurate information because most participants usually fear to disclose much of their personal information. However, the art enabled the soldiers to express their most difficult feelings and thoughts, especially the awful experiences they had to endure during their service in the military.

Most researchers usually avoid topics related to the governments or the military for fear of their lives. However, this research has boldly uncovered the sensitive areas that directly address the government for ignoring and failing to provide enough security for non-combatant women in the military. This brings joy since it addresses the cries of the unheard women, who are suffering in the military. The research shows that soldiers are often exposed to difficult experiences that are most often ignored, making them face difficulties as they try to defend their countries. It is, therefore, the duty of the government and also the public to find the most appropriate ways that will help the soldiers, especially non-combatant women, deal with the difficult situations.


Non-combatant women have not only been facing stressful and difficult situations in the military context, but they have also been fearing for their lives because of security concerns and lack of protection from violence when exposed to danger. Harel-Shavel et al., in their research, present various experiences faced by women in the military through art-based methods and drawings made by women who served in the last two to four years. Three main themes were presented from the analysis of contents in the pictures including the responsibility of the combatants for others especially in the life-threatening situations, their experience of the military is their professional jobs and the interaction between gender hierarchies and the military. Generally, the authors went beyond the narratives and move into the experiences of women in the military through their narratives. Despite the findings of the research being enhanced by the art-based methods, more research on the experiences of women in the military needs to be done to provide a better understanding of their everyday experiences.









Harel-Shalev, A., Huss, E., Daphna-Tekoah, S., & Cwikel, J. (2017). Drawing (on) women’s military experiences and narratives–Israeli women soldiers’ challenges in the military environment. Gender, Place & Culture, 24(4), 499-514.

Weitz, R., (2015). Vulnerable warriors: Military women, military culture, and fear of rape. Gender Issues, 32(3), 164-183.

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