RETELLING THE STORY OF HUA MU-LAN: MILITARY EXPERIENCES OF UNIFORMED WOMEN FROM ONE TAIWANESE SERVICE ACADEMY

Open Access
Author:
Chu, Yun-Fen
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 23, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Marnina Gonick, Committee Chair
  • Lorraine Dowler, Committee Member
  • Jamie Myers, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • gender performance
  • the gendered division of labor
  • Taiwanese servicewomen
  • nationalism
  • Confucianism
  • subjective experiences
  • subject positions
Abstract:
This project, a qualitative inquiry founded on feminist research practices, was initiated by the enigma that emerged from observations of why cadet women's outstanding performance on an average at a Taiwanese service academy did not usually lead them to successful upward mobility in rank and a longer stay upon entering the Taiwanese armed forces. Thirteen Taiwanese servicewomen from the service academy, 7 alumnae and 6 cadets, voluntarily participated in the study. Of significance are their lived military experiences as narrated in approximately 2-hour open-ended interviews that took place between December 2004 and January 2005, as well as in informal conversations that began more than a year ago. These women's narratives reflect the gendered inequalities in the Taiwanese armed forces and require our scrutiny. For example, military policies carefully plan the utilization of women¡¦s labor force in order not to violate the fundamentally masculine characteristic of warfare. Accordingly, this sex-based exclusion is at play through discursive practices, and so despite their capabilities servicewomen are assumed to be weak, assigned to combat support roles, and rarely granted the position of commander. These situations combine to deny women¡¦s advancement and promotion within the military, given that the commander position is not only a push toward promotion but necessary to achieve status in the higher ranks. Furthermore, the gender quota system in the Taiwanese military has continuously kept the number of servicewomen under 5%. As a result, the small numbers of servicewomen are more likely to be perceived as tokens in the armed forces. The study reveals that the 13 Taiwanese servicewomen at times demonstrated some of the allegedly masculine characteristics required of a soldier, such as perseverance, intelligence, determination, authority, and rationality, and demonstrated feminine qualities on others. This highlights the complexity and fluidity of women¡¦s subjectivity in gender performance, and suggests that the military profession has less to do with notions of maleness and femaleness. Moreover, as the Taiwanese government seriously considers national long-term development and idealism of democracy and equality, it should employ service members based on their competence and not on sexual biological differences.