Maintaining Male Exclusivity: Porcelain Privilege in the Military

Current debates about bathrooms and bathroom policy contribute to a long history of how space shapes norms and expectations about privacy and gender equity in the workplace. The military serves as a significant site of discussion, particularly as the Department of Defense moves forward with efforts to integrate women into combat positions. Relying on an analysis of 27 focus groups with a total of 198 participants we collected from Special Operations in the U.S. Army, we examine bathrooms as a site where male soldiers contest and resist female integration. Using Sasson-Levy and Katz’s concept of institutional de-gendering and re-gendering, we argue that men’s resistance to gender-neutral toilets is an effort to re-gender Special Forces and maintain the hegemonic masculine culture that acutely defines it.

Current debates about bathrooms and bathroom policy contribute to a long history of how space shapes norms and expectations about privacy and gender equity in the workplace. The military serves as a significant site of discussion, particularly as the Department of Defense moves forward with efforts to integrate women into combat positions. Relying on an analysis of 27 focus groups with a total of 198 participants we collected from Special Operations in the U.S. Army, we examine bathrooms as a site where male soldiers contest and resist female integration. Using Sasson-Levy and Katz’s concept of institutional de-gendering and re-gendering, we argue that men’s resistance to gender-neutral toilets is an effort to re-gender Special Forces and maintain the hegemonic masculine culture that acutely defines it.

Categories: Gender Equity, Public Policy, Representation