When gender goes to combat: The role of "representations" in the assignment of women in the military
This contribution to the analysis of decision-making processes uses intertextual analysis and a hybrid intelligence computer application to examine the role of "representations" in the final recommendations of George Bush's "Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Military". Although the positions of many of the Commissioners appeared to be opposed, they all reflected dominant discursive practices. Commissioners in favor or against the assignment of women to direct-combat positions constructed a representation of "women warriors" which they opposed to the implicitly male representation of "warrior". In doing so, Commissioners "overlooked" testimony given by women who wanted to be assigned to combat and who portrayed themselves without gender connotations. The analysis of the Presidential Commission's debate reveals the role that representational practices have in the construction of "reality", understood as a textual space within which confronted discourses exist. As the case study illustrates, this has implications for the implementation of policy alternatives: discursive practices--both dominant and insurgent--reproduce the status quo, and change occurs only gradually within existent representations. Since both dominant and insurgent discursive practices are imbedded in policy implementation, the full integration of women into combat units in the military (a male-dominated but also a male-defined environment) will not occur until the representation of "warrior" loses its implicit gender reference and becomes neutral.