“To those who choose to follow in our footsteps”: making women/LGBT+ soldiers (in)visible through feminist, ‘her-story’ theatre

Emma Dolan* (Corresponding Author), Natasha Danilova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building on Butler’s (2015) understanding of visibility “as the object of continuous regulation and contestation”, art/aesthetics studies in International Relations and feminist theatre studies, we identify feminist, “her-story” theatre as a unique site at which Western gender/sexually-inclusive soldiering is visibilised, contested, and subverted. Drawing on ethnographic observations of two award-winning dramas, interviews with artists and military hosts as well as findings from a wider research project on contemporary British military
culture, we reveal the key role of heteronormative and patriarchal cultural discourses in reproducing the ambivalent positionalities for women/LGBT+ soldiers. We argue that the very visibility of women/LGBT+ soldiers on the stage paradoxically operates to make the complexities of - and struggles against - masculinised heteronormative military cultures invisible. Further, despite artists’ attempts to dissociate empowerment through soldiering from the problematic context of modern conflicts, ‘her-story’ theatre ultimately entrenches gendered/racialised hierarchies which normalise Western military interventions. We conclude that only through sustained feminist reflection on the contours of “imagined” futures of female/LGBT+ soldiering can this persistently problematic (in)visibility be productively disrupted.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Early online date2 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Aug 2022


  • Gender
  • Feminism
  • LGTB+
  • military
  • theatre


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