“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

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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
Issue number3
Early online date2 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2023

Bibliographical note

We are most grateful to all those who shared their experiences and thoughts with us. We would like to thank Dr Sarah Liu and the members of the Scotland Feminist PIR Network in January 2020 as well as attendees of BISA’s Critical Military Studies panel in October 2020 for constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this article. We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for very constructive and critical comments on this work.

This work was supported by Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland: [Grant Number RG13890/70560].


  • Gender
  • Feminism
  • LGTB+
  • military
  • theatre


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