In most of the wars, fought, especially in the last century, men were the soldiers while women were responsible for nurturing the family while their husbands were away. The roles of men and women in Australia took these characteristics. The Australian war was characterized by men going to war while women were passive onlookers, even though they assisted in ensuring that the men were in good health as well as treating and nurturing the injured soldiers at war. Therefore, men were seen as the nation builders while women as the passive onlookers to the real action. It is not surprising that manhood featured in the Gallipoli commentary, which many commentators declared it as the birth of a nation. However, what contributed to this was the fact that Australians proved to be just as equal as the other soldiers in the world. Men were more involved in building the nations, mainly through war involvement, as opposed to women, who were considered as brides and took care of their homes while men were away. In fact, it is noted that Anzacs had given infinite confidence in the manhood and destiny of Australia and on the landing of the Returned Soldiers Association, the political class, including governors recognized Gallipoli as the fruitage of nationhood, a day in which Australia became an empire, just like a real man would go back to his bride. As such, the purpose of this paper is to discuss that men were more actively involved in building the nation while women were only involved passively.
Since men were more involved in the Gallipoli commentary, it can be derived that they played a chief role in the making of a nation compared to the women. However, it is also true that gender roles influenced the fact that men were more involved in the world wars. Women were seen to be the nurturers of the family while men were seen as the providers of the family, and thus, by engaging in the military, they would achieve their masculine role. In essence, manhood had framed the meaning of the achievements of Australia in the war. The Anzacs, who were male combatants in the Australian war made an ideal sacrifice in the war, enfeebling the colonial men, and thus, they gave birth to a nation, which rendered the life-giving capacities of women inferior in comparison. Women were left at home as men fought in the war, fostering an image of the home as domestic, feminized, and thus, it was difficult for men to adapt to such an environment, and thus, the war made them take on an idealized role as breadwinners. As such, men became heroes in the war, or they faced a crisis of masculinity. Therefore, being involved in the war was the best option for men. Even though they suffered traumas in connection to the war experiences, there was a greater humiliation for men who did not serve as soldiers because they felt that they failed the test of manhood.
However, even though men were more actively involved in the war compared to women, it does not mean that the women did not play a role. In fact, for many of the soldiers who survived their wounds to make it to the casualty clearing stations, as well as base hospitals, there were nurses, who were mainly women. Nurses were important in comforting the soldiers as well as ensure that they survived. In fact, the nurses befriended the soldiers, who were their patients, and in doing so, they became an object of their fantasies. However, this can be considered as passive duties, thereby advocating for the statement that women were passively involved in creating the nation while men actively involved, which was by being involved in the war where most of them were injured. In essence, because women took a passive role by being nurses, and the fact that they featured in many experiences of the soldiers, they were not figured significantly in Australias remembrance of the war. This was attributed to the fact that because women were marginal in the meaning of the war due to the discovery of Australia manhood. The marginality, consequently made women ambiguous and uncertain hence the recognition of men soldiers.
In essence, it can be noted that the nurse-patient relationship within the hospital wards for the army men had a significant disruption, mainly to the traditional and existing order of the gender relations. The nurses, who were women had the authority as they had the healing power while men need to be dependent on them for healing. For this reason, men in those wards were emasculated since they were dependent on the women. However, it does not mean that they took an active role in building the nation primarily because the status of nurses in the battlefield was a marginalized one but in the hospital they were more pivotal. Also, even after taking this role, which was depicted as an extraordinary reversal of power relations evident between the nurses (women) and patients (soldiers), the women continued to construct themselves within the traditional gender roles. For this reason, it can be derived that the women only took a passive role in building the nation as they attended to the injured soldiers so that they could return to war, and thereby, help build the nation. Even when attending to the injured soldiers, their language was just like that of a sister and brother or mother and son, which means as the nation celebrated the Anzac soldier, it celebrated the triumph of masculinity and not femininity. It was posited that the nurses attendance to the masculinity was dangerous and their relationship with the Australian manhood was uncertain, and their contribution to the war was perturbing. Since they did not make the men better at war, their femininity could have in fact negatively influenced the masculinity required in the war. Therefore, it can be deduced that women did not play a significant contribution to the war as men did, and thus, this is why they are remembered as passive onlookers to the real action. However, the focus by post-war writers on traditional roles of women might have been biased, mainly because they failed to grasp the changing roles of women, and followed old trends instead of new ones.
In essence, all men were involved in the war, even as young as nineteen, for example, Redgum. In his song describing the Australian war, I was only 19, highlights how young he was in the war. He was in the six battalions. According to Redgum, they conducted training in Canungra and Shoalwater, which were both towns in tropical Queensland. The soldiers dedicated their selves to war and could not let each other down. For instance, Redgum in their four-week operation in the war, which was risky as anyone could get shot and die, pointed out that, but you would not let your mates down 'til they had you dusted off. He also asserted that it was a war within soldiers selves, but they had to support each other by closing their eyes and thinking of other things. As such it can be deduced that only men were involved in the operation, meaning that men were actively involved in the Australian war, and thus, played a major role in building the nation. However, the war had negative effects on men, including Redgum as he highlights that he was injured and doctors had to attend to him. Also, Damousi highlighted the negative impact of the Australian war, including the fact that it made women widows and those who returned were never the same as they battered their wives among other negative aspects.
As such, it can be derived that men were the main figures in the Australian war, and they took active roles in being soldiers. Being involved in the war was considered more masculine, and those men who did not participate were humiliated as they were seen to compromise their masculinity. Men were the ones who fought in the war. Hence, they were able to free Australia from the colonialists. On the other hand, even though women, for example, nurses, played a role in the war including attending to injured soldiers, they took on a passive role as onlookers to the real action. For this reason, men are rememberedas the ones who gave birth to the nation, a position that is greater compared to that of females. This was because they gave birth to a nation, which rendered the life-giving capacities of women inferior in comparison to that of giving birth to a nation.
Damousi, J, Living with the Aftermath: Marriage Wars, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 110-138.
Garton, S., War and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century Australia, Journal of Australian Studies, Vol. 22, no. 56, 1998, pp. 86-95.
Lake, M. Female Desires: The Meaning of World War II, Australian Historical Studies, Vol. 24, no. 95, pp. 267-284.
Nelson, E., Civilian Men and Domestic Violence in the Aftermath of the First World War, Journal of Australian Studies, Vol. 27, no. 76, 2003, pp. 97-108.
Holmes, K., Day Mothers and Night Sisters: World War I Nurses and Sexuality. Gender and War: Australians at War in the Twentieth Century, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 43-59.
Redgum: I was Only 19. [Online video], 1983, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Urtiyp-G6jY, (accessed 21 October 2017).
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