The social construction of the warrior ideal rests three related ideas: that warriors are self-sufficient; that warriors are part of a lineage of men; and that there is a tradition of war that extends into history beyond our memories. The construction of the male warrior is also upheld by anthropological origin stories that emphasize the role of the male hunter.

Although male warriors maintain a mythology of self-sufficiency, they are in fact supported by other segments of society. Barbara Ehrenreich outlines how the ways in which elite, “metal-bearing” warriors depended on the labour of others in her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War. Some were “civilized” warriors who relied on a stratified society with warriors at the top feeding off the labour of those in the 'lower' classes. Other “barbarian” warriors stayed outside of organized society and simply raided and pillaged to meet their needs for help from ‘others’ such as women and peasant men. Ehrenreich states that both types of warrior were “predators on human life and culture.”

The self-sufficient status of the warrior depended on the idea that he had never been dependant on anyone (other then, perhaps, his male comrades). The fact that human beings are born from women’s bodies, and that infants are helpless and dependant on their caregivers (usually women) for survival was inconsistent with the warrior’s view of himself. Thus, the connection to women had to be erased and a male lineage created. After being removed from their mothers at a young age to train as warriors, boys were ‘reborn’ into this community of men through initiation rites. Ceremonies were often used, but the true initiation of the warrior was his first battle and/or his first kill. (Ehrenreich, 56)

Through this process women are marginalized until they are seen only as possessions of warriors and objects to be acted on. I will discuss the implications of this further in “Rape as a Function of War”. (link to be filled soon)

The initiation of the young male warrior was seen as a part of a long tradition of male warriors. This tradition was seen to have a long history that extended into time before memory. This timelessness is part of the warrior myth. This is supported by the traditional view of prehistoric life in which the men laboured outside the home as hunters, while women stayed in the home and raised the children. This theory of prehistoric life is combined with the theory of evolution to suggest that men evolved on the basis of strength and cunning (the skills of a good hunter) while women evolved on the basis of sexual attractiveness (the requirement to keep the good hunter around to feed the young).

This implies that women are not qualified in an evolutionary or biological sense to be warriors, but the inclusion and success of women in the military challenges the idea that warriorhood belongs to men alone, and thus destabilizes the culture that war is built on.

Ehrenreich displaces this theory of prehistoric life by suggesting that both men and women were originally prey, not hunters, and had to band together to scavenge for food and to protect the young. Despite the logic of such alternative origin stories, the idea of the prehistoric male hunter remains a popular justification for inequality between men and women in many spheres. This is particularly the case in military occupations that are seen to rely on the traits of the male hunter.

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