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Women in WarThe Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador$
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Jocelyn Viterna

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199843633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199843633.001.0001

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Women in War

Jocelyn Viterna

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes the organizational structure and daily functioning of FMLN guerrilla camps. FMLN camps were highly stratified by gender, yet former guerrillas insisted that gender equality was the norm. They argued that commanders assigned individuals to tasks based on their “abilities” and not their sex. This narrative transformed the learned skills people brought with them to the camps—(e.g., skills in making tortillas)—into more organic talents or “abilities.” As a result, both men and women guerrillas believed that women were “made for” the kitchen, while men were more suited for combat. The rare exceptions—women in combat and command positions—were offered as evidence that abilities, not gender, explained the division of labor. Nevertheless, many women were assigned to high prestige positions like medic, radio operator, and expansion work—positions that also required regular participation in armed combat. These women came to see themselves as “able” to do many things that men could do, and some also gained new connections to powerful people. Yet, because the “abilities” narrative provided a veneer of gender equality, none questioned the broader gender stratification within the FMLN.

Keywords:   FMLN, Guerrillas, El Salvador, Women, Gender, Organization, Medic, Radio operator, Expansion, Combatant

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