Drawing (on) women’s military experiences and narratives–Israeli women soldiers’ challenges in the military environment

Ayelet Harel-Shalev, Ephrat Huss, Shir Daphna-Tekoah, Julie Cwikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article utilizes arts-based methods as a feminist methodology for understanding women’s experiences in military service, according to theories of feminist security studies. It explores how non-combatant women in the army retrospectively narrate stressful situations that happened during their military service. Using arts-based methods, we examine how they derive meaning from their experiences in a masculine, military environment, affected by ongoing conflict. This article analyzes twenty images drawn by Israeli women who served in the army in the previous 2–4 years. The women drew a stressful event from their military service, explained the image, and elaborated on how they coped with the situation. A content analysis of the pictures and the narratives produced three themes: the responsibility for others in life threatening situations, the military as a first professional work experience and the interaction between military and gender hierarchies. In general, women soldiers experienced the army as complex as they encountered their first adult work space in which they learned responsibility and skills of the ‘adults’ world’. However, they were also exposed to a rigid hierarchy and to stressful security situations typical of army contexts. While non-combat women soldiers were allegedly protected from the violence of the army, they are also indirectly exposed to the danger inherent in an army context. This analysis goes beyond the hero narrative, and moves into taboo territories of young women’s narratives and experiences in the military.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-514
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Place, and Culture
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2017


  • Israel
  • Women soldiers
  • arts-based methods
  • feminist security studies
  • military

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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