Of 'True Professionals' and 'Ethical Hero Warriors': A Gender Discourse Analysis of Private Military and Security Companies
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SourceSecurity Dialogue, 43, 6, (2012), pp. 495-512
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectOther research; NON-RU research; Onderzoek overig; Onderzoek niet-RU
Private military and security companies (PMSCs) have gained increasingly in importance over the course of the past two decades. Yet, given the intransparency of the industry and the heterogeneity of the companies that comprise it, we thus far know little about the actors involved. In this article, we offer preliminary insights into the self-representation of PMSCs, based on a gender-discourse analysis of the homepages of select companies and their main professional associations. We argue that survival in an increasingly competitive industry not only hinges on size, market share or effectiveness, but is also inherently gendered. PMSCs and their associations draw on the one hand on civilized and accepted forms of masculinity and femininity, presenting themselves as ‘highly skilled professional’ military strategists and ordinary businesses akin to banks or insurance companies. At the same time, however, PMSCs also engage in strategies of (hyper)masculinization and pathologization to set themselves apart from mercenaries, their private competitors and state security forces. In this respect, companies appear to view themselves as ‘ethical hero warriors’. Whether intended or not, their strategies have political consequences. Within the security industry, they contribute to the creation and maintenance of a norm regarding what constitutes a legitimate PMSC, to which more or less all companies strive to adhere. Vis-à-vis other security actors, these strategies seek to establish PMSCs as being superior because, unlike these actors, such companies are super-masculine and able to live up to the growing and sometimes contradictory demands of changing security contexts.
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