Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Experiences and insights on masculinity by former Navy SEALs in their military and civilian lives
by Uhl, James C., Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2011, 245; 3474230
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative, narrative analysis study presents narratives from 11 former Navy SEALs and explores their stories to understand the role of masculinity in their lives and their transition from active duty to the civilian world. When these men joined the military, they held to the hegemonic masculinity reinforced by military expectations, views based on historical social expectations that men are strong, reliable, independent, rational, and not feminine. As SEALs, these men gained a self-confidence that allowed them to become comfortable in their own masculinity, such that it was taken for granted and unquestioned; at the same time, through their training and experiences in the SEALs they gained an appreciation for teamwork that became a core value.

Participants became well educated in civilian life, and all had been married at one time. Throughout their lives they implemented a high sense of integrity, beyond what has traditionally been seen as “honor” in a military context. Their values transcended the expectations of hegemonic masculinity as they felt no need to prove themselves to others; instead, they have incorporated many core values that are considered feminine in U.S. society. Values like empathy, vulnerability, caring, and self-reflection (to name a few) have become essential to their lives.

As economic changes have already begun to impact men and their views of themselves, it is hoped that the examples of these former SEALs will begin to assist men and society in transitioning to a different view of masculinity. Instead of the stoic, unemotional bread-winner, men can begin to live a life more integrated with family, community, and themselves. Rather than discarding the old system, society can begin to use a new model based on values appropriate to the condition of the individual at a specific time and place. The men in this study have proven their ability to not only meet the expectations of hegemonic masculinity but also provide a potential new paradigm for building a new social expectation that is more productive for men and for society.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gozawa, Joanne
Commitee: Barrett, Frank J., Raffanti, Michael
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Humanities with a concentration in Transformative Learning and Change
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Gender studies, Military studies
Keywords: Gender roles, Hegemonic, Integrity, Masculinity, Navy SEALs
Publication Number: 3474230
ISBN: 978-1-124-90234-0
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