Women and Combat in World War II: the Anti-Female Combat Norm and Norm Change

This paper considers a puzzle: why was there such considerable variation in ways in which the USSR, Great Britain, and Germany mobilized women during World War II? I argue that a very strong norm against the use of women in combat is essential in explaining this variation. In turn, understanding the norm against female combat, in particular its longevity and resistance to change, reveals important policy lessons for integrating women into the armed forces today, as well as significant theoretical lessons for how we understand the processes of norm change and norm decline.

Sarah Percy arrived at UQ from the University of Western Australia in 2016. Prior to her appointment at UWA, Sarah was University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in International Relations at the University of Oxford (Merton College). At Oxford, Sarah was on the steering committee of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War. Sarah did her M.Phil and D.Phil as a Commonwealth Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford. Sarah has three main research areas. She has had a long-standing interest in unconventional combatants, and has published widely on mercenaries, private military companies, and pirates. Sarah is interested in issues of maritime security generally, including piracy and counter-piracy, maritime crime, and the role of navies as security actors. She also conducts research at the nexus between international relations and international law, and is interested in how and why the use of force is regulated, and the relationship between norms and international law.

Date & time

Thu 03 May 2018, 12–2pm


LJ Hume Centre, Copland Building, ANU


Dr. Sarah Percy


Feodor Snagovsky


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