Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Macho Nation? Chicano Soldiering and Masculinity During the Vietnam War Era




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



The attempt to claim full citizenship and national belonging during wartime offers an excellent opportunity to explore how gender functioned as the terrain upon which many Chicanos struggled to adjust to life in the military and make sense of the Vietnam War. Furthermore, as a social space imbued with its own masculine ethos, the military is a prime candidate for the study of Chicano masculinity not only because males predominated during the Vietnam War, but also because the military's emphasis on conventional, often aggressive, displays of male sex role behaviors paralleled the popularized character traits often associated with machismo. However, normative and traditional displays of machismo, though present within my analysis, are not the singular focus of this article. Rather, I borrow from the analytical insights of critical men s studies to showcase a range of masculinities amongst Chicano servicemen prior to and during the Vietnam War. It is my contention that the perceived link between military service and masculinity in fostering the transformation of young men into warriors is much more complex. Indeed, I view the U.S. military as a contested site where gendered meanings and behaviors were continually made and remade, producing an environment rife with opportunities for masculine and sexual exploration despite the military's focus on strict regimentation and compulsory heterosexuality. While conventional notions of masculine behavior undoubtedly influenced many Chicanos in uniform, they did not uniformly regulate the wartime experiences of these young men or their masculine sense of self.

Conference Name

Celebrating Scholarship And Activism

Conference Location

Chicago, Illinois

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