Why has this exhibition been created? We want to raise and give a perspective on conceptions like manliness and masculinity in connection to Swedish participation in international peace missions. Through the collections of the Peace Archives we want to portray individuals from different peace-keeping and peace-enforcing operations around the world through their stories, in order to increase understanding of their experiences. The general theme of the stories is that they represent a likely UN soldier, a humane, and often self-sacrificing person. 

The name of the exhibition is The Likely UN soldier – an exhibition about Manliness, and through this we want to question the stereotype, which many, but far from everyone have regarding the characteristics of a UN soldier. 

What is considered brave and manly fluctuate depending on time and context, but the issue is both eternal and of current interest. Attitudes are also changing to the better. Magnus Boström, who served as a UN soldier in Bosnia: Everyone believe that you end up in a "black book"And there is a bit of shame and such. But a mental disorder is the same as a broken leg or a broken back.I say, “take it like a man, break down and come back”.[1] From the war in Bosnia there are numerous examples of the Swedes’ opinions on courage and fear: You were scared stiff that you would go nuts, sink down on the floor or something, or pee yourself. But still, you were damned scared of making a fool of yourself.[2]

A success factor, at least for the foreign missions in the older days, was the Swedish conscription, which formed the foundation for a natural multiplicity - gender excluded - of different backgrounds and experiences , which turn out to be important assets when the soldiers were faced with challenges during their service. The Swedish UN soldiers have always been seen as reliable and skilled by other nations´soldiers.

How much can a human be required to experience and endure, without being affected at the same time? What self-image is a UN soldier expected to have during a mission in a foreign country, far away from kith and kin? What expectations do we have of those who serve? These are questions that Swedish UN soldiers, and their likes, have been facing since the Saar Battalion in 1934, up until today's operations in Afghanistan and Mali.

The expected qualities of a Swedish UN soldier. The qualities are in line with the values of our time. From: Instruction for the Conduct of Swedish Contingents in Tropical Circumstances. The Army Staff. Stockholm, 1960, pg. 9.

The expected qualities of a Swedish UN soldier. The qualities are in line with the values of our time. From: Instruction for the Conduct of Swedish Contingents in Tropical Circumstances. The Army Staff. Stockholm, 1960, pg. 9.


Feelings in Literature

To avoid expressing your feelings is usually, and unfortunately,  connected to the image of manliness. Eugene B. Sledge, (1923–2001), soldier in the US Marine Corps, teacher and author, was able to reproduce a strong sense of what it was like to grit one’s teeth and not talk about the misery in his account of when the US took Sugar Loaf Hill by Suri in Okinawa in 1945. It had rained heavily, more than thirty centimetres during the week, and the rain flushed larvae and faeces into the marines’ trenches. The stench was overwhelming. It continued day after day. Sledge writes:

If a Marine slipped and slid down the back slope of the muddy ridge, he was apt to reach the bottom vomiting. I saw more than one man lose his footing and slip and slide all the way to the bottom only to stand up horror-stricken as he watched in disbelief while fat maggots tumbled out of his muddy dungaree pockets, cartridge belt, legging lacings, and the like. Then he and a buddy would shake or scrape them away with a piece of ammo box or a knife blade. We didn’t talk about such things. They were too horrible and obscene even for hardened veterans. The conditions taxed the toughest I knew almost to the point of screaming.” [3]

Ernst Jünger, (1895–1998), was a German author, officer, philosopher, and entomologist. One of his most famous works is the autobiographical Storm of Steel from 1920, which is undoubtedly one of the best portrayals of the inhuman battles on the Western front during World War One, besides Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet at the Western Front, from 1929. On the very first page, Jünger describes the sentiment in what was expected from men:

“Raised in an era engraved by security, every one of us felt a longing for the uncommon, for the grave danger. The war had filled us, like a state of inebriation. In a rain of flowers, we marched out, in a drunken ambience of roses and blood. The war was to grant this to us, the greatness, the strength, the solemnity. We imagined the war as manly deeds, a merry exchange of fire on flowery, blood-spattered meadows. ‘Alas, if only you didn’t have to stay at home, if only you could be a part of that’ [...].” [4]

In 1923 Jünger published the novella Sturm, about the experiences of a young second lieutenant at the Western front in the Summer of 1916. The author points out the importance of companionship, a recurring aspect in letters and diaries from Swedish veterans.

Every community formed by men, reduced to each other’s company, develop according to the organic laws of nature. It originates in the amalgamation of different cores and grows like a tree; whose distinctive character depends on several circumstances. The first meeting is essentially hostile, one sneaks around masked, among the others; each and every one portrays himself as he wants to be seen, on the lookout for the weaknesses of the others. In time, sympathies start to play a role, common aversions and passions arise. Common experiences and inebriation displace the borders over each other and at the end the company is like a building, which you often and by many reasons have visited. You have a certain notion of it and keep it in your memory. The remarkable is that, during this process a change of personality takes place. Everyone has discovered, within themselves, how different you are in a certain group, compared to another. Just as marriage in time leads to similarity, every lasting community affect its members to the core.” [5]


A Deepened Insight into Masculinity AS A CONCEPT

What do we mean when we talk about manliness and how this discourse affects men, and in this case those men who had been out on a mission? The discussions and the research on masculinity and manliness undeniably belongs to gender studies. But until recently, discussions and theories regarding gender have mainly concerned women. Today, men and men's conditions are in the spotlight as well , and, supported by the existing research, we hope that this exhibition will open a small window on different ways to relate to masculinity and manliness from a male point of view. 

People in general are expected to behave based on their presumed “gender category”, i.e. either as a man or a woman. The behaviour created by this expectation is not a product of the gender, it is the gender.[6] We create our gender, but we are not at liberty to create it in any way we want. The way we perform gender (or how we behave) is to a large extent governed by the gender order in which we exist. 

Gender order is a new concept, used to denominate the social structure of creating and maintaining power relations between men and women. This order is not necessarily a patriarchy, it might as well be formed as an equal society or a matriarchal society.[7] Thus, to be a man or a woman is not a predetermined state.It is a becoming, a state under transformation. Simone de Beauvoir pronounced this in a classic quote: ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’ Even if the circumstances of men and women aren’t parallel, that principle is valid for men as well: one is not born, but rather becomes, a man.Gender issues, as mentioned above, concern men just as much as women.[9]

Gender is an important dimension in our lives, in our social relations, and in our culture. Gender is also an area where we meet many prejudices and myths. A lot of people believe, for example, that women and men are psychological opposites, which isn’t the case.. [10][11][12] It is common to only be able to relate to masculinity, femininity and the relations between them as they are seen in one's own social context. In fact, there is an extensive multiplicity of ways to do gender, prevailing in different cultures as well as backwards, in history.[13] Despite the gender patterns differing significantly from one cultural context to another, they are still gender patterns.[14] The point is that gender is transferred socially, unlike sex, which is biological.

Is there a difference between manliness and masculinity? From an etymologic perspective the words manliness and masculinity have the same root. Masculinity comes from the Latin masculines or mas, which means “manliness” or “male”. Manliness is a combination of the word manly and -ness, the latter is an element denoting state, thus, a manly state.[15]

Beyond the etymology it could be said that the expressions man, manliness and masculinity are intertwined, and could be difficult to separate. For the sake of simplicity, the word mancould be used when you talk about a human passing as – i.e. is seen as - a biological man. Manliness are the social practices connected to men, and which men must maintain to pass as men. This entail for example behaviours and ways to relate to women, or other men, for that matter. Finally, masculinities are used as a theoretical concept for trying to explain and understand social constructs like man and manliness, and to understand and see the social practices striving to maintain these constructs.[16]


Hegemonic Masculinity

Hegemony as a concept within societal theory was developed by Antonio Gramsci, during the 1920s and 1930s and describes how a dominant stratum in society keeping its position since the dominated accept the prevailing order. From the rulers’ hegemony, values originate and are transferred to the dominated, which in turn interpret and accept these values as common sense. Thus, hegemony as a concept, concerns dominance over the culture (in a wide sense), rather than over the economy and the politics.The dominance concerns attitudes as well as ways to relate, and in that sense, it governs the rules of society.[17]

In 1995 a scientist named Raewyn Connell coined the term “hegemonic masculinity”, in the book Masculinities. Hegemonic masculinity is to be seen as the domineering masculine ideals, which both men and women relate to in different ways, and as a norm no man completely can live up to. In that manner, different groups of men possess the normative qualities to different and varying degrees.

In addition to the hegemonic position, Connell also formulated three further positions: marginalised, subordinate, and participant. They are used to define how all men to a different degree are positioned in relation to hegemonic masculinity, and the most common position is probably that of the participant. The hegemonic masculinity is changing over time, as gender at large, and different kinds of masculinities are regarded as more or less desirable due to e.g. cultural norms or socioeconomic affiliation. In other words, hegemonic masculinity is seen as a cultural ideal, which can change through time and depending on geography and culture. A group of men can strive to accomplish hegemonic masculinity and thus receive the advantages of hegemony in the form of power, despite they themselves not living up to the ideals. Another group, i.e. homosexual or feminine men are regarded as subordinates and since they diverge from the norm, the ideal is reinforced for those who strive for it.[18] The theory also points out that the men who achieve the hegemonic ideals not always are the most powerful of men.[19]

”At any given time, one form of masculinity rather than others is culturally exalted. Hegemonic masculinity can be defined as the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women. /…/ this is not to say that the most visible bearers of hegemonic masculinity are always the most powerful people. They may be exemplars, such as film actors, or even fantasy figures, such as film characters. Individual holders of institutional power or great wealth may be far from the hegemonic pattern in their personal lives."[20]

The strength in Connell's theory is that although it acknowledges men’s different relations to, and the reproduction of male dominance in society, it makes possible a critical analysis of masculinity.[21] Though the fact remains, that Connell, when she coined the theory, pointed out that it isn't comprehensive, but in need of further development and expansion. Among other things, this is the starting point for the critique against the theory, that it skips certain aspects or sometimes even risk to sanction the things it criticises.

Why is this interesting or even useful in this context? It is, despite its less than precise nature, the basic idea which circles around changeable ideals in a permanent order or structure, is useful for this exhibition. This, since the men who are the subjects of this exhibition come from similar social and cultural contexts, but also since their stories come from different periods in time. They seem to relate to manliness in similar ways, despite the temporal distances, in the manner that it exists as something to relate to, but with different notions. That is why the theory can make visible and put words to what the veterans in the exhibition describe, sometimes pronounced, sometimes implied. They are all relating to some manner of manliness, in one way or another.


Concluding words

In this exhibition we present a selection of stories, based on the collections of the Peace Archive. As the title indicates, this exhibition is meant to be seen in the light of manliness. This is mainly due to that the major part of the material in the Peace Archive is about men and men’s experiences, which entail that men are over-represented in this exhibition as well. A complementary perspective can be gained if you visit, where tales from more modern times can be found. We have had the ambition to depict both the officer's and the soldiers’ perspective, but also, as far as possible, the perspective of the local population, or at least the interactions with them.

You are welcome to, through this exhibition, follow several life stories from a kind of micro-history perspective, and the participants’ involvement in building peace in conflicted countries!


[1] A. Svensson, Krigsveteran: ”Alla tror att man hamnar i en svart bok”, Dagens Nyheter 2017-08-08.

[2] C. Wallenius, Reaktioner och funktionsförmåga i samband med livshotande fara; intervjustudie med svenska FN-soldater. Försvarshögskolan LI Serie. F:8. Stockholm 1997, pg. 20.

[3]E. Sledge, With the old breed. At Peleliu and Okinawa. New York 2010, pg. 260.

[4] E. Jünger, I stålstormen. Stockholm 2011, pg. 27.

[5] E. Jünger, Sturm. Lund 2006, pg. 15.

[6] R. Connell, Om genus. Göteborg 2009, pg. 103.

[7] R. Connell, Om genus. Göteborg 2009, s. 19, pg. 103.

[8] (From 2017-10-26).

[9] R. Connell, Om genus. Göteborg 2009, pg. 10 and pg. 18.

[10] (From 2017-11-02).

[11] (From 2017-11-02).

[12] (From 2017-11-02).

[13] R. Connell, Om genus. Göteborg 2009, pg. 9.

[14] R. Connell, Om genus. Göteborg 2009, pg. 26.

[15] (From 2017-11-01).

[16] M. Herz & T. Johansson, Maskuliniteter. Malmö 2011, pg. 16.

[17] (From 2017-11-01).

[18] (From 2017-11-01).

[19] M. Herz & T. Johansson, Maskuliniteter. Malmö 2011, pg. 34, pg. 127.

[20] R. Connell, Masculinities. Cambridge 2005, pg. 77.

[21] M. Herz & T. Johansson, Maskuliniteter. Malmö 2011, pg. 128.