‘My daughter was genetically drafted with me’: US-Vietnam war veterans, disabilities and gender

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Abstract

This article examines war's lasting bodily legacies by focusing on the Vietnam veterans’ Agent Orange movement that arose in the mid‐1970s. This movement pushed for the recognition of the disabling effects of Agent Orange not only on veterans themselves but also on their children. By taking biological responsibility for miscarriages or children's birth defects, veteran‐fathers challenged gender norms that blamed women and required men to hide their grief about both war and children. They also reinforced pitiful representations of children with disabilities in seeking to win benefits for their children. This article studies the representations of and discourses about these children, including how race and gender informed media coverage of the Agent Orange movement. Although women fought on behalf of Vietnam veterans and their families, their roles nevertheless remained circumscribed within conventional gendered expectations and domestic arrangements. The article uses the methods of disabilities, gender, social and cultural history to analyse veterans’ movement records as well as newspapers, Congressional hearings, television news and documentary films. It underscores the centrality of disability as a category of historical analysis and the value of (re)considering the fields of war, gender and reproduction through the analytical lens of disability.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-853
Number of pages21
JournalGender and History
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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