Posted by: secondeguerremondialeclairegrube | August 23, 2014

What soldiers do

What soldiers do

Grüß Gott !

French women after the German Occupation welcome the American rescuers. And show them their profound gratitude.

What soldiers do / Sex and the American GI in World War II / France / Mary Louise Roberts / Chicago Press / 2013:

« French women became either rescued princesses or shamed tarts… these women were symbols of what could go wrong when their men were away. Their husbands and boyfriends were incapable of either protecting them or keeping them under control. Worse still, French men were being cuckolded again, this time by the Americans. »

« The French men remain cuckolds unable to control their women, and by extension, their own nation… French men had failed their manly role, which was to rescue and protect their women. Instead the GIs had to step up to do it. Only the Americans, then, were fit to run the nation. »

« How did French men respond to the American « rescue » of their country ? « Badly » woud be the answer given by historians, who claim French men suffered a « crisis of masculinity » during the Second World War. The 1940 defeat and the German occupation, they maintain, undermined masculine authority. »

« What exactly did French men suffer in having to cede male prerogatives first to the Germans and then to the Americans ? The defeat of 1940 meant the failure of a duty and the loss of a privilege. In his own mind, the French man had been unable to fulfill his task as chef de famille, which was to protect home and family. »

« Enshrined in the Napoleonic Code, the French republican chef de famille acted on behalf of others who supposedly could not act for themselves. He exercised his civic rights on behalf of the women and children for whom he was materially responsible. Precisely this role as protector, French men believed, they had ceded when they could not defend their families. Furthermore, as a corollary to this failure, one that sprang fron its shame, French men also feared they had lost sexual possession over their women. »

« Disgrace in defeat, loss of honor, impotence in the face of the enemy, humiliation concerning women’s sexual infidelity – these were the makings of wartime gender damage. »

« Long after the signing of the armistice in June 1940, the battle between French and German men continued on another front line – the French female body. For the French as well as for the Americans, the war had been sexualized in both aim and effect. In fascist and anti-fascist propaganda alike, the « enemy » became he who would ravage women as booty. »…

« When soldier Jean Dutourd in Les Taxis de la Marne sees his first German in Brittany, he felt « a crazy anger, the despair of a man who learns that the woman he loved has given herself to another. » At the core of such despair lay the recognition that the victors were not only powerful but also attractive. »

« Veteran novels abound with French women who run after German and Austrian soldiers. Such promiscuities were not lost on men imprisoned in Germany. A malaise settled over the entire German camp system due to anxiety concerning sexual betrayal on the part of wives and girlfriends back home. They were right to worry. Infidelity became so common that the prisoners were dubbed « the army of cuckolds. »

« For French men, such contempt swelled the sting of defeat, making its pain rise higher. But no hurt was greater than GIs advances on local women. As it had for the Germans, the victory bestowed upon Americans certain privileges. « Just a few weeks ago, » R. wrote his wife from Normandy, « the Germans were using these roads, buildings, fields, chairs, tables, toilets, women, and now we are. » Woman also counted among the spoils of war. »

« Trauma about loss of sexual domination could not easily be separeted from fears concerning loss of national prestige. GIs advances on French women represented not only an encroachment on the chef de famille, but also a violation of national sovereignty. »

« Through contacts with the GIs, French men began to realize that their nation was no longer held in the same esteem. In this sense, the French « crisis of masculinity » was much more than a domestic matter, as historians have assumed. »

« Sexual control over women once again created a front line of tension between rapatriés and American men. In Paris particularly, French men had to endure countless photographs taken of their wives and girlfriends with GIs. »

« The Amerilots were handsome, well-dressed, and rich. How could the local girls resist ? Kayser could not help but notice that the women’s cries, fruit, kisses, and flowers were always for the American troops. « We are barely noticed. »

« In Normandy, Kayser was particularly enraged to see that the same girls who had taken up with the Germans were now waiting tables for the Gis, « and already the Americans are chatting with them, offering them cigarettes. »

« Aubéry’s resentment intensified as the dockers were forced to witness the flood of Americans, black and white, surging through our streets, assaulting our restaurants, beginning fights, and taking away our girls, who are themselves quite willing and delighted. »

*****************************

« The victors were not only powerful but also attractive. »

Claire GRUBE

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