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In the book The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien gender stereotypes of women who fought in the Vietnam War are represented through some of the short stories. One short story in particular is "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" which describes a woman who participated in the Vietnam War and went beyond some of her gender roles that were placed on her. In this war women had certain roles they had to fulfill with many of them being non-traditional ones. This paper will discuss the concept of Cultural Studies in literature about the Vietnam War.
Women in the Vietnam War had numerous roles they had to fulfill both physically and mentally. For example in the story "Sweetheart of the song Tra Bong" the character Mary Anne is flown down by her boyfriend to Vietnam. She is dressed in "White culottes and a sexy pink sweater" which is very traditional for a woman (O'Brien 90). Right of the bat the men were attracted to her and was especially liked when she wore her cut-off blue jeans and a swimsuit top that was black (95). In this instance she was representing a traditional feminine role in her dress and her actions. Traditionally women the war were nurses, Women worked for the Red Cross or worked in other types of medical facility. Also you found women who were on the Clerical staff and who were Support Personnel. Only on a few occasions did you find a woman who actually fought in the war. Two women from another source stated that "Women served alongside men in that sink-pit of War."
Some roles women had were non-traditional. In the same story that was represented in the preceding paragraph Mary Anne show some of her own non-traditional roles. She becomes very fond of military paraphernalia and even blackens her face with charcoal and carries around an M-16 (102). Her hygiene also becomes second hand. "No cosmetics, no fingernail filling. She stopped wearing jewelry, cut her hair short and wrapped it in a green bandana"(98). Here she is taking on masculine features and her feminine ways are forgotten. Mary Anne also starts staying out late, and once even does not come in until the next day. Some nights the men would go out and look for her, and her boyfriend even accuses her of sleeping with other men, because of her awkward ways.
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In the book the things they carried by Tim O'Brien short stories demonstrated some gender stereotypes that were held about women. This Cultural Studies paper showed us through literature how the Vietnam War affected women. Today their roles in the Vietnam War are forgotten.