Fighting for the Father(Land): Patriarchy and Pluralism in Eritrea and the DPRK

22 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 5 Oct 2011

See all articles by Lisa B. Sharlach

Lisa B. Sharlach

University of Alabama, Birmingham

Date Written: 2011


This paper is a preliminary investigation of the construction of gender, reproduction and militarism in propaganda from the highly militarized countries of Eritrea and the DPRK (North Korea). I closely inspect both countries’ depictions of women as revolutionary fighters, heroic labourers, and mothers of the nation. Patriotic music videos broadcast on the state-run television and available online are my primary data source, although I also draw from feature films and written content on the official government websites.

Women appear most often in the Eritrean patriotic music videos as combatants. North Korea has comparatively few videos featuring women; most instead exalt Kim Jong-il and his deceased father, Kim Il-sung. When women do appear, they are usually heroic labourers and self-sacrificing mothers, eager to provide the country’s next generation of workers and soldiers. A feminist might at first read the valorisation of women in these country’s videos as positive, but closer scrutiny reveals that the propaganda about women’s contributions to the nation does not really represent an effort to promote female empowerment. Instead, pressuring the already overburdened and impoverished North Korean and Eritrean women to work harder and in more capacities than ever serves to bolster the power base of each country’s patriarch.

Keywords: DPRK, North Korea, Eritrea, women and war

Suggested Citation

Sharlach, Lisa B., Fighting for the Father(Land): Patriarchy and Pluralism in Eritrea and the DPRK (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Lisa B. Sharlach (Contact Author)

University of Alabama, Birmingham ( email )

Department of Government
Birmingham, AL 35294-4460
United States
205-934-8675 (Phone)
205-975-5712 (Fax)

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