Feminism in International Relations

6 June 2017

Tne social sciences. I neorlsts Degan to examine now gender affected International relations theory and practice in the late 1980s, during the third debate’ between positivists and post-positivists. Like post-positivist critiques of conventional approaches to ‘R, feminist theorist contend that paradigms like realism, neo-realism and liberal institutionalism, present a partial view rooted in unacknowledged political assumptions that do not tell the whole story of international politics.

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Conventional theories were censured for failing to explain the collapse of the Soviet Union, the udden and peaceful end to the Cold War, and the diffuse security threats of the 1990s. The feminist approach to IR is not a single unitary theory, but a distinct discourse made up of many competing theories. For example, liberal feminists focus on securing equal rights and access to education and the economy for women, while Marxist feminists seek to transform the oppressive socioeconomic structures of capitalist society (Steans, 1998, 16-19).

Alternatively, standpoint feminists argue that women’s knowledge comes from a marginalised perspective that has the potential to rovide fuller insights into world politics than those from the core (Brown, 1994, 231). Finally, post-modern feminists reject claims that a theory can tell “one true story’ about the human experience (Steans, 1998, 25-26).

Post-modern feminists argue that there is no authentic women’s experience or standpoint that can be used as a template for understanding the world, and chide liberal feminists for their adherence to the Enlightenment project, their Western middle class bias, and their essentialist views of women (Steans, 1998, 23-27). Despite the fissiparous nature of eminism in the discipline, all feminist IR scholars are united by a concern with gender: an ideological and socially constructed difference between men and women, as opposed to the biological differences between the sexes.

In all societies and in all cultures individuals who are born as biological males or females are usually expected to develop masculine or feminine characteristics and behave in ways appropriate to their gender. Those who were insufficiently masculine or feminine were regarded as abnormal or deviant. The ascription of gender involved a highly complex system of tereotyping which was supported by range of social institutions and practices.

Individuals found themselves under a great deal of social pressure to conform to gender stereotypical behaviour. Feminists argue that sex roles were assigned by society and male identified roles were seen to be more important and deserving of greater social rewards than female identified roles. Characteristics such as power, autonomy, rationality, strength, we associate with masculinity and opposite characteristics such as weakness, dependency, emotions are associated with feminity. (Tickner, 1997; Steans, 1998; Pettman, 2002; Sylvester 2002).

Gender both constitutes and is constituted by inequalities in power relations and social structures, and has significant implications for the respective experiences of men and women (Steans, 1998, 10; Tickner, 2008, 265). In their different ways, feminists aim to explain the role of gender in the theory and practice of international relations by locating women in international politics, investigating how they are affected by structures and behaviour in the international system, and exploring ways of reconstructing IR theory in a gender neutral way (Tickner, 2008; Steans 1998; Sylvester, 2002).

In her seminal work, Cynthia Enloe (1989) focused on the everyday experiences of women as an individual, demonstrating their importance to the continued running of the state system as plantation workers, consumers, wlves 0T Olplomats ana 0T soldiers, ana prostitutes surrounding military bases. She asserted that omitting women in theories left IR “with a political analysis that is incomplete, even naive” (Enloe, 1989, 2).

This is best seen via the example of women’s experiences of war: in general, war intensifies economic inequalities between men and women and often forces women into unpaid ork, such as caring for the injured or sick when hospitals are over-crowded or destroyed (Chew, 2008, 76-77). Women are forced into the sex-trade for subsistence, sometimes being contracted informally by military leaders around bases in order to sustain the morale of soldiers (Enloe, 1989, 81-92; Chew, 2008, 76-77).

Non- combatants, meaning women and children, make up 90% of deaths in contemporary wars, and systematic rape has been used as a weapon during wartime. Seeing war through the eyes of a woman can change the very nature of what constitutes the boundaries of ‘R, shifting the focus from the causes and costs of inter-state war to he drastic consequences individuals suffer due to militarization and oppression (Tickner, 1997, 625; steans, 1998, 102).

Reconstructing IR-Feminist on The state, Security and Power In order to examine the socially constructed language employed in mainstream theories, particularly realism, highlighting conventionally used dichotomies like objectivity/ subjectivity, public [private, and national/international, feminists in Ir have adopted the methodologies of deconstructivism associated with post- structuralism. In these groupings, the former represents the masculine value, which e subconsciously Judge to be of higher worth than the latter, feminine term (Tickner, 1988, 432).

Employing this analysis to scrutinise key IR texts provides remarkable insights into the gendered nature of language and knowledge employed by traditional IR theory, allowing new definitions of well-thumbed concepts like the state, power and security. Power emerges as central in traditional theories, to both the study and practice of international relations. Realism’s preoccupation with control means that prescribes a type of power that facilitates domination

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