and International Relations:
From Deconstruction to Reconstruction
Illinois State University
theory and international relations have been linked academically for a little
more than a decade, yet feminist IR still barely qualifies as legitimate
international relations. Relegated to its own corner within the “third
debate,” as just one more post-positivist challenge, it seems on the whole
that its charges against mainstream international relations need not be answered
or even acknowledged. There seems, in fact, to be a consensus among those
without a particular personal interest in feminist goals that feminism is
irrelevant, that it pertains neither to “real life” politics nor to the
study of “real” politics, and
that it is itself “political.”
Academic feminism is thus labeled as ideological and irrelevant to IR in the
same way that women’s gendered experience is to “real” world politics.
What the IR mainstream seems to dismiss, however, is that this is the
very charge leveled against it: the key feminist critique of IR claims that
“real”-ism and other “objective” inquiry is power laden and thus
ideological. IR, having been a recent construct of Western origins, originally
peopled almost exclusively by men, has presented a simplified picture of the
“real” world, telling a story which supports and maintains certain power
interests. The Machiavellian claim by realists—that they deal with the world
as it is, not as some believe it should be—ignores the fact that even
describing the world as “it” is requires focusing on some things to the
exclusion of others. It requires making some actors the focus of inquiry and not
others. It requires judgments about what is important enough to require
analysis, what is relevant, or in other words, what counts as political
knowledge. This political knowledge then supports a certain version of
Such political knowledge is assumed to be gender neutral—not allowing
gendered considerations into the field of analysis and not biased in any
gendered way. What the feminist IR
literature of the last decade shows, however, is that the very ways in which
international politics is conceived, and thus the way it is studied, has arisen
out of gendered understandings of the world.
In other words, politics and IR are not gender neutral—rather, they are
dependent upon gendered constructions.
flip side of arguing against the ideological/gender neutrality of IR is to argue
that feminist theory is indeed relevant to international politics. I do so by
suggesting that recent attempts to synthesize feminist theory, to deconstruct
the key concepts of mainstream IR, and to construct real-life alternative ethics
with which to approach international political interaction help to provide us
with a more complete, though by no means total, picture of international
relations. Feminism’s normative
orientation is openly acknowledged, of course, and at its most basic level, it
aims to end the oppression of half the world’s population. In a more universal
sense, it seeks to undermine gendered worldviews which support oppressive and
inegalitarian practices on a global scale.
objective here is to provide an overview of feminist challenges to IR, for to
treat the feminist challenge as a single, unified, monolithic system of thought
is to misrepresent the nature of feminist conversations. Still, it is striking
the degree to which feminist theories, even those normally at odds with each
other, seem to lend themselves to various syntheses in a critique of traditional
IR. So, while I will present my case in such a way as to emphasize commonalities
for the sake of those not familiar with feminist critique in general, I do so
not to silence some voices within feminism but rather to illuminate how feminist
perspectives are relevant to “real world” concerns—that the feminist
contention that “the personal is political” is also true in the converse:
the political is also personal and not so far removed from our daily lives as
some would have us think. For example, V. Spike Peterson argues that
foundational concepts such as ‘sovereignty’ are particularly masculine as
well as Western:
was in the Athenian context that specifically Western constructions of the
state, security, representation, sovereignty, and the “sovereign subject,”
public and private, and “what constitutes the political” were established;
these constructions—and the metaphysics they presuppose—profoundly shaped
modern state formation, and they continue to “discipline IR.”
is a common thread, then, that links women’s everyday lives with world
politics: the same basic concept—gender relations—which structures
oppressive practices in the “private” structures oppression in the
“public.” In other words, the distinction itself must be challenged for it
is such “givens” that make gender oppression possible. Therefore, feminist
scholars deconstruct and analyze from a gender perspective the concepts of, for
example, national security, realism, and even IR as an academic discipline.
In addition, the focus of analysis extends from the experience of women
to gender relations as a whole, the latter of which has allowed for sharper
analytical insight into the construction of masculinities.
My task, then, is to argue that constructions of masculinity,
particularly the hegemonic Western model, are connected to both the
marginalization of women in world politics and feminism in IR. Further, I argue
that the two realms are not entirely distinct, for each shapes and supports the
other. Finally, in doing so, I aim to present and explicate a variety of
feminist approaches or themes, making the case for the relevance and radicalness
of feminism in IR.
A Social Construction
most fundamental, entrenched assumptions we make about politics are those we
believe to be non-political, or “natural.” Such an assumption is generally
made about the roles and characteristics of men and women in the world—about
gender. It is both precisely because this assumption is so deeply embedded in
the way we see the world that IR and other political disciplines see it as
outside the proper scope of the field. It is also, however, because IR and other
disciplines are so unwilling to critically examine this assumption that feminist
scholarship must do so. Indeed,
perhaps a discussion of just what is meant by “gender” is in order before
any discussion of critique can begin.
as differentiated from sex, refers to the socialized identities of masculinity
and femininity—what it means within a certain culture and at a certain
historical time to be a man versus a woman; these are the traits we assign to
women and men rather than the biological sexual traits with which they are born.
This is where the controversy begins: in dominant ideologies, gender
prescriptions are often conflated with biological sex and argued to be attached
to or caused by “natural” difference rather than being socially constructed.
Feminism makes the opposite argument; in order to meet the perceived needs of
the society, as defined by the interests of some in maintaining unequal power
relations, certain groups of people are categorized in certain ways, usually
according to their current function, be it motherhood, providers of sexual
services, et cetera.
which is deemed “natural” (which differs according to what culture one
happens to be born into) is considered irrelevant to politics, or as “prepolitical.”
This begs the question of just what constitutes politics, however. If one
considers the focus of politics to be the power exercised within social
relationships between groups of human beings, such a move is itself very much
political, for the very fact of making something non-negotiable (or
non-political) is achieved through power.
fact, throughout history, unequal power relations have been justified by
grounding arguments in what is sometimes called the “naturalness fallacy.”
Perhaps the most familiar example, the slave trade in North America was
justified according to a natural inequality between the races. The fact of the
unequal power relations, which is translated into unequal influence over social,
cultural, economic, and other political resources was taken to be evidence of
the natural superiority of one race over the other. The same holds true with
gender, as certain traits have been both assigned to women and at the same time
devalued. The particular traits assigned to gendered roles have changed over
time with historical circumstances and have at times both intersected with and
opposed the traits assigned to other dominated groups; for example, depending
upon the power interests involved, women have been portrayed as both uncivilized
and as civilizing forces, as both driven by the passions and as sexually chaste.
In most cases, the sex roles prescribed by femininity and masculinity position
those groups deemed feminine as inferior to those deemed masculine.
Peterson and Runyon explain, the gender relationship is not one of categories
which are simply different,
as for instance, food is a different energy source than gasoline. Rather, to be
masculine means not to be feminine.
One cannot exist without the opposing other. While food can be characterized as
food without referring to gasoline, masculinity cannot be described except as it
relates to femininity. In
culturally particular terms, Peterson and Runyon explain that “the dominant masculinity in Western culture is associated
with qualities of rationality, ‘hardheadedness,’ ambition, and strength. To
the extent that a man displays emotionality, ‘softheadedness,’ passivity,
and weakness, he is likely to be identified as nonmasculine, which is to say,
‘feminine.’ Similarly, women who appear hardheaded and ambitious are often
described as ‘masculine.’
In addition, the traits associated with men and masculinity are valued over the
traits associated with women and so form a hierarchical relationship. This is
not to say that all men are valued more highly than all women, but simply that
the traits we assign to masculinity are more esteemed than traits we assign to
explains that “meanings about gender are maintained and contested through the
practices and struggles of actors engaged in relationships with each other and
the institutions in which they are involved.”
Therefore, gender is pervasive in political institutions, including the
institutions through which knowledge is made and transmitted. It is for this
reason that, in order to understand gender, one cannot simply analyze women and
their activities. Likewise, one cannot study politics (a male dominated
activity) by analyzing the men involved and later “adding on” women
(a function to which some mistakenly attribute women’s studies). Once we
acknowledge that the construction of particular masculinities and their opposing
femininities underlies or is foundational to a certain conception of politics,
that in which the actors are men, the values and norms are masculine, the
assumed “reality” of a world view which ignores gender is called into
exposing and calling into question the gendered assumptions of IR is precisely
what many feminist critics of IR aim to do. The goals of introducing gender
analysis into IR include not only making women visible in world politics but
also “transforming” conceptions
of politics itself by showing that some basic IR assumptions, once destabilized,
can no longer be unproblematically assumed.
Real-ism: A Gendered Worldview
of these problematic assumptions, according to Steans,
is that state autonomy and power as the central concerns of realism are based
upon a human nature assumption,
but that with the onslaught of the positivist methodological challenge, realism
was given “the aura of truth” associated with the natural sciences. Steans
argues that realism obscures social understanding (especially unequal relations)
through its “reification” of the state, and that it is a masculinized
conception of the state. The significance of this is that through a values
hierarchy, a single perspective acts through power to constitute a single
reality. Quoting Inis Claude, she adds that this has made the acceptance of the
realist paradigm “a test of the intellectual virility and manliness of the
builds upon her critique of state-centric thinking and connects the discipline
to world politics by showing how gender is implicated in the building of
national identity, in which boundaries are circumscribed in order to determine
who is counted as a citizen and who is not. Such examinations call into question
the assumption that there does in fact exist “nations” or identities which
can be unproblematically represented by the state. Gender is useful here because
it has historically been a primary criterion by which people have been excluded
from world politics. To focus on the state as actor, then, is yet another act of
power which works to exclude some political relations from the realm of
This is an important critique because realism’s very claim to represent
“real politics” determines what counts as real politics.
Similarly, by showing how gender is used to construct nationalist
identity and the costs it imposes on women by doing so (for example, as symbolic
woman, woman as the bearer of culture, et cetera), she further makes her case
for de-reifying the nation-state, as national identity-making involves “the
institutionalization of gender differences.” A good example of this
might be how India’s state formation included placing women under the
jurisdiction of religious “family law” rather than guaranteeing them rights
as citizens. Oppressive divorce and marriage practices can then be defended
under the rubric of “culture.” Women have no recourse because culture
becomes defined in terms of how men control women (and class or caste
distinctions as well).
scholarship seeks to expose bias and patterns of exclusion within all dominant
IR theories and activities. For example, Steans argues that what is considered
to be “economic” activity often does not include the work that women do.
Ignoring women’s unremunerated work hides from view inequalities and in doing
so helps to legitimate or naturalize them. Feminist theory in this regard, then,
aims to come up with inclusive definitions of what counts as work.
example of how even challenges to the mainstream can be subject to feminist
critique can be found in IPE; even critical political economy subsumes gender
under class (Marxism, for example), and so feminists seek to make visible the
global economic effects of restructuring on women in particular. For example,
women constitute a good deal of the cheap labor which drives TNCs into the Third
growth, debt policies, and development policies have specific negative effects
on women as well.
The UN program, Women in Development (WID), for example, was inappropriately
focused upon liberal inclusion for women in “development” rather than upon
the actual circumstances of women’s lives.
It is in this area that a postmodern perspective might become useful—one that
is sensitive to local context rather than the universal “condition” of third
transformed conception of politics, then, would necessarily counter the claim of
IR academics to be concerned only with what is ‘real’ with the charge that
by focusing too narrowly on male dominated “state” activity they are
operating under the guise of “theorizing” the real world while in reality
quite often fulfilling the functions of tacticians and strategists; by claiming
objectivity while refusing to consider gender, they are at the least biased
actors supporting, legitimizing, and thus perpetuating a particular construction
of world politics based upon a masculinist model.
caveat is perhaps in order here: a critique of mainstream IR and realism in
particular is not meant to suggest that such theorizing has had no value and
that it has not served certain purposes; focusing security concerns on balances
of power during the Cold War, for example, can be considered a rational response
to a sense of insecurity made urgent through a convergence of particular
historical circumstances. What it does suggest, however, is that the act of defining
international politics in terms of state actors maneuvering within an Hobbesian,
anarchical, dangerous arena is implicated in the rise of tensions which came to
be known as the historical “Cold War” period.
simply, perceptions and interpretations guide political actions, even if those
actions are claimed to be simply rational. “Rational” political actions
which assume a hostile world help to perpetuate a hostile world. Therefore, from
a feminist perspective, or even more generally, a post-positivist perspective,
realist and even liberal theorists are reacting to a certain set of historically
particular assumptions about “the world”—assumptions which have been
derived from historically particular world views, constructed by particular
experiences and particular modes of thinking.
the historical context of modernity, hegemonic power has been wielded not only
by men, but disproportionately by western men and westernized men. It is a major
feminist contention, then, that the state of IR and world politics reflects not
the inevitable human nature of men per se, but rather reflects
masculinities and femininities and the relationship between them. It is
important to the feminist project to remember that these gender relations have
themselves been socially constructed. This is a crucial distinction, for what
has been constructed, after all, is subject to both deconstruction and
deconstruction—or systematically taking apart and challenging fundamental IR
assumptions and categories—and reconstruction—envisioning
how alternative modes of thinking about politics can widen the scope of
political possibilities—together encompass perhaps the most fundamental tasks
for feminist IR theorists.
Reclaiming the Stories:
Where are the women?
sketches out ways in which feminist analysis has attempted to loosen the
stranglehold of current power interests over the official study of IR.
In other words, feminism objects to what has been constructed as “real” by
offering alternative perspectives. One
of the ways in which this is done is that stories are appropriated and retold
from other perspectives. One approach by which feminists have challenged the “stories” told about
international politics is by asking the question, “Where are the women?” The purpose of doing so
is to include women’s actions under the rubric of international politics.
Liberal Feminism: A Matter of
method by which the IR story is retold occurs when liberal feminists seek to use
the dominant discourse of human rights to raise the status of women in the world
through liberal international institutions such as the United Nations. Liberal
feminists, for example, (those who believe that reason is the foundation for
have pointed out the seemingly obvious exclusion of women from both academic IR
and as acknowledged actors in world politics. Thus, liberal feminism,according
to Whitworth, questions the extent to which a discipline dominated by men,
focusing on political actions initiated by men, can claim to be
“gender neutral.” The aim of such questioning has been to make room for female
voices within the discipline and to broaden the field of study to include some
women acting in politics.
ways in which liberal scholars seek out the presence of women in international
relations is by documenting inequality within existing structures. Besides
institutional inequality, Tomasevski argues that human rights within supposedly
sovereign states is an area in which women are treated unequally.
As a liberal, she assumes that the notion of human rights is a sufficient
concept from which to argue for women’s equality. Rather than focus on the
inequality itself, as merely a description of women’s condition, Tomasevski
argues that it is the “denial of equal [human] rights which demands action:
“The human rights of women as workers, prisoners, or refugees should be (but
more often are not) equal to those of male workers, prisoners, or refugees.”
Therefore, her critique does not call so much for a fundamental rethinking of
international relations so much as raising the status of women within the
system. Such a critique questions the gender neutrality of the human rights
systems and organizational frameworks in place, claiming that neutrality too
often translates as a “disregard of women.”
Such an approach, then, seeks to make visible the discrimination through which
women, in practice, are not included under the umbrella of “human.” As such,
liberal feminist critiques call for the enforcement of already existing values
such as freedom and equality, arguing that they should be applied to all women
as well as all men.
strength of such an approach is that the language of rights has legitimacy and
has been used historically to include the excluded. Since the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights was established after World War II, human rights
has taken on the function of a universal norm, with most members of the
international community at least professing to agree with its basic principles.
While there is much interpretive disagreement as to which rights should take
priority, labeling injustice “human rights abuses,” as Tomasevski points
out, “gives it an importance that simply calling it unfair cannot give.”
might argue, however, that this is a knife which cuts two ways: on the one hand,
an international notion of rights allows for a cross-cultural critique of
oppressive religious and cultural practices from which women suffer. On the
other hand, the notion of rights, in practice, has been largely dominated by the
Western interpretation which focuses on
human rights as civil/political rights. Such a hegemonic Western perspective
tends to be dismissive of the direst needs of the world’s poor, and as Beckman
and D’Amico note, feminist literature on human rights speaks to the
perspectives of women who statistically constitute one of the poorest groups in
the world by focusing on the more substantive economic and social rights.
some other feminist approaches would charge such a liberal/socialist approach
with failing to address how the very construction of gender helps to sustain an
unjust international system, few would disagree that such studies provide
valuable empirical evidence of the actual suffering of real women. While some
types of suffering may seem like localized problems—for example, the legs
being chopped off of an unwilling child bride in Nigeria, or the epidemic level
of wife battering in the U.S.—an
unwillingness to define violence against women as a political concern but rather
a cultural or even private matter has the effect of legitimizing such violence.
In that sense, then, even liberal feminist critique seeks to unearth and expose
what is taken to be prepolitical. Recognizing power inequalities divided along
lines of gender has helped to include women within the umbrella of human rights
in international political organizations (the United Nations Commission on the
Status of Women, for example). Exposing the unequal rights of women to form labor unions in
free-trade zones, for example, provides increased chances for redress to actual
women, but also provides solid evidence of oppression from which other types of
feminist critiques can proceed.
Standpoint Feminism: Politics From
a Different Perspective
more than the liberal critique, which extends the subject boundaries of
international political inquiry, more radical feminisms dig deeper into the
background of international political activity to ask the question, “Where are
the women?” Sylvester suggests that feminist standpoint theory is useful in
this regard, which simply means that politics often looks different from
marginalized positions within the system. Using the work of Cynthia Enloe to
illustrate her point, Sylvester notes that
are always inside international
relations through their work in the practice of its politics—as diplomats'
wives and secretaries, as assemblers of commodities for export, as tourists
bringing foreign exchange to the nearly empty tills of third world countries and
dirty laundry for poor handmaids to wash, as consolers of soldiers based far
from home, and wearers of khaki (1983) -- if we choose to see them there. She
states the problem as learning "how the conduct of international politics
has depended on men's control of women
. . ."
whose groundbreaking work began the task of connecting women’s concrete lives
to an international context, attempts to answer this question by bringing to the
foreground that which is deemed by mainstream IR as being irrelevant to
politics. While making use of the liberal paradigm which brings women into the
picture, she does so not simply to include women in international concerns, but
also to explode the assumption that there are certain “givens” about the
world which is separate from the workings of world politics.
example, Enloe brings into sharp focus the taken for granted backdrop to
international military activity--women’s activity—whether it be articulated
in terms of their roles in international economic activity (as primarily
consumers whose participation helps to maintain stratified relationships between
parts of the world) or their more direct but even less examined roles in
maintaining a military base through the supporting roles of diplomatic wives,
base girlfriends, and even as prostitutes.
this way, the naturalness fallacy, which presumes that the social world operates
in certain ‘given’ ways according to laws of nature loses some of its
potency and thus its inevitability when world politics can be shown to fall into
the same web of practices as the ordinary lives of everyday people. Enloe
presumption that something that gives shape to how we live with one another is
inevitable, a ‘given,’ is hard to dislodge.
It seems easier to imagine that something oozes up from an indeterminate
past, that it has never been deliberately concocted, does not need to be
maintained, that it’d [sic] just there. But
if the treeless landscape [after a bombing campaign] or all-women typing pool
can be shown to be the result of someone’s decision and has to be perpetuated,
then it is possible to imagine alternatives.
‘What if . . .?’ can be a radical question.
the ultimate goal of showing how “power infuses all international
Enloe demonstrates that masculinity and femininity are both manipulated and
reinforced for the sake of power interests. The preservation of
“traditional” categories “has required the daily exercise of
power—domestic power, national power, and . . . international power.”
Enloe argues that military alliances are held together through maintaining a
“camouflage of normalcy” between a military base and its foreign host. By
managing gender relations, governments seek to keep resentment for the base at a
minimum. For example, in order to quell the potentially “dangerous trend” in
World War II Britain of white women pairing up with U.S. black soldiers,
Churchill’s cabinet actively sought to have the U.S. send black women soldiers
to Britain as companions for black soldiers.
Enloe’s objectives are straightforward: by broadening the scope of
inquiry to include the concrete details of women’s lives, to examine decisions
of real people, to give as much credence to women’s experience of nationalist
movements, for example, as that of the “emasculated” men in whose name
nationalist politics are legitimized, she aims to paint a clearer, more complex,
and thus more realistic picture of how international politics actually works.
Such a task involves not just portraying women as victims, though Enloe
acknowledges that most of the world’s women clearly lack control over power
and resources within the international system. Indeed, in order to better grasp
the complexity of international politics, she stresses the importance of
acknowledging that women’s cooperation has also been central to oppressive
international practices such as colonialism:
American, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese women may not have been the
architects of their countries’
colonial policies, but many of them took on the roles of colonial
administrators’ wives, missionaries, travel writers and anthropologists in
ways that tightened the noose of colonial rule around the necks of African,
Latin-American and Asian women.
very fact, then, of bringing to light some of the ways in which world politics
does not happen within its own “anarchical” realm, a place mythologized to
be somehow separate from the realm in which actual people interact, has the
effect of destabilizing the notion of the “state” as an autonomous actor, a
“given” which is so foundational to realist IR theory.
Another way in which feminists challenge mainstream
IR’s ability to define politics is by offering what Sylvester calls revisions
of war and peace narratives. Coming from within
a peace studies perspective, Betty Reardon, for example, rather than challenging
the focus on peace, instead challenges the definition of the term.
In an expanded, “positive” conception of peace meant to replace the notion
of peace as an absence of war, Reardon extends the definition of peace to
encompass the lives and well being of individual people.
She charges that a perspective on peace which insists upon military
build-ups in order to prepare for a later period of war contributes to
suffering. People in developing nations particularly are hard hit by military
spending that eats up scarce resources that could otherwise be used for food and
healthcare. The oppression of women is closely linked to poverty, with women
being the “sole support for so many of the world’s families.”
When real people suffer from structural policies, peace studies researchers call
this structural violence, a concept originally developed by Johann Galtung. Thus, women’s rights
are inseparable from international peace, for as Wetzel argues, “the
elimination of domination, discrimination, oppression, and exploitation of women
is the first step in countering the destructive dynamics between nations.”
example in which feminist scholars attempt to re-tell the stories of war and
peace can be found in Sharoni’s work.
Here she challenges the dominant story of the Middle-East conflict between
Israelis and Palestinians by going beneath the headlines to show the largely
invisible history of alliances (as well as conflicts) between Israeli and
Palestinian women. While she does not exaggerate the cooperation between the two
groups of women, Sharoni does suggest that cross-national interests between
groups have overlapped at times. For example, in labor movements, Palestinian
men and Israeli women working in factories shared similar class (labor)
interests at one time. Works such as this contribute to understanding the
complexity of international events which do not readily show up in discourses
dominated by talk of formal peace accords and stone-throwing.
The Problem of Universal Claims
and perhaps most fundamentally, postmodern perspectives challenge the story, or
the “grand narrative” by which IR assumes that a male perspective can stand
in or be the reference point for all perspectives. In traditional IR, as in
politics in general, man’s experience
is held to be objective, universal, or representative of humanity, thereby
guaranteeing both the marginalization of women in world politics and of feminist
perspectives in IR and other academic disciplines.
This is best illustrated within the feminist IR context by taking a
closer look at how masculinities and femininities are constructed not in
isolation, but within a certain tradition of thought.
political thought has tended to problematize women. That is, in seeking to
universalize the experience of man, there is always left the question, “what
is to be done about the woman problem?” Where the experience of women does not
fit with that of man, it is assumed to be some aberration inherent in femaleness
rather than inherent in the way we conceive of and construct gender. As an
alternative approach, then, some feminist scholarship has sought to problematize
man, to ask the “man” question in IR.
Included in this set of studies are several male voices which provide insight
into masculinity from within masculinity. Perhaps
the best way to start, however, is to explain postmodern feminism.
to liberal and standpoint theories, postmodern feminism reflects a
“diminishing belief that the exclusion of women can be remedied by converting
them into “subjects.” As Zalewski points out,
focusing on woman as woman has led to the destabilizing postmodern critique of
woman rather than a solidarity among women. That is, difference has been
occluded, and it has also been shown that to be a woman does not mean to be a
feminist. For example, Margaret Thatcher and Madeline Albright, two of the few
women to reach a high level of political power, could hardly be considered as
feminist. Such a charge has been explained in terms of socialization and power
a woman is let in by the men who control the political elite it is usually
precisely because that woman has learned the lessons of masculinized political
behavior well enough not to threaten male political privilege. Indeed she may
even entrench that privilege, for when Margaret Thatcher or Jeanne Kirkpatrick
uses her state office to foment international conflict, that conflict looks less
man-made, more people-made, and thus more legitimate and harder to reverse.
such an explanation may satisfy some types of feminist thinkers, postmodern
feminists would argue that such an explanation does not negate the danger of
conflating all experience into that of a single perspective. As such, postmodern feminists
present an ongoing challenge to standpoint feminists and others who seek to
universalize their own perspective. The differing experiences of nonwestern
women help to illustrate the point that O’Gorman and Jabri make when they
suggest that feminists should be careful not to buy into the same sort of
oppositional, ethnocentric categories which are so central to western IR.
Steans explains postmodern feminism as
that which challenges what is called the Enlightenment project, which is seen to
be inherently oppressive through its manipulative use of the discourse of
universal reason and equality for the sake of power interests:
Enlightenment has been presented as a period in which mankind has been liberated
from ignorance, the whole process of rational and scientific discourse
characteristic of the ‘modern’ age has been deeply entrenched with bias and
has excluded the experiences of many groups. Discourse, which in simple terms
means the language which is used to construct social meaning and intersubjective understanding, is never innocent. Those in positions
of power are more likely to be heard. Their ‘truths’ are more likely to be accepted.
Therefore, simply placing “woman” in
the place of man in world politics, showing how politics looks from where
“she” stands, runs the risk of silencing some women whose experience
conflicts with “hers.” By taking into account that gender forms
only part of the picture and that class, race, placement in the international
system, et cetera also are places wherein power operates, feminists can be less
likely to simplify the picture for the sake of their own interests.
postmodern perspective is controversial for its rejection of reason and
emancipation for all women. Whitworth, for example, takes the position that this
argument is politically paralyzing and irresponsible to the feminist project.
Mainstream IR scholars, even those sympathetic to feminist goals, are even more
skeptical of a perspective which rejects all objective bases for the truth of
knowledge. Robert Keohane,
a prominent IR scholar, rejects such a position:
“I object to the notion that because social science cannot attain any
perfectly reliable knowledge, it is justifiable for students of society to
‘obliterate the validity of reality.’”
While it is not my intention to choose one best feminist position, it can
certainly be argued that the postmodernist critique of reason helps to shed some
light on the systems of thought in which masculinities are constructed.
order to examine gender constructions and their effect on world politics and IR,
I turn now to a series of studies and essays compiled in a book entitled, The
Man Question in International Relations.
This collection of studies seeks not so much to question realist man’s
state-centric view but to question the hegemony of man in a broader sense both
in international relations and in international politics. So one useful way in
which to bring IR men into the discussion, besides welcoming their
contributions, is to make masculinity (which underlies the gendering of IR) the
focus of inquiry. This is, in any case, what feminist theorists such as Peterson
and True have in mind as they seek to expose IR’s “simultaneous reliance on
and refusal to theorize hegemonic masculinities.”
masculinity is a term used to denote the concept which posits that male power is
maintained by creating a dichotomous, hierarchical value system through which
devalued traits are associated with femininity and valorized traits are
associated with masculinity. As noted earlier, for example, modern gender roles
created a public/ private split. Peterson
and True go further than attributing this split to gender, though, instead
linking it to a whole tradition of gendered thought.
what has been termed ‘binary logocentrism,’ “freedom, reason, autonomy,
and disinterested objectivity” are thought to be public (read: male) traits.
The private (female) was thought to contain the opposite: “necessity, affect,
dependence, and embodied subjectivity.”
The significance of this is not just that women were or are assigned devalued
traits, but that this sort of dualistic thinking is characteristic of modern
masculinity. This conceptual model, they argue, denies any commonality between
the “opposite” categories, and indeed takes for granted that they are
opposites at all. The danger of this sort of thinking and identifying is that
one’s thinking is severely constrained, that it contributes to “dangerous”
simplifications (one need only think of Marx and his monocausal revolution), and
as a result, complex social phenomena are obscured.
thinking is characteristic in Western thought, having its roots in the
Enlightenment, and critiquing its limitations has been the force behind the work
of postmodernists, including many feminist strands. When thought is freed from
rigid categories whose very construction represents a “male-as-norm”
perspective, marginalized peoples are able to envision new possibilities for
politics altogether rather than simply trying to prove that they too have the
valued qualities. In addition, applying this critique to IR is especially
relevant because IR is a bastion of male dominance, and so is characterized by
such dichotomous thinking.
this thinking is exposed as gendered, the question of what is to be valued as
politics becomes more than just a given; it becomes a gender issue, a power
issue. Masculine activities constituted as the “main story” such as “war,
diplomacy, global finance” become subject to critique. Exposing gendered
thinking allows one to push into the foreground the unimportant
“background”: “the realities of women, non-elite men, children, and
nature.” Much of feminist
scholarship then aims to make visible the invisible role of gender in world
politics as well as in a certain masculine notion of “international
relations.” Foucault himself might agree with such a strategy, for according
to him, modern power must conceal itself in order to be efficacious.
Once this power is exposed, an unwillingness to analyze
gender relations as power relations can then come to be recognized as a
conservative political strategy rather than as an objective inquiry into
in true postmodern spirit, denies even the existence of a single masculinity.
That is, in attempting to show the masculine character of IR, she notes the
fluid and changing character of masculinity, positing that there is no single
masculinity but rather several masculinities which are in contest with each
other and at the same time have power over women. It is interesting that Hooper
is here refusing to think within the dichotomous categories set up in favor of
masculinity, but rather insists upon overlapping pluralities. She notes, in
fact, that there are four types of masculinities that have historically been
mapped, and that there are variants within these four types. The notion of
hegemonic masculinity, though, means that only one type rules at a time, until
it is contested and loses power.
power of hegemonic masculinity lies in its ability to “force [men] to
negotiate their identities in relation to practices and relationships informed
by hegemonic masculinity,” such as sports or other activities which mark one
This is not a conscious practice, and Hooper points out that “elites are just
as likely to be implicated in the dissemination of cultural hegemony through
their participation in a system of meaningful practices that reproduce and
confirm their own identities. Men’s compliance is likely because there are
policing measures attached to masculinity, namely, the “threat of
feminization.” The most extreme cases of
this would be found in the homosexual countertype.
Hooper connects masculinity to IR through the imagery used in realist
discourse—the “other” who is implicated in security threats against the
“sovereign man” (the state), is often not only demonized, but feminized, for
“threat” of feminization is perceived as such in part because Western
political thought has a long history of devaluing those things associated with
femaleness. Starting with Plato and
Aristotle, the public has been valued as the site for politics while the body
and those things associated with its maintenance have been devalued as a private
concern. It is no coincidence that women have been chosen to exist primarily
within the realm of the body (the private), for they have been portrayed as the
carriers of the “unruly passions” which threaten to disrupt the public, the
site of politics.
This has a direct bearing on IR, for as Sylvester points out, certain
definitions of national interest were constructed out of these basic ideas. Just
as human lust must be contained in certain spheres (which are divided according
to gender), so too must lust for power be contained within a sphere in which
states seek “interest defined as power.”
related to this notion of hegemonic masculinity as it is opposed to other
masculinities and femininities is the relationship between western IR and what
we now call the developing nations. For example, in the same way that women have
been associated with the passions, with unruly nature, with uncivilizing forces,
so too have colonized peoples been associated with “nature.” The result of
this, as Carolyn Merchant points out, is that during early colonial times
“nature, women, blacks and wage laborers were set on a path toward a new
status as ‘natural’ and human resources for the modern world system.”
Such domination may have changed forms
(from slavery to cheap raw materials and sweatshop labor, for example,
but as Jabri and other postmodern feminists point out, the global system as
constructed benefits those in the West.
Powerful western cultures control the “systems of knowledge and power, thus
making it even more difficult to have non-western voices heard.”
This is due partly to the Western ideal of masculinity because, as Mosse
explains, masculine traits have historically “symbolized the ideals of a
Ideals support certain values, which in turn support a certain mode of life.
Thus ideals are infused with power; and as Mosse points out, in times of social
anxiety and change, masculinity will try to defend itself.
feminists argue that Western conceptions of masculinity dominate both IR and
world politics, mainstream IR helps to support and to shape this hegemony by
upholding its ideals. It is not surprising, then, that IR marginalizes feminist
voices which seek to challenge these ideals or to expose masculine bias. Closely
related to this is the way in which nonwestern perspectives are affected by IR;
that is, their voices have been largely ignored, and they have thus sought to
create their own discourses.
acknowledging that “international activities reflect and shape gender
also requires the acknowledgement that power structures relationships between
groups of people and thus groups of women in the world. This overlapping or
intersecting of types of oppression is not so much an additional concern of
feminism as it is an integral part of feminist critique. The reason is that a
certain conception of politics arises from a certain way of thinking about and
looking at the world. Politics is infused with ideology after all, a good
definition of which is provided by Sargent: ideology seeks to simplify the
world, to provide an orientation for shaping institutions and otherwise acting
in the world based upon a certain set of attitudes and beliefs.
It is in this sense, then, privileged groups who have dominated both world
politics and the discipline of IR can be said to share in an ideology whose
values and attitudes include a strong tendency toward domination.
the results of such thinking are reflected in the historical way in which
colonized societies have been treated as resources to be “managed” for the
interests of the more powerful industrialized nations. This means that
nonwestern women, as postmodernists would predict, perceive their fundamental
needs differently than Western women. As
Thomas points out, then, for nonwestern women, security concerns such as a fair
and stable international monetary system and a system for the fair exchange of
goods (by fair I mean a system which is not weighted to advantage one side of
the exchange over the other) may be a more pressing international political
concern to them than the balance of power between hegemonic states.
Such a difference in perception leads us to one of the most important feminist
critiques of IR concepts—that of security.
way in which the IR story can be retold is through critiquing some of the
concepts which the discipline takes for granted. One of the central concepts of
traditional IR, that of “security,” has been critiqued through a feminist
lens, most notably by J. Ann Tickner.
Tickner, a pioneering feminist IR theorist, argues that the masculine
construction of IR is particularly evident in the subfield of national security
studies. The elite academic world
of “national security” (a concept which dominates actual foreign policy) is
not only peopled by men analyzing the actions and decisions of men, but Tickner
argues it is premised solely upon masculine experiences of the world. One of
only three women out of sixty IR academics in a security seminar in the early
eighties, Tickner explains that women’s experiences and voices have been
blatantly excluded from discussions of security.
is traditionally defined in terms of “high politics” with war and mass
weaponry its primary concerns. The abstract states are the only relevant actors,
and strategic violence (or the threat of violence) defines what is most
“real” in Realpolitik: “We are
socialized into believing that war and power politics are spheres of activity
with which men have a special affinity and that their voices in describing and
prescribing for this world are therefore more likely to be authentic.” It is because we have
learned to associate state security with “manly” traits such as
“toughness, courage, power, independence” that we buy into the state as
protector of its citizens in the same way that men are portrayed as protectors
of their women.
is wrong with this notion of security is that it not only reinforces and
legitimizes a patriarchal system by valorizing masculine characteristics, but
that it also fails to adequately provide security in a concrete sense. That is,
individuals and humanity at large suffer from “insecurities” related to
military conflict and from economic and environmental conditions which cannot be
separated from international politics but that nonetheless remain unacknowledged
within this paradigm. As Tickner points out, the inclusion of women’s
perspectives in IR does more than simply add in women for the sake of being
inclusive. It also may help us to “reformulate these [fundamental IR] concepts
in ways that might allow us to see new possibilities for solving our current
Closely related to the study of security within a feminist context is the
critique of militarization. The military is an important focus for feminist IR
because, in addition to simply excluding women from politics and citizenship
based upon gender, citizenship has also been linked to and defined in terms of
the military “warrior hero”: “In
the West masculinity, virility and violence have been linked together in
political thought through the concept of the warrior hero.”
Military service has, of course, traditionally excluded women, but even more
than that, it has inscribed a protector / protected relationship between men and
women, or soldiers and the women at home.
addition, Steans argues that the military is an important area for feminists to
analyze because it is the site of incredible forces of violence, with men having
clearly monopolized this power. Her analysis compares several feminist
perspectives and shows that there is a divide between those who want access in
order to gain power and those who want to critique the masculine hierarchy of
question she explores, then, through comparing the works of several feminist
theorists is this: is the state, in its essential connection to military power,
a vehicle for patriarchal domination or can it be used for emancipatory
purposes? She points out works which show that various military masculinities
are violently opposed to femininity (examples) and also that women directly
experience war as much as men. Steans suggests then, that perhaps feminist
efforts are better directed toward alternative peaceful institutions in order
not to perpetuate suffering and death for the sake of a liberal “equal
also builds on the notion that state security cannot be assumed to cover that of
individuals, and implicates IR in the construction of security; the discourse
she argues, is inherently oppositional and therefore a vehicle by which threats
are created and insecurity is perpetuated. Militarism comes back into the
discussion here as well, because the military is after all, the focus of
security, and military spending impacts women indirectly.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is the connection Steans makes to the
inherent inhumanity of militaristic thinking and that the security of
individuals requires directing attention and resources away from national
security toward global security (resource depletion, environmental concerns,
Why then, with all of the evidence and arguments implicating IR as a
discipline, are IR men able to simply ignore feminist critique and go on with
business as usual? Steve Smith ponders the reasons for this widespread refusal
of men in academia to engage in a feminist conversation. Telling, perhaps, of the
discomfort with which men deal with the subject, even one apparently in sympathy
with feminist goals, is that Smith first speaks in depth about his own struggle
in how to approach the “problem” of gender. He then, however, gives us
valuable insight into “IR man’s” perspective on feminism.
explains that first, feminism seems like a very personal attack to male
academics rather than a legitimate perspective. He notes, however, that many
simply do not read enough to understand the perspective. Second, IR men are so
entrenched in realism that the feminist concerns do not even cross into their
domains. Feminists are considered, as I earlier feared, “irrelevant to most
Finally, in speaking about a prominent IR scholar’s flippant dismissal of
feminist IR as not having the impact to actually change the general direction of
the discipline, he reminds us that feminist IR is fundamentally opposed to
traditional IR. It does not simply want to be included within a male category;
it wants to transform it into something it is not. And that, it would seem to
those in power, is simply unacceptable.
than simply threatening IR as a discipline, though, Smith seems to claim that
feminism is revolutionary: “In talking about masculinity we are doing
something far more radical than confining our analysis to women or gender. . .
we are calling into question the entire state apparatus.”
He notes, accordingly, that to bring masculinity into the agenda is to directly
confront power and “risks an incredible backlash, since any move to point to
the socially constructed nature of masculinity axiomatically undermines the
‘naturalness of the existing power divisions between men and women.”
Incredibly, he notes that most male IR academics, positivistic in their outlook,
see their work as gender neutral, and so those who want to analyze gender are
“irrelevant or ideological.”
this “straight from the other side” revelation should not come as a
surprise, it should call into question the legitimacy of a system of knowledge
whose primary method of defending its ideas is to refuse to engage its critics.
In academics, at least, one would expect there to be an interest in
groundbreaking ideas. The fact that there is a basic power struggle at stake
does not escape the establishment, however.
it may be that there is yet another take on the role of masculinity which may
help explain its relative non-concern with feminist critique. That is, realist
IR, still the dominant perspective in world politics, may be more focused on its
more immediate challengers. To add
a new twist to an old story, Ashworth and Swatuk present the familiar struggle
between liberalism and realism in terms of the struggle over hegemonic
Using the idea once more of “fractured” or multiple masculinities, it is
argued that the first debate represents a contest over whether realism or
liberalism is the more manly, with manliness defined in terms of “real and
objective” and womanliness defined in terms of that which is “subjective and
At the core of the struggle over what is real is that realism insists it is
“aggressive human nature,” and liberalism insists it is the “powers of
masculinity is traced back to conservative (aristocratic) politics. Contrary to
some Realpolitik explanations,
however, these authors do not speak in terms of a direct relationship to Hobbes
and Machiavelli (instrumentalism), but instead speak of realism’s origins as
arising from a moral imperative for the aristocrat in protecting his
“family/community” from outside attack. There was a code of honor which
defined the prevailing masculinity of the time, which over time was displaced by
liberal masculinity, which “constructed rules of justice that were right for
all people at all times.”
Along with these masculinities or ideal type men came certain forms of
government and societies, and so it was the hope of liberalism that reasonable
men would extend the liberal order to international relations. As the authors
note, the failure of liberalism to prevail, at the hands of a
“conservative-inspired, hypermasculinist, reformulated paradigm” was a
victory for realism, and liberals were accused of being “failed men” or
“feminine” and thus emasculated by their defeat.
is interesting, the authors note, that each claimed to be “value-free”
(rational versus instrumental reason) in that both reject morality as a feminine
For liberalism, “morality is regarded as merely an offshoot of what it is
rational to do,” yet realism sought to
challenge “uninformed moralizing.”
Perhaps this explains, then, the vehement rejection of feminism by both
liberalism and realism, for it is openly normative in character. It seems that
in order to assert dominance, a paradigm must claim to be objective, normatively
neutral. The only other alternative, it would seem, is to change masculinity
Murphy, in fact, focuses on doing just that by identifying several ways in which
men have found their niches within masculinity, particularly within the context
of the military.”
Murphy adopts the view that there are several masculinities within the military
and that each are suited for different tasks. What is also interesting here is
the narrative form as well as the content of his work: Murphy speaks not from a
“scientific” analytical perspective, but from his personal recollections and
experiences as a child growing up in a military family. The very fact of using
personal anecdotal evidence is subversive of “objectivity” valued by
Murphy identifies one type of “devalued masculinity” as that of the
mediator—one who finds nonviolent ways in which to express the dominant values
of the “good soldier: courage, competence, and a deep sense of
He associates this masculinity with the new breed of male scholars who are
sympathetic to feminist scholarship. The significance of this “good soldier”
masculinity, however, is that it is inherently hierarchical: “In a world that
defines masculinity in great part as being competent, as being in charge, one of
the virtues required of a good soldier is unswerving loyalty.”
it is intrinsic to the model of masculinity that to uncover one’s
subordination within a masculine order is to lose one’s illusion of being in
control. Thus, critical reflection on such things threatens the very core of
masculine identity; it threatens self-annihilation.
This is unlike femininity, which for women, is like an albatross they
cannot seem to get rid of in spite of the fact they know it exists as an
artificial construct (witness, for example, the obsession with Western standards
of feminine beauty, despite the fact women know that these things are an
of the problem with trying to change masculinities (or trying to create new
ideas of what it means to be a man) is that the gendered balance of power will
remain. This specific example of masculinity at work in the military exemplifies
my point. Steve Niva examines the Gulf War in terms of putting forth a New World
order, but he characterized this New World order in terms of masculinity.
Starting from the assumption that masculinity “has required the daily exercise
of power—domestic power, national power, and . . . international power” in
order to maintain its presence Niva builds upon much feminist scholarship to
show that the Gulf War, in its remasculinization of “American manhood” in
the wake of the Vietnam War and the accompanying sexual revolution, sought to
both stabilize gender roles and to “revive a masculinity that could reinforce
and legitimate a more aggressively militarized foreign policy.”
the same time, however, Niva argues that it was a new masculinity, a more
feminized masculinity that was put forth. He points out that Bush, Powell, and
Schwarzkopf all exuded “cuddly” images about their concern for the troops.
The danger of this new, gentler masculinity, however, is that it can criticize
more obviously hypermasculinities and deflect criticism while still retaining
control over “the major institutions, decision-making bodies of international
authority and power.”
Such analysis also suggests that to attempt to simply change masculinity (or sex
roles) is not a feminist solution, for it does not necessarily mean gaining
power. It is beginning to seem, then, that it is the very notion of the
dichotomous split between femininity and masculinity—the fact that they are
opposed—which is at the root of the problem.
From Deconstruction to Reconstruction
Steans, author of Gender and International Relations: An Introduction provides a
useful overview which helps to wrap up the goals of feminist IR.
They are, first, to show how feminist concepts and theories can be used
to look differently at the usual IR concepts; second, to challenge mainstream IR,
primarily realism, in order to show that realist objectivity is constructed
through power, and third, to show that the state is not the
political subject, but that women are subjects as well; finally, to show that
the focus on gender can be related to real and concrete issues addressed in IR.
chapter thus far has focused on deconstructing and challenging IR as it stands.
In order to be truly a useful, alternative way in which to view
international politics, however, it must set about the task of reconstruction,
to attempt to connect theory to practice. A good example of an initial effort to
construct a feminist alternative can be found in the care ethic.
Robinson, in Globalizing Care, seeks then to reconstruct what feminism has
attempted to deconstruct.
In asserting a feminist ethic of care borne out of the feminine experience,
Robinson attempts to revalue those values denigrated by masculinity. The basis
for the ethic of care is Carol Gilligan’s groundbreaking work in which she
seeks to discredit Lawrence Kohlberg’s assertion that girls scored lower on a
moral development test. Gilligan, in a psychoanalytic empirical study, showed
that women had a different way of ethical decision-making than men, which
reflects their more relational identities. Whereas men looked to context-free,
universal principles, or rules, for guidance (labeled the ethic of justice),
women tended to view the “right” decision according to the specifics of the
situation and the effects upon the relationship. Thus, men considered a moral
being to be one who followed the rules, and women considered a moral being to be
one who made a caring decision.
The critiques of Gilligan’s ethic of care were that it essentialized
women, leaving them open to the conservative charge that women are naturally
different and thus suited for certain roles. In addition, feminists argued that
once women’s roles changed, the ethic associated with their position would
disappear. Charges concerning the care ethics widespread applicability, however,
focused upon its affective and private character. For example, Buzan suggests
that the care ethic amounts to “an invitation to dispense with morality and
replace it with nepotism, favouritism, and injustice.”
answers to three charges, specifically: first, that care is specific to females
and so not suitable as a public ethic; second, that care means dispensing with
all notions of justice;
and third, that the care ethic is a “personal, private, and hence parochial
morality which is ill-equipped to address wider social and political
In order to overcome these objections, she uses revised versions of the care
ethic put forth by Ruddick and Tronto.
The significance of Ruddick’s work, Maternal
Thinking, for Robinson is that the experience of motherhood, which is
associated with the care ethic, provides an important position from which to
“criticize the destructiveness of war and begin to invent peace.”
From Tronto, she takes a revised version of the care ethic, which in its
original formulation, Tronto states, was simply a feminine way of coping with
the oppositional positioning to masculinity—“a survival mechanism for women
who are dealing with oppressive conditions.”
Tronto puts forth a “critical version” which is used by Robinson to assert
that care is not opposed to justice per se, but only to an atomistic ontology
which denies interdependence. It is precisely for this reason that care is
suitable as a global ethic, for it is capable of taking into account context and
the particularities of concrete people in concrete situations. In addition, as
Kittay notes, it can be used institutionally, as an ethic to guide
decision-makers in “considering what social and economic structures are
necessary to permit continuous, caring, human relationships especially
responsive to those most dependent on such care.”
What caring entails is not an emotional feeling, but rather a responsibility to
examine contextually moral problems with the aim of identifying how social
structures exclude and marginalize, and how relations deteriorate “so as to
order to actually see this at work, in “real” politics, so to speak, one has
to go all the way to the last chapter of the book, in which Robinson immediately
goes from “issues” to contexts, claiming the need not to separate too
clearly theory from practice. In the matter of humanitarian intervention, for
example, Robinson provides a step-by-step picture of the process of care which
would differ from a list of principles by which to act (the apparently orthodox
approach). Rather than focusing on the atrocious actions which gave
impetus for intervention, she states that the “normal social relations”
would need to be examined, that the “processes of exclusion and
marginalization” would be scrutinized in order to find out why the breakdown
occurred. Refusing to take a
state-centric focus would be central to such an approach.
While the general approach may be labeled “standpoint” and thus be
rejected by postmodernists, such an attempt to re-envision a global ethic aims
to avoid the same “reductive” trap as the orthodox discipline. While I agree
that detached principles can produce distorted “justice,” I think that
ultimately, any sort of contextual care ethic, as described within this book,
can only be an initiative or policy direction adhered to by specific
institutions for which it has been more clearly defined. This flexibility is
perhaps a strength but also a weakness which would allow the content of the
ethic to be used in paternalistic ways.
This brings us back to the realist issue of power: that is, why would
decision-makers, who we have learned are for the most part indoctrinated into
hegemonic masculinity, be compelled to work toward the solution which most
produces a framework within which caring relations would be supported?
The biggest obstacle for actually changing the state of the world seems
to be that, unlike what Marx believed, the world slate cannot be wiped clean. We
must work with what is here, which is not to say that value systems and ways of
thinking cannot move gradually. In any case, the nature of feminism is to be
critical and experimental. Possibilities for reconstruction do not include one
overarching theory (due to the varied nature of feminist epistemological
commitments), but Steans suggests that we can view feminist standpoint as just
one role of many for feminism.
In addition, she suggests ways in which feminism can be compatible with both
mainstream liberalism and Marxism, the two major ideologies of the late 20th
The scope of this chapter, on the other hand, focuses on introducing a
somewhat coherent “feminism” as a whole by showing the ways in which
scholars have attempted to detangle the thought processes and ways of knowing in
which male dominance is embedded. So,
in a sense, the further away from concrete concerns of real women some feminist
strands of inquiry gets, the closer they seem to come to penetrating the reality
(or realities) which underlies and supports inequality. I suggest that this
widening in scope of feminist theory shows a maturing, a ripening of feminist
thought rather than a preoccupation with abstractions.
This is not to say that reconstructive efforts such as the care ethic do
not need to be grounded more concretely in real-life situations.
for the future of feminism, it seems the male perspective and the study of
masculinity can add valuable insights into the nature of power and identity. If
the threat of self-annihilation is stronger with men (the de-manning of men),
then feminism will have to take into account strategically that it is not enough
to expose the social constructedness of gender, but will also have to work to
subvert the binary oppositional conception of gender, such as the authors did in
asserting many masculinities. Breaking down the dichotomies would itself seem to
allow real people, women and men as well as groups and “nations,” more space
in which to negotiate identities, values, and economic concerns.
In other words, a less oppositional world may allow for redefined notions
of peace and security to take root.
Finally, the study of the
military as it relates to the production of masculinity and femininity seems to
be a ripe area for more study. The question remains to be answered whether
masculinity is essential to the mission of the military, that is, if the
military can be reconceived in a non-gendered way; and if not, if the link
between masculinity and violence can be lessened. This assumes, of course, that
the state is not going to go away anytime soon, and that the state by extension
means that a violent military is here to stay.
seeks to uncover not only unequal power relations between men and women, but the
role of masculinities (and gender relations more generally) in shaping world
politics. The critique of the discipline as both the site of the expression of
masculinity and its creation is compelling evidence that there can be no clean
separation between politics and the people who study and explain them.
it should be stressed that feminism does not seek to pit itself against men per
se. Steans notes that there are commonalities of purpose amongst the different
post-positivists. The central purpose is, of course, to challenge and
destabilize the central tenets of positivism, which presumes that there is an
objective world waiting to be discovered. Post-positivists, including most
feminists, stress the socially constructed nature of existence. It is precisely
because reality is constructed, they presume, that power relations are not fixed
and inevitable, but changeable.
for example, Francis Fukuyama, “Women and the Evolution of World
Politics,” Foreign Affairs, 77.5, 1998 (Sept./Oct.), 24, 17p.; See
also a rejoinder to this article by J. Ann Tickner, “Why Women Can’t Run
the World: International Politics According to Francis Fukuyama,”
International Studies Association 1.3, (Jan.1, 1999),
For a theoretical explication on the prepolitical aspect of power, see
Judith Butler, “Contingent Foundations,” in Feminist Contentions,
Benhabib et. al., (New York: Routledge, 1995), 35-58.
Beckman and D’Amico, Women.
Quoted in Sylvester, “Feminist Theory,”
Wood Wetzel, The World of Women: In Pursuit of Human Rights, (New
York: New York University Press, 1993), 57.
Simona Sharoni, Gender
and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance,
University Press, 1995).
Marysia Zalewski and Jane Parpart, eds., The
Man Question in International Relations, (Boulder: Westview Press,
Jabri and Eleanor O’Gorman, “Introduction,” in Women,
Culture, and International Relations, eds. Vivienne Jabri and Eleanor O’Gorman, (Boulder: Lynne Rienner,
Robert O. Keohane, “International Relations
Theory: Contributions of a Feminist Standpoint,” in Rebecca Grant and
Kathleen Newland, eds., Gender and
International Relations, (Bloomington,
Ind.: Indiana University Press,1991), 46.
Zalewski and Parpart, The Man Question.
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