Gender and International Relations
Table of Contents
The discipline of International Relations (IR) no longer revolves around the traditional issues of inter-state wars, security and weaponry – it has grown to include matters such as ethnic identity, economy and civil society. Further, the post Cold War era has witnessed the growth of the Feminist theory of International Relations, growing largely in opposition to the Realist Theory which is seen as essentially patriarchal and narrow.
The international political scenario is dominated by men – most top political positions are held by men. They make the decisions, the policies, they declare war and conclude peace. Further, IR is seen as a matter of interaction between states, rather that what goes on within states – i.e how its citizens, especially women, are treated. Discussions in IR are steered by those who have little or no consideration for women’s experiences and perspectives. Therefore, the question is, as put my Cynthia Enloe, “where are the women?”
Feminists argue that IR will thus remain a prime example of patriarchy, as long as it continues to undermine and exclude the lives and views of the female sex.
Research and Studies
Numerous studies have shown how the inclusion of women into the field of IR will lead to increased compromise in foreign policy, reducing the instances of war.
In order to test the links between Gender, IR and feminism, Mark Tessler and Ina Warriner conducted an empirical study based on survey data from four politically and ideologically varying regions, i.e Gender Equality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel , Egypt and Kuwait . Their research showed that women are not generally pacifists by nature. However, increasing the participation of women and having key actors in IR who believe in gender equality will lead to increased instances of negotiations and diplomacy.
Not only in practical politics, but even in IR academia, women’s voices remain unheard as compared to their male counterparts. As Betty Reardon points out, most world order studies scholars and and peace researchers are men. Further, Elise Boulding notes that new ideas do not receive widespread attention in any discipline unless they are adopted by men. Moreover, IR and and peace research remain male dominated disciplines.
However, feminist theory of IR is not concerned merely with the number and position of women in the field. Rather, it is the masculine nature of the field itself that is questioned. ‘Power’ is defined by men in terms of nuclear ability and ‘economic power’ is seen as the capacity for increased military spending. The core concepts itself in the discipline, such as war and security, reek of patriarchy.
Cynthia Enloe thus urges IR scholars to discuss and decide issues with a ‘feminist consciousness’ and include matters regarding women and girls. It is in this way that IR can truly evolve and enrich itself as a discipline, and understand issues with regard to gender worldwide.
- Boulding, “Women in Peace Studies,” in Kramarae and Spender, eds., The Knowledge Explosion.
- Sexism and the War System, ch. 4
- Mark Tessler and Ina Warriner, “Gender, Feminism, and Attitudes Toward International Conflict: Exploring Relationships with Survey Data from the Middle East. (1997)
- Wikipedia page Feminism and International Relations