Feminism and International Relations
Feminism as an intellectual and political project is not finally bound to any prescribed domain of gender's complex universe.[i]
Feminism is a wide term introduced in the field of international relations in the 1980s and early 90s. Since the end of the Cold War and the increased interdependence resulting from globalization, the field of international relations has faced significant challenges to its core theoretical structure. Feminist international relations are situated uneasily within a subfield of political science on the one hand, and within an interdisciplinary literature on globalization, on the other. It no longer revolves solely around the realist issues of war and security, but rather, international relations has broadened to include traditional liberal concerns, such as the international political economy, socio-economic development, human rights, non-state actors, and civil society. It brings new perspectives in the sphere of international relations. The theory revolves around how international politics is being affected by the role of men and women and how the core international relation (hereinafter referred as IR) concepts are gendered. The feminist scholars not only keep their focus on state, war, diplomacy like the mainstream thinkers but also focus on the global political economy and how it is affected by gender.
Feminist theory is the further elaboration of feminism into theoretical, fictional or philosophical aspects. It tries to understand the concept of gender inequality. It examines women’s special role, experience, interests, chores, and feminist politics in a variety of fields. It focuses on analyzing gender inequality. Broadly, the feminist thinkers ponder upon how international politics is being affected by the role of men and women and how the core international relations concepts are gendered.
According to the feminist scholars, the differential impact of the state system and international economy on the lives of women can only be understood by introducing the gender analysis.[ii] They have re-evaluated some of the crucial notions in the field of international relations like sovereignty, state, and security. They have tried to draw attention to women’s invisibility and how the role of women is ignored in the global politics and economy. They are of the view that using the gendered lens perspective gives a different view of international politics.[iii]
All feminist IR scholars are united in their concern with the gender issue. According to them the difference between men and women is ideologically and socially constructed other than the biological difference between the sexes.[iv] Gender comprises and is comprised by the disparity in power relations and social structure.[v] The basic motive of the feminist IR scholars is to elaborate the role of gender and locating women in international relations both practically and theoretically. They also aim to reconstruct IR theories in a gender neutral way.[vi]
In the words of V. Spike Peterson, “In short, while IR has made in some ways quite significant accommodations for women’s participation and feminist ‘additions,’ it has missed the most exciting and transformative elements of feminist theories. Instead, feminism ‘within IR’ is narrowly conceived and feminist theoretical insights remain ‘invisible to’ the mainstream. I believe that the discipline’s resistance to self-reflection and systemic, transformative critique has impoverished the development of IR theory.[vii] In contrast, feminist theories ‘beyond IR’ continue to develop, even flourish, and to have significant effects on social theory as practice.”[viii]
An evaluation of the contribution of feminist International Relations theory to the discipline as a whole is filled with complexities; not only is feminist discourse a multifaceted branch of competing theories employing separate epistemologies, it is also a marginalized field within the study of International Relations.[ix]Feminist theorists aim to expose gender bias embedded in conventional IR theories, such as realism and liberal institutionalism, and to reconstruct a gender-neutral outlook of international politics.[x]Feminism has successfully achieved a significant position in the sphere of international relations and politics.
[i] Robyn Wiegman. Women's Studies On Its Own. 1st ed., Durham, Duke University Press, 2002.
[ii] J. Ann Tickner & Laura Sjoberg. Feminism And International Relations. 1st ed., London, Routledge, 2011.
[iii] V. Spike Peterson & Anne Sisson Runyan. Global Gender Issues. 1st ed., Boulder, Westview Press, 1993.
[iv]J. Steans. "Gender In International Relations: An Introduction". Polity Press, 1998.
- Jill Steans. "Engaging From The Margins: Feminist Encounters With The 'Mainstream' Of International Relations". Br J Politics & Int Relations, Vol 5, no. 3, 2003, pp. 428-454.
[vi]Christine Sylvester. Feminist international relations: an unfinished journey. Vol. 77. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
[vii] Nurlana Jalil, What is the Feminist Theory in the International Relations, 2011.
[viii] V. Spike Peterson, Feminist Theories within invisible to and beyond international relations, Boulder, Westview Press, 2004.
[ix] Supra, note 3.
[x]Caprioli, M. & M. A. Boyer. "Gender, Violence, and International Crisis". Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 45, no. 4, 2001, pp. 503-518. SAGE Publications.
Author: Anjali Jaiswal
College: NMIMS School of Law
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article or any other publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Educoncours or its members.