The argument raised by Feminist and Critical thinkers that IR is ‘one of the most gender-blind and …patriarchal, of all the institutionalized forms of contemporary social and political analysis ( Jones p.405) deserves some consideration. ‘Epistemological assumptions’ influenced by patriarchal or ‘masculinist’ modes of thinking on concepts such as power and national interests inherent in the classical writings in IR arguably call into question the seemingly objective or unbiased nature of the body of information that constitutes the discipline. I am inclined to support the contention by feminist theorists that ‘ women and the feminine constitute historically underprivileged, under-represented and under recognised social groups and ‘standpoints’. ( Jones p.406). The gendering of IR studies is therefore vital in avoiding the supposition that IR theories, drawing from the values and experiences of ‘a hegemonic masculinity’ that privilege patriarchal norms such as ‘competition, exploitation and self-aggrandizement’ in defining power (Jones p.405), are equally applicable to and reflective of women and their values and experiences in society.Trump’s implementation of the zero tolerance immigration policy in separating thousands of families from their children at the US border despite opposition by women and children rights groups arguably serves as an example of such ideologically informed normative behavior.
In a notable quote on the relationship between nationalism and masculinity, Enloe asserts that: ‘the storytellers often craft their tales -of humiliation, mobilization, struggle, victory and defeat- as if nationalism were experienced identically by women and men, and as if women and men played identical roles in defining and critiquing nationalist goals. ( Enloe p.100).The silencing and exclusion of women, for instance, in Palestinian politics and peace talks with Israel is exemplified by the speech given by Randa Siniora, the first female Palestinian campaigner to address the UN Security Council. Randa asserted that “The Israeli occupation and the resulting humanitarian crisis are deeply gendered and exacerbate existing gender inequalities. Women disproportionately endure the violence of occupation borne by all Palestinians, and often with gender-specific consequences. ” ( The Guardian 2018). The exclusivity of the body of Palestinian political decision makers, comprising of male dominated mediators and negotiators in peace talks is unjustifiable since Palestinian women not only face ‘attacks and discrimination by the Israeli military on a daily basis’ , but also face increased domestic violence as a consequence of such political violence.
A gendered approach to the analysis of IR could, arguably, be one that is ‘less mediated by androcentrism’ with ‘more attention to the gender-specific context of women’s lives, to their subjectivity, to the things they have done and thought and felt that most men may have been unaware of’. ( Jones p. 407). Such an approach would not be one that privileges an essentialist stance, emphasizing the biological distinction between men and women, but a constructivist approach that examines the ‘role that constructed gender values and identities play in determining priorities and behavior.’ ( Jones p. 409). Additionally, In analysing nationalist movements in a State, for instance, ‘to end colonialism, ethnic domination, racism’ the ‘treatment of women as patriarchally sculpted symbols’ representing the values of a nation, rather than as genuine participants with their own ideas, goals and skills’ (Enloe p.101) provides little insight into the political realities of such a State.
Enloe, Cynthia. Bananas, Beaches and Bases : Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, University of California Press, 2014.
Jones, A. (1996). Does ‘Gender’ Make the World Go Round? Feminist Critiques of International Relations. Review of International Studies,22(4), 405-429.