Kate Driscoll Derickson, Lorraine Dowler, and Nicole Laliberte
Geography and international studies are both deeply rooted in masculinist, imperialist, and patriarchal ways of viewing the world. However, over the past 20 years, the increase in the number of women within these fields has planted the seeds for the introduction of feminist intervention. Feminist geography is primarily concerned with the real experiences of individuals and groups in their own localities. It can be viewed as the study of "situated knowledges derived from the lives and experiences of women in different social and geographic locations." Feminist geographers consistently seek out techniques which are in line with their feminist philosophies. Although much of the work will be categorized as qualitative, such as ethnographic fieldwork, feminist geographers recognize the need for feminist approaches in quantitative analysis, and techniques alone do not render the project feminist. Rather, feminists in geography argue that all types of data collection must recognize the power relationship between the researcher and the researched. Feminist geography also operates at the local scale and crosses to the global. This is illustrated by geographers who not only study the daily lives of women in a refugee camp but also construct theoretical arguments focused on global forces such as climate change or war in relation to the international migration of women.
The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.
Feminist theories of international relations have thrived over the past decade as evidenced by the many and varied feminist contributions to the international relations field. At the same time, international relations feminists have had rich theoretical debates among themselves over critical questions about epistemology, ontology, methodology, and ethics.
Feminist theories of international relations are distinguished by their ethical commitments to inclusivity and self-reflexivity, and attentiveness to relationships and power in relationships. These norms implicitly guide feminists to put into practice their own critical theories, epistemologies, and explicit normative commitments. Thus, rather than a source of division, the contestations among international relations feminisms about the epistemological grounds for feminist knowledge, the ontology of gender, and the appropriate ethical stance in a globalizing albeit grossly unequal world are a source of their strength. With a shared normative commitment to global social change, feminist scholarship and social movements can appreciate and even celebrate internal diversities and multidimensional identities. In this respect, feminist international relations can be described as a movement that shows what is to come and that offers innovative methods to get there. In the context of current United Nations reform, feminist movements have cited the need for a global institutional powerhouse to promote the rights of women and girls worldwide, rather than a system where everyone is responsible for integrating gender perspectives.
Feminist scholars and practitioners have challenged—and sought to overcome—gendered forms of inequality, subordination, or oppression within a variety of political, economic, and social contexts. However, feminists have been embroiled in profound theoretical disagreements over a variety of issues, including the nature and significance of the relationship between culture and the production of gendered social life, as well as the implications of cultural location for women’s agency, feminist knowledge production, and the possibilities of building cross-cultural feminist coalitions and agendas. Many of the approaches that emerged in the “first” and “second waves” of feminist scholarship and activism were not able to effectively engage with questions of culture. Women of color and ethnicity, postcolonial feminists and poststructural feminists, in addition to the questions and debates raised by liberal feminists (and their critics) on the implications of multiculturalism for feminist goals, have produced scholarship that highlights issues of cultural difference, division, diversity, and differentiation. Their critiques of the “universalism” and “culture-blindness” of second wave theories and practices exposed the hegemonic and exclusionary tendencies of the feminist movement in the global North, and opened up the opportunity to develop intersectional analyses and feminist identity politics, thereby shifting issues of cultural diversity and difference from the margins to the center of international feminism. The debates on cultural difference, division, diversity, and differentiation have enriched feminist scholarship within the discipline of international relations, particularly after 9/11.
Catia Cecilia Confortini
Many women across the world have addressed issues of peace and war since antiquity, from Christine de Pizan and Jane Addams to Betty Reardon and Elise Boulding. Although a few feminist scholars in the social sciences consider themselves “peace studies” (PS) scholars, other feminists contribute to PS by tackling peace and violence issues. PS comprises peace research, peace education, and peace activism. Feminists improve on and challenge these fields by insisting on expanded definitions of peace that suggest continuity between different forms of violence; highlighting the diverse roles played by women and other marginalized groups in violent conflicts and in peace processes; complicating our understanding of peace and violence while foregrounding gender as a social and symbolic construct involving relations of power; and proposing transformative ways of conceptualizing peace, war, and postconflict transitions. By seeing all forms of violence along a continuum, feminists transform PS’ understandings of peace. Furthermore, feminism brings women to the center of PS by making them visible as actors in both peace and conflict. Finally, feminism envisions a peaceful future that take into consideration women, other marginalized people, and gender. A number of themes continue to emerge from feminist engagement with PS, such as forgiveness, reconciliation, and transitional justice—themes situated at the intersection of peace/violence and religion.
Foreign policy analysis (FPA) deals with the decision-making processes involved in foreign policy-making. As a field of study, FPA overlaps international relations (IR) theory and comparative politics. Studies that take into account either sex, women, or gender contribute to the development of knowledge on and about women in IR, which is in itself one of the goals of feminist scholarship. There are two main spheres of feminist inquiries when it comes to foreign policy: the role of women as sexed power holders involved in decision-making processes and power-sharing in the realm of foreign policy-making, and the role of gendered norms in the conduct and adoption of foreign policies. Many observers insist that feminism and foreign policy are linked only by a marriage of convenience, designed to either acknowledge the political accomplishments of women in the sphere of foreign policy such as Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi, or bring attention to so-called “women’s issues,” such as reproduction rights and population control. Scholarship on women and/or gender in relation to foreign policy covers a wide range of themes, such as the role of women as political actors in decision-making processes and organizational structures; women’s human rights and gender mainstreaming; the impact of various foreign policies on women’s lives; and the concept of human security and the idea of women’s rights as a valid foreign policy objective. Three paradigms that have been explored as part of the study of women in comparative politics and IR are behavioralism, functionalism, and rational choice theory.
Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. Two of the most pertinent critiques for this discussion are: the androcentric construction of human rights; and the perpetuation of the false dichotomy between the public and private spheres. This exploration of the relationship between liberalism and women’s human rights constitutes a significant shift in which many feminists had realized that the emphasis on “sameness” with men was limited in its utility. This shift rejected the “sameness” principle of the liberal feminists and brought gender-specific abuses into the mainstream of human rights theory and practice. By gender mainstreaming international institutions and future human rights treaties, specific women’s rights could be defined as human rights more generally. Feminists have since extended their critique of androcentrism and the public–private dichotomy to the study of gender inequalities and economic globalization, which is an important systemic component of structural indivisibility. In particular, the broader women’s human rights movement has come to realize that civil-political liberties and socioeconomic rights are inextricable, though there is disagreement over the exact nature of this relationship.
The field of gender and environmental studies deals with the ways that gender roles shape the access to and management of resources. From being dominated by old debates on whether the earth is our mother goddess or whether women are inherently closer to nature than men, gender and environmental studies has evolved into a largely activist-informed and materially-focused discipline. Feminist perspectives are now being articulated in a variety of wide-ranging themes and issues such as environmental justice, global climate change, population debates, disasters, water, and militarization. The main feminist perspectives for studying women and the environment can be divided into two “umbrella” groups: the “ecofeminist” camp and the “materialist” camp. The ecofeminist group argues that there is an “innate” connection between domination of nature and the oppression of women and that there exists a system of patriarchy in human society that leads to the domination of the “Other.” The materialist camp rejects this claim. It makes use of two approaches, feminist environmentalism and Feminist Political Ecology (FPE), to contend that women’s oppression is rooted in structural and material inequalities. Some of these feminist perspectives, including ecofeminism and feminist environmentalism, are applied by the field of Gender, Environment, and Development (GED) to the environmental policy domain. Three transnational environmental organizations doing GED work are GenderCC—Women for Climate Justice, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era (DAWN).
Janet Elise Johnson
Violence against women represents the most popular gender related issue for global women’s activists, international development agencies, and human rights advocates. Although state responsiveness to violence against women was previously seen by feminist political scientists as only a domestic issue, international studies scholars have begun to theorize how states’ responsiveness is shaped by foreign interventions by global actors. As countries around the world began to adopt new policies opposing violence against women, social scientists adept in both feminist theory and social science methods began the comparative study of these reforms. These studies pointed to the importance of the ideological and institutional context as structural impediments or opportunities as well as suggested the more effective strategic alliances between activists, politicians, and civil servants. Those studies that attempt a deeper analysis rely upon indirect measures of effectiveness of policies and interventions, such as judging policy on how feminist it is and judging reforms based on the recognition of the relationship between violence against women and gender based hierarchies. Through these measures, feminist social scientists can estimate the response’s impact on the sex–gender system, and indirectly on violence against women, which is seen to be a result of the sex–gender system. The next challenge is differentiating between the various types of intervention and their different impacts. These various types of intervention include the “blame and shame,” in which activists hold countries up against standards; bilateral or transnational networking among activists; the widespread availability of international funding; and traditional diplomacy or warfare.
Gender has been conceptualized in various ways in the mainstream governance literature and critical feminist work. The relationship between the concepts of gender and governance can be viewed as governance of gender and gender governance. The governance of gender is related to the way in which the values that permeate governance reflect traditional gender regimes. On the other hand, gender governance concerns governance in policy areas that, in the first instance, directly deal with women's issues. Gender governance is about the attempts to change gender regimes by inserting new policies, procedures, and values through global and multilevel governance, for example via the UN and the EU. In feminist studies that have focused on the state, the literature that is of particular interest to governance studies looks at the role of the state in gender relations. It studies, for example, the representation of women in electoral bodies and parties, theorizes representation in political bodies, and looks at the organization of welfare politics. In the field of international relations, feminist scholars are particularly interested in exploring the gender aspects of globalization and how the neoliberal order organizes women's lives. Governance has also been explored in relation to the EU and the term multilevel governance has become a standard concept in EU studies. The concept gender regime or gender order has been used by many researchers who study gender governance in the EU context.