Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, notable progress has been made toward holding accountable those responsible for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), with a view toward ending impunity. Developments by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as by the International Criminal Court, were instrumental to advancing jurisprudence on sexual violence in the context of armed conflict. Despite progress in seeking to hold perpetrators accountable, critics note that there is persistent impunity and a vacuum of justice and accountability for sexual violence crimes in most conflict-affected settings globally. At the same time, feminist scholars in particular have critiqued the ways in which criminal proceedings often fail sexual violence survivors, especially by further silencing their voices and negating their agency. These intersecting gaps and challenges ultimately reveal the need for a broader, deeper, thicker, and more victim-centered understanding of justice and redress in response to sexual violence.
Philipp Schulz and Anne-Kathrin Kreft
Laura J. Shepherd
In challenging conventional conceptualizations of the human subject, the state, and the international system, early feminist security studies (FSS) offered new ways to think about security from inside and outside the disciplinary boundaries of international relations (IR). Indeed, FSS scholars illustrate that security not only means different things in different contexts but also functions in different ways to constitute particular social/political realities. Politicizing the everyday, or rather, demanding that the everyday be recognized as political, is a core assumption of FSS. Further contributions of early FSS to the replacement of the human subject in matters of security include a form of engagement with the very language used in speaking of security matters. Moreover, FSS scholars argue that insecurities permeate the very condition of human existence, bringing FSS insights to bear on economic processes, technological development, state building, and reconstruction. Ranging from analysis of violent conflict and political violence using a gendered framework to critiques of the policies and practices governing post-conflict reconstruction, and encompassing strong and vital interjections on debates over securitizing development, migration, health, human rights, and peace, FSS scholarship is accessible, innovative, and by no means limited to “women and war.” Relocating FSS scholarship from the margins to the center and listening to the voices of those human subjects erased from the academic study of security brings new challenges but also new opportunities for collaboration, with the sighting and citing of FSS by other critical scholars.
Feminist Security Theorizing is in many ways what it sounds like—thinking about security in the global political arena through gender lenses. Since early work in feminist International Relations (IR), feminists have been exploring research questions about the ways that gender shapes and is shaped by war, conflict, and militarism. The field has developed to be labeled Feminist Security Studies (FSS). Debates about whether FSS is “feminist security” studies or feminist “security studies” have asked about the subfield’s focus—whether it is toward rethinking security in feminist ways or toward the mainstream field of security studies as such. With space in the field for both approaches, feminist security theorizing has looked at revealing the importance of gender in conceptualizing security, demonstrating that gender is key to understanding causes and predicting outcomes, and showing gender as a key part of solving security problems. FSS has several common theoretical commitments and concerns. These include a necessary commitment to intersectionality, a recognition of the importance of theorizing not only about gender but also about sexuality, a consciousness about framing, and an awareness of the politics of sociology of the academic disciplines in which it is situated. It is important to explore the past, present, and potential futures of feminist theorizing about security, concluding with an invitation to expand recognition of feminist work addressing security issues across an even wider variety of perspectives.
Valerie Hudson, R. Charli Carpenter, and Mary Caprioli
It is not only gender ambiguity that is securitized in the international arena, but femininity as well. Some scholars argue that conflict over what women are and what they should do is characterized as a risk to national/global security. Meanwhile, there are those who would characterize gender as irrelevant to, or is one of many variables, in thinking about “security.” Feminist international relations (IR) scholars, however, have argued that gender is across all areas of international security, and that gender analysis is transformative of security studies. A redefinition of security in feminist terms that reveals gender as a factor at play can uncover uncomfortable truths about the reality of this world; how the “myth of protection” is a lie used to legitimize war; and how discourse in international politics is constructed of dichotomies and that their deconstruction could lead to benefits for the human race. Feminist work asserts that it is inadequate to define, analyze, or account for security without reference to gender subordination, particularly, the dichotomy of the domination/subordination concept of power. Gender subordination can be found in military training routines that refer to underperforming men as “girls,” or in the use of rape and forced impregnation as weapons of war. It is the traditional sense of “power as dominance” that leads to situations such as the security dilemma.
Ellie C. Schemenauer
Much of what goes on in the production of a security state is the over-zealous articulation of the other, which has the effect of reinforcing the myth of an essentialized, unambiguous collective identity called the nation-state. Indeed, the focus on securing a state (or any group) often suggests the need to define more explicitly those who do not belong, suggesting, not only those who do, but where and how they belong and under what conditions. Feminists are concerned with how highly political gender identities often defined by masculinism are implicated in marking these inclusions and exclusions, but also how gender identities get produced through the very practices of the security state. Feminists in the early years critiqued the inadequacy of realist, state-centric notions of security and made arguments for more reformative security perspectives, including those of human security or other nonstate-centric approaches. At the same time, feminist research moved to examine more rigorously the processes of militarism, war, and other security practices of the state and its reliance on specific ideas about women and men, femininity and masculinity. Feminist contributions from the mid-1990s through the first decade of the millennium reveal much about the relationships between gender identities, militarism, and the state. By paying attention to gendered relationships of power, they expose the nuances in the co-constitution of gender identities and the security state.
Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv and Kirsti Stuvøy
Gendering human security is useful for making explicit the role of practice and actors, and the power relations between them, attributed through socialized and naturalized characteristics of the feminine and masculine. It offers analytical and empirical insights that release human security discourses from the stranglehold that a state-based, militarized security perspective has thus far had on the definition of security as a whole. A gender-based human security analysis reveals what human security means when understood through the power and practices of domination and marginalization, and more specifically the extent to which the militaries are capable of contributing to human security today. In feminist approaches as well as many human security perspectives, security has been delinked from the state and discussed in terms of other referent objects. Feminist and human security share a “bottom-up” approach to security analyses, but feminists have identified a gender blindness in human security theory. Gender is a primary identity that contributes to the social context in which the meaning and practice of security unfolds. Gendering human security exposes how the security needs of individuals are also identified in relation to specific groups, which reflects the feminist understanding of humans’ relational autonomy and implies that human security is not individual but social security when gendered.
Militarization is commonly thought of as a process that fundamentally changes society and all types of relations in it: the formal and institutional as well as the informal and the intimate. At its most extreme, militarization results in the disappearance of civil, civilianized space, leaving the civilians with no choice but to live in symbiosis with the military and its war-making. In a militarized society, women, men and children are typically affected differently. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a steady flow of feminist literature specifically exploring questions on gender and militarization in various disciplines, including international relations (IR), as well as men and masculinity. To uncover the ways that militarization and gender are related, several different angles need to be employed. Indeed, contemporary feminist debates show that it is not ever clear what gender actually is, or how it should be best used in a consistent way in analyses of power relations. So how can gender be thought about? As a “freestanding” social construct or as embodied? Is the gender order of male dominance and female adjustment the actual machinery that drives militarization and war? When militarization is introduced, what happens to the gendered embodiments of men and women? How are men’s and women’s bodies marked in the processes of militarization? In other words, how does militarization work to organize and categorize the bodies differently? The process of gendered militarization is often discussed using the conceptual binary of protector–protected. In short, gender is the order that imprints the masculine as “Protector” and the feminine as “Protected,” which helps to make society more easily militarized.
Meredith Loken and Hilary Matfess
Women are active participants in violent non-state actors/organizations (VNSAs). They engage in the front-line environment as armed fighters; participate off the front line as spies, recruiters, medics, and logisticians; and lead military units, hold political positions, and craft policy and outreach efforts. Women participate in VNSAs for a myriad of reasons and through a number of pathways: they join voluntarily as politicized recruits; are recruited through economic resources, potential for adventure, or other practical opportunities; may view VNSAs as a survival choice; or may be forcibly recruited. Women’s participation in VNSAs is significant both for the characteristics of political violence—as women often have unique discursive importance to organizational narratives and representations—and for conflict outcomes. VNSAs’ gender dynamics and the diverse experiences of women participants also shape post-conflict processes and durable peace efforts. The integration (or exclusion) of women from demobilization and reintegration programming, peace negotiations, and former-militant political parties affects the nature of the post-conflict political settlement.