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date: 08 December 2022

Feminist Contributions and Challenges to Peace Studiesfree

Feminist Contributions and Challenges to Peace Studiesfree

  • Catia Cecilia ConfortiniCatia Cecilia ConfortiniDepartment of Peace & Justice Studies, Wellesley College


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.


  • Politics and Sexuality and Gender


Feminism improves on and challenges peace studies (PS) by (1) proposing expanded definitions of peace that suggest continuity between different forms of violence; (2) highlighting the diverse roles women, and other marginalized groups, play in violent conflicts and in peace processes; (3) complicating our understanding of peace and violence while foregrounding gender as a social and symbolic construct involving relations of power; and (4) proposing transformative ways of conceptualizing peace, war, and postconflict transitions.

There exist disagreements about what can today be rightly defined as peace studies. Some argue for a strictly “scientific” approach to the study of conflict and peace, reflecting an epistemological commitment to what is now commonly referred to as positivism in the social sciences; for others, PS is an interdisciplinary and multiepistemological field dedicated to the study of the causes of conflict and the conditions for peace; for yet others, peace education and peace action are inseparable from peace research. For the purpose of this essay, PS will be used in the more inclusive definition to intend a field of knowledge devoted to researching and understanding the causes of violence and the conditions for interpersonal, societal, and international peace. It comprises:


Peace research (PR) as a scholarly endeavor, institutionalized in research centers and institutions of higher learning.


Peace education (PE) intended as education about peace and education for peace (Weigert 1990:312) in schools, universities, and other learning settings.


Peace activism (PA); that is, collective, organized political action for peace (see also Jenkins and Reardon 2007).

PS deals with subjects as varied as economic development, human rights, the environment, security, ethics, conflict resolution, militarism, peacekeeping, and global governance, among others, all subjects covered by other authors in this compendium. This essay weaves a unifying thread through the multiple areas covered by PS by focusing on feminist theoretical and historical contributions to the field as a whole.

Feminism is intended as activism or scholarship that starts from the lives of women to make visible and subvert gendered relations of power in society (Ackerly 2000:17). Gender is used to mean a socially and symbolically constructed dichotomy based on perceived or real biological sex differences and the basis for the creation and reproduction of social relations of power; gender as a power relation shapes and naturalizes other social relations of power by describing them in mutually exclusive categories in a relation of super/subordination to one another (Confortini 2006:341).

Feminist contributions to PS span a wider range than is covered by self-defined feminist PS. Numerous women across the world have offered reflections about peace and war since antiquity from a variety of perspectives. For example, medieval writer Christine de Pizan outlined the major causes of war, argued against its evils, and advocated for peace education and for a peace based on justice, while claiming a right to speak “as a woman and be heard” (cited in Carroll 1998:27). Women’s writings are collected in anthologies like My Country Is the Whole World; Women’s Political and Social Thought; Women on War; and the Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders. Women peace activists also have produced some influential theoretical work in PS (Jane Addams, Betty Reardon, and Elise Boulding, to name a few). Many though not all of them could be considered feminists. Though a few feminist scholars in the social sciences would define themselves as “peace studies” scholars, many more feminists contribute to PS by working on peace and violence issues.

Feminist and peace studies cut across the rigid boundaries of academic disciplines and share an ideal of interdisciplinarity; feminism and a large part of the PS community are committed to normative agendas; and many PS and feminist scholars view with skepticism what they deem a largely artificial distinction between activism and scholarship. However, although feminists have historically given significant contributions to the theory and practice of peace, PS has ignored or marginalized issues that were central to feminist concerns. On the other hand, feminists have been divided over whether engaging with PS was useful or meaningful for feminism.

This essay highlights historical and contemporary contributions and challenges of feminist theory to the PS enterprise and points to future directions for research; while doing so, it discusses the variety of feminist perspectives on the relationship between gender, feminism, and peace. The focus is on feminist work in the social sciences written in or translated into English, with the recognition that much work has come from outside the social sciences and from non-English-speaking countries. While these are important limitations, the reference list provided will help readers find sources in other languages and/or outside the social sciences.

This essay is divided in four parts, each devoted to a distinct feminist contribution to PS: the first part claims that, by seeing all forms of violence along a continuum, feminists transform PS’ understandings of peace; the second highlights how feminism brings women to the center of PS by making them visible as actors in both peace and conflict; the third part shows how feminist insights about gender add complexity to central concepts used by PS; in the fourth section feminist visions for the achievement of a peaceful future that take into consideration women, other marginalized people, and gender are described. The essay concludes with an exploration of emerging areas of interest for feminist PS.

Peace and the Continuum of Violence

In PR, peace is commonly defined as the absence of violence. For some, this means mostly an absence of interstate wars (negative peace); others see societal and interstate violence as interrelated and view injustice and oppression as forms of structural violence. They work on a vision of positive peace understood as social justice at all levels of society. Though the phrases “structural violence,” “positive peace,” and “negative peace” are often attributed to Johan Galtung, broad understandings of peace and violence had permeated the work of feminist and women writers and activists for decades before Galtung’s formulation. Distinctly feminist is an attention to patriarchy as a form of structural violence that is enacted as personal violence directed at women: thus feminism brings attention to the continuity between all forms of personal and structural violence. For Cynthia Enloe (2005:281), one of feminism’s tasks is to expose, through a “feminist curiosity,” how “patriarchy – in all its varied guises, camouflaged, khaki clad, and pin-striped – is a principal cause both of the outbreak of violent societal conflicts and of the international community’s frequent failures in providing long-term resolutions to those violent conflicts.” Moreover, feminists observe that the marginalization of women from the public realm results in an unjust social order that is antithetical to peace.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, feminist peace activists in the West (unlike their male counterparts) viewed their suffrage, temperance, and abolitionist activities as inseparable from their peace work; this implied an understanding of peace as inseparable from freedom and justice for all people (Alonso 1993). For women in the global South, women’s liberation could not be divorced from freedom from colonial and neocolonial subjugation (for example Johnson-Odim 2009; Yasutake 2009).

In 1906, Jane Addams drew linkages between the militarization of society and oppression based on race, class, and gender in US domestic and international policy and in other social/cultural settings. Addams proposed that peace most fundamentally entailed justice in “industrial relations” and dedication to “the cause of righteousness” and the plight of the poor: “under an enlightened industrialism peace would no longer be an absence of war, but the unfolding of world-wide processes making for the nurture of human life” (Addams et al. 2007:131). For this, society needed to tap into and learn from women’s historical and cultural life-nurturing values (Pois 1995). In the 1910s, Céline Renooz found war to be one of the manifestations of patriarchal culture and androcratic rule founded on conquest (Josephson 1985:800–1). In Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, the prevention of wars could not be separated from the cause of women’s equality and the dismantling of patriarchy, as a hierarchical social system based on dominance and oppression (Carroll 1978).

More recently, Riane Eisler (1997:173) proposes a distinction between “the dominator model” and “the partnership model” of human relations: in the first model, institutionalized violence, male dominance in gender relations, and hierarchical forms of social organization feed and reinforce each other; in the second model, difference is not translated into hierarchy and the degree of societal violence is low. For Eisler too, domination and violence occurring in the private realm undergird public and political violence. Betty Reardon (1985:40) argues that when violence against women is sanctioned by society, it leads to the acceptability of violence against a number of others, hence to the sanctioning and acceptability of war and the preparation for war. Patriarchy is related to the institution of war also in so far as masculine ideologies pervade political decision-making sites; in so far as military expenditures divert funds from social and economic infrastructures, thus contributing to structural violence; and in so far as women are excluded from power. Hence women’s equal access to political structures could also mean more peace (Reardon 1998). Drawing from the documents and experiences of UN Women’s Conferences and NGO forums, Reardon (1993:6) defines peace positively as “a social environment that favors the full development of the human person.” Such an ideal setting is inevitably founded on equal rights but also equal responsibilities, full participation, and recognition for nations, ethnic groups, women, men, and sexualities (Jenkins and Reardon 2007:221). In observing instances of violence against women, Birgit Brock-Utne distinguishes between organized and unorganized personal and structural violence as well as between structural violence shortening people’s life spans and structural violence reducing quality of life. She argues that violence against women is built into and serves to perpetuate a system of structural violence that is in antithesis to peace (Brock-Utne 1985; 1989). Feminist work on personal violence against or by women exposes how direct violence is constitutive of structural violence (Confortini 2006:350).

The vast literature on the role of women in economic development and globalization calls attention to the fact that poverty and food insecurity constitute a form of violence; it shows how women contribute to economic processes in ways unsuspected by “mainstream” economists; and it points to the links between globalization and militarism (Enloe 2007; see also Angela McCracken’s essay in this compendium). Ecofeminists connect the oppression of women and of all that is feminine with the domination of nature and the exploitation of the environment (Merchant 1980; Shiva 1988). They stress the interconnectedness of all forms of life on earth, which is negated by militarism, patriarchy, and all hierarchical social arrangements, including capitalism (Hallock Johnson 1999; Sturgeon 2005). They highlight the negative impact of war and militarization on both human lives and the environment on which they depend (Detraz 2009). For Vandana Shiva, the marginalization of women and destruction of the environment are also indissolubly linked to colonialism and have particularly negative consequences for women in the Third World.

For feminists, the continuum of violence and the relevance of gender relations of power to peace are exposed more clearly when women are made the starting point of research. For Judy El-Bushra (2007:138) “women’s experiences expand the scope of peace making itself, since their activism addresses the psychosocial, relational and spiritual as well as the political and economic dimensions of conflict transformation.” By asking “Where are the women?”, feminism brings to light all marginalized spaces, whose silence is not heard in the centers of power, yet without whom peace cannot be built.

Making Women Visible

Feminism makes visible the different roles women play in peace and conflict by (1) highlighting women’s contributions to the history of peace as both activists and theorists; (2) giving visibility and voice to women as agents (victims, perpetrators, or both) in violent settings and postconflict transitions.

Women’s Peace History

Theorizing from women’s lives is a characteristic of feminist scholarship. Feminist theorizing of peace is no exception. The history of feminist peace scholarship is in fact inextricably linked to the history of feminist peace activism, as all the themes that the women’s peace movement has developed have emerged in and informed feminist scholarship. In this sense, feminist peace activists and feminist peace scholars together have contributed to the collective feminist theorization of peace (for example Cockburn 2007).

Since the 1960s, women’s peace history (WPH) has contributed to the understanding of women’s roles and ideologies in peace movements in the distant or near past, making women the center point of historical analysis (Alonso 1995; Carroll 2005). Led by Berenice Carroll, peace historians were among the first to recognize the significance of gender in war and peace (Cooper, in Carroll et al. 2009:123). Biographies of women’s peace makers, insider accounts of peace activists, and histories of women’s peace organizing have recuperated the trajectories and ideologies of important figures and movements. While often ignored by “conventional” historians, these trajectories have been varied, and they have helped ground feminist thought on peace in the lives and writings of feminist foremothers. Further, they have provided the basis on which feminist discussions about peace and its relationship to feminism have taken place, while maintaining a critical awareness that historical accounts are always works of interpretation and that the personal, social, and political positioning of the writer cannot be divorced from the text. Finally, they have presented role models, examples, and theoretical grounding for contemporary feminist peace activism.

Women’s Peace Movements

Women have participated in peace movements since antiquity. Aristophanes’ arguably proto-feminist fifth century bce comedy Lysistrata tells of Athens’ women who withhold sex from their husbands and seize the Akropolis in order to end the Peloponnesian War. In the late 1500s, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women are said to have assembled in Seneca County (New York) to demand an end to the war between Nations (Krasniewicz 1992:38). Though historically dubious, both Aristophanes’ play and the story of the Haudenosaunee women have become part of feminist peace lore and provided the inspiration for many feminist peace actions.

More documented has been the participation of women in secular and religious peace groups that flourished in the post-Napoleonic West. However, they were rarely allowed leadership positions and traditional “women’s issues” (such as suffrage) were often marginalized (Adams 1990:209–10; Alonso 1993). Marginalization, the belief that women had unique contributions to offer to the cause of peace, and the right and responsibility to partake in that cause were among the reasons women eventually created independent peace movements (Alonso 1995:50). In Geneva, Marie Pouchoulin-Goegg founded the Association Internationale des Femmes in 1868 and women’s peace organizations flourished throughout the continent between the 1890s and 1914 (Cooper 1987:54). In this period, multi-issue women’s organizations, such as the International Council of Women and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, also created peace and arbitration committees (D’Itri 1999:58 and 128). In 1844 Eugénie Niboyet had launched continental Europe’s first avowedly pacifist newspaper, La Paix de Deux Mondes (Cooper 1984:14). In the US, women had organized in peace committees in mixed gender organizations, churches, or women’s clubs since the 1820s, but only in 1915 was the first independent women’s peace movement (the Woman’s Peace Party) founded by Jane Addams and other feminist activists (Alonso 1993:20, 56–8; Swerdlow 1993:30).

Though not denying that women too participated in the creation of a violent and militaristic system, these early feminists emphasized the connection between all forms of violence. They pointed out that militarism and war increased the incidence of violence against women and children; many stressed that women, by socialization, by virtue of being mothers and care givers, or by biology were more peace loving than men; most thought there was a link between the emancipation of women and the achievement of a peaceful society; most claimed for women a political voice in matters of peace and war, disillusioned about another manmade deadly war as was raging in Europe (Alonso 1995:50). Some were pacifists (opposed to all forms of war), particularly women from Quaker or Anabaptist religious traditions. Others were opposed to some wars, but not others; socialist activists in particular opposed nationalist wars and wars of colonization, but looked more favorably on anti-imperialist and anticapitalist wars (Cooper 1987; Strange 1990; Alonso 1993; Meyer 1999; Potter 2006). In the US, African American women peace activists and their allies also viewed racial and economic justice domestically and abroad as indissolubly linked to peace (Blackwell 2004).

At the outbreak of World War I, over 1100 women from many of the countries at war and from neutral countries gathered at the International Congress of Women in The Hague, in many cases challenging their government’s efforts to prevent them from meeting. The gathering resulted in the creation of the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace. The ensuing statement affirmed that war was particularly harmful to women, rejected the notion that women could be safe during war, and called on the warring parties to put an end to the war immediately and negotiate a “peace based on principles of justice” (among which was political equality for women and men). It further outlined a series of “principles for permanent peace” (, accessed Oct. 2009), which are reputed as having influenced Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points (Potter 2006:279). Subsequently, two delegations of women visited the leaders of neutral and belligerent nations to plead for a negotiated settlement. Needless to say, the women failed to bring about the end of the war, but their organization continued and, after the war, took the name of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which is now the oldest international women’s peace organization and one of the oldest peace organizations in the world. At the end of the war, the women protested the terms of the Versailles Treaty, anticipated that resentment over the terms of the treaty would eventually lead to another war, and supported the creation of the League of Nations (Schott 1997:78–79).

The interwar years saw increased reflection on the importance of women’s political voice for the maintenance of peace and the multiplication of women’s peace organizations in the West, despite the red baiting in the US and the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe. Decolonization started to gain attention as a peace issue, but only in the Third World did women with great difficulty start to organize, primarily against colonialism, racism, violence against women, and economic security (Jayawardena 1986). The Aba Riots in Eastern Nigeria in 1929, for example, saw thousands of women protesting against colonial taxation, until they were crushed by the colonial army (Egunjobi 1994:115); in the Orange Free State, African women mobilized against the pass laws as early as 1898 and then again with acts of nonviolent resistance in 1913 (Talbot 1980:9; Wells 1983:56).

Another world war again rallied many women (including feminists) to participation in the military efforts of their countries, while others worked against dictatorships, some using nonviolent means, some joining the resistance. The WILPF survived World War II and worked alongside other peace organizations against nuclear proliferation, for total and universal disarmament, and participated in the civil rights struggle in the US. It supported the creation of the United Nations and advocated for women’s equal representation in the international body (Bussey 1980:179–90). The socialist-inspired Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) was more explicitly antiracist and anticolonialist. Born in 1945 and made up of working and middle class women in several European countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it thought that peace could not be achieved without profound political, social, and economic changes that included the emancipation of women and the elimination of racism and colonialism (Alonso 1993:186–7; Blackwell 2004; Johnson-Odim 2009). Though overshadowed by peace organizations’ primarily male leadership, feminist activists were crucial to the survival of the peace movement during the 1950s, a decade characterized by general hostility toward feminist, peace, and other critical movements, especially in the US (Lynn 1992:94; Schneidhorst 2001:37).

In the Third World, women organized for racial equality and to put an end to colonialism. In South Africa, for example, the Federation of South African women led by Lilian Ngoyi and the African National Congress Women’s League organized against apartheid (Talbot 1980:10; Wells 1983:59) and often worked in cooperation with Black Sash, a predominantly white women’s organization. Started in 1955, Black Sash outlived the apartheid regime and now focuses on socioeconomic rights (, accessed Oct. 2009); the postapartheid South African constitution owes much to the contribution of women’s activism.

The early 1960s saw increasing feminist peace mobilizations against the nuclear arms race of the Cold War. Later in the decade, feminists rallied against the war in Vietnam, the continuing plague of colonialism, and racial discrimination. The feminist movement of the 1960s increasingly returned to a maternal rhetoric in mobilizing for peace, similar to the one employed by feminists of the 1800s and early 1900s. Many organizations claimed that, because women were involved in life-preserving and nurturing tasks, they were more peaceful or peace loving than men. Women across boundaries could empathize with each other in the shared experience (or potentiality) of motherhood, which made them concerned with the protection of each other’s children and, ultimately, the prevention of war.

This was the case of the Canadian organization Voice of Women (VOW) and the US Women Strike for Peace (WSP), both founded in the early 1960s to protest arms proliferation, nuclear bomb tests, and their consequences for children (Early 2009). Women Strike for Peace became hugely successful for a time, as it presented an alternative to the WILPF, of which many feminists rejected the hierarchical structure and the anticommunist position (Cockburn 2007:135). As a result, WSP never constituted itself into a formal organization, rather operating as a horizontal network. Horizontal decision making and loose nonhierarchical structure became traits of many feminist organizations in the years to come (Alonso 1993:260–2). WSP presented a respectable image of white middle class housewives and mothers, concerned for the wellbeing of their children. However, behind the respectable façade, WSP was a variegated organization, composed of women with very diverse political and religious faiths, which “helped legitimize a radical critique of the cold war and U.S. militarism” and, with the WILPF and other feminist and nonfeminist peace organizations, contributed to the passage of the 1963 Test Ban Treaty in the US (Swerdlow 1989:229, 1993).

In the 1960s and 1970s, WSP and women’s peace organizations initiated meetings between US and Japanese women, US and Soviet women, US and Vietnamese women, resulting in common statements pleading for nuclear disarmament, and an end to the arms race, the Vietnam War, and imperialism (Alonso 1993:214; Swerdlow 1993:187–232; Blackwell 2004:73–174, 181–2; Cockburn 2007:135). African American members of the WILPF exercised an influence on the historical organization that far surpassed their relatively small number. It was largely due to the work of African American members that the WILPF engaged strongly with issues of racial and economic justice in the US and abroad, reflecting their unique perspectives about peace, which they viewed as inseparable from freedom from oppression (Blackwell 2004). Pacific Islander women protested against nuclear testing in their region, highlighting its tragic consequences for their environment and the racism of great powers who constructed such regions as uninhabited (Kirk, cited in West and Blumberg 1990:14).

In the 1980s, maternal peace politics merged with innovative and subversive nonviolent tactical actions, in the forms of women’s peace encampments (e.g., Seneca Falls, New York and Comiso, Italy), inspired by the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. This camp was born in 1981 to protest the deployment of Euromissiles at the Greenham Common Air Force base and was committed to the nonviolent disruption of the military camp’s activities and exercises. It employed methods and strategies derived from women’s experiences in an effort to highlight the insecurity of the base and challenge patriarchal military power (Roseneil 1995:123; Laware 2004). The radical, maternalist-based critique of national spending priorities is exemplified by a very popular and longlived slogan created by the WILPF in the 1980s: “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” Though their legacy has been taken up by some of today’s feminist peace movements, such as the US-based CodePink (, accessed Oct. 2009) or the North American Raging Grannies (Pedersen 2009), the camps were not without critics at the time.

Groups like the London Revolutionary Feminists thought that female pacifism did not challenge patriarchal social arrangements and observed that, as peace encampments flourished, support for the women’s liberation movement in North America and western Europe was declining. They rejected the notion of a connection between womanhood/motherhood and peace as disempowering for women because it relegated them to traditional passive and submissive roles (Strange 1990:218–19). On the other hand, radical feminists in the peace movement argued that a reliance on maternalist imagery and ideology damaged the cause of peace, by “absolv[ing] men of their equal responsibility to value and protect life” (Strange 1990:218). These debates were reflected in theoretical arguments between feminists who proposed a link between women and peace and those who rejected it (a more thorough discussion of these debates follows in the fourth section of this essay).

The 1980s also marked the beginnings of an international feminist peace politics that took Third World women’s concerns seriously and prioritized issues other than nuclear disarmament, such as violence against women, environmental degradation, economic inequalities, and the fight against oppressive regimes. In Israel, Women in Black started its peaceful vigils for peace in Israel/Palestine and against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and gradually transformed itself into an international peace movement. From the late 1970s, Argentina’s Madres de Plaza de Mayo silently protested against the military dictatorship and the “disappearance” of their loved ones, employing motherhood rhetoric in their demands for human rights and democracy while never quite self-identifying as feminists (Hernandez 2002). Women mobilized for peace in many conflict zones and against dictatorial regimes (Cockburn 1998, 2007).

The UN Decade for Women (1975–85) was the result of women’s activism and infused new energy into the women’s peace movement, despite the West’s renewed anticommunist paranoia. A series of UN Women’s Conferences and the parallel NGO forums, from Mexico to Beijing from 1975 to 1995 and beyond, gathered women from all over the world to discuss issues of concern to women. Feminists like Betty Reardon, Elise Boulding, and Hilkka Pietilä were instrumental in bringing about the UN Decade and the women’s conferences, and in promoting the increased participation of women in the work of the UN (Pietilä and Vickers 1996; refer to Annica Kronsell’s essay in this compendium). The WILPF played a central part in convincing the women’s movement that a peace agenda was a concern for women and it necessarily included women’s rights, women’s participation in the planning of postconflict reconstruction, and women’s equality. Starting at the Nairobi forum in 1985, peace tents were set up as spaces for feminist peace activism and theorizing about traditional and new topics at the intersection of feminism and peace.

The Nairobi final document, “Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women” (FLS), included a definition of peace as inseparable from “the broader question of relationships between women and men in all spheres of life and in the family” (cited in Pietilä and Vickers 1996:65). Further, the FLS emphasized PE as fundamental to the achievement of a just and peaceful society (Pietilä and Vickers 1996:66). Finally, the FLS advocated the full integration of women’s peace researchers in the PR enterprise (Pietilä and Vickers 1996:68). However, Hilkka Pietilä and Jeanne Vickers criticize parts of the FLS for being excessively patronizing toward women, in implicitly denying that “in many countries women are the most active proponents of peace and peace education” (Pietilä and Vickers 1996:68). This, they claim, was due to the influence of “so-called security policy experts – mostly men,” who lobbied for the incorporation of their governments’ official security stands into the final text (Pietilä and Vickers 1996:64).

The flourishing of women’s peace organizations in the post–Cold War world was largely due to these conferences as they required several regional preparatory and follow-up meetings, which facilitated networking and communication between women across the globe (Snyder 2000, 2003). These efforts culminated with the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which for the first time recognized the multiple roles women have in conflicts and postconflict peace making, directing international actors to take into account the diversity of ways in which women are victimized during armed conflicts, but also their contributions to peace processes and the importance of women’s participation in all peace-building initiatives, including the negotiating table (, accessed Oct. 2009).

Some of the WILPF women were disappointed at UNSC 1325’s failure to ban the very institution of war and the lack of critique of the gender order that produces both war and the victimization of women in war (Cockburn 2007:147–8). Many see it nevertheless as a valuable advocacy and policy tool for the implementation of gender-attentive postconflict agreements and programs, and for peacekeeping operations, despite the persistence of obstacles to its effective implementation (Cohn et al. 2004; also see Annica Kronsell and Julie Mertus’ essays in this compendium). UNSC 1325 has been at the center of women’s peace organizing since 2000, with the goal of securing its implementation while self-reflectively thinking about the relationship between women, feminism, and peace (Cohn et al. 2005; El-Bushra 2007).

Women’s Roles in Conflicts, Violence, and Peace

Feminists bring women to the forefront of peace research by pointing to the social, political, and economic import of violence against women in peace and war. In her novel about a Chinese woman who returns to her village after having suffered abuse and rape during a secret espionage mission to the Japanese army (When I was in Xia Village), Chinese writer Ding Ling explores the consequences of war for the lives of women and their intersections with society’s social arrangements, based on constraints to women’s freedoms. Ding Ling’s work resonates with later accounts of institutionalized violence perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Army against Asian women from neighboring countries, who served as comfort women in forced military sexual slavery during World War II.

Kazuko Watanabe asserts that the relationship between militarization, sexism, racism, and capitalism is exemplified by the commodification of women’s bodies, evident in the case of “comfort women” as in military prostitution and sexual trafficking (Watanabe 1995). Jennifer Lobasz critiques accounts of human trafficking that disregard women’s agency and rest on gendered stereotypes about who constitutes a trafficked person. Rather, feminists “study the manner in which gender stereotypes are used to establish and reproduce categories of practices, perpetrators, and victims” (Lobasz 2009:323). Lobasz points to the increased vulnerability of trafficked persons under current antitrafficking frameworks, sexual or otherwise. Christine Chin links the trafficking and employment of foreign female domestic workers to the economic policies of the Malaysian state in the context of neoliberal globalization. She argues that “transnational migrant female domestic labor has become an integral component in the state elite’s strategy of garnering consent for export-oriented development” (Chin 1998:16).

Similarly, Kathy Moon demonstrates how US–South Korea relations are personified and defined by the relations between US soldiers and South Korean military prostitutes (Moon 1997:12). In fact, Cynthia Enloe (1983) contends that the military as an institution is dependent on the subjugation of women, and women are used as an instrument for the control of soldiers. Further, militarized prostitution often provides fodder for nationalist movements, which however are no less silent on feminist issues in their own ranks (Enloe 2000:51; also Enloe 1990).

Because she sees sexist violence as part of a continuum from private to public violence that feeds a militaristic culture, Betty Reardon (1985) sees military institutions in radical opposition to feminism and points to feminist debates on whether the radical transformation of the system will be achieved by increased women’s participation in the military. Sandra Whitworth (2004) brings forth the issue of violence against women by UN peacekeeping forces to articulate further links between gendered structures, violence, and militarism. She contends that there is a fundamental disconnection between the functions and images of peace keeping and the militarized masculinity that constitutes the group identity of soldiers.

By documenting the deliberate and strategic rape of women in war, feminists show how this act of “private” violence has political significance (Pettman 1996:100–4). Perhaps overrelying on biological determinism and universalism to describe men as potential perpetrators and women as victims, Susan Brownmiller (1975) views rape not as a private crime but as a universal act, which produces particular social arrangements, in which women are forever kept in subjugation. Alexandra Stiglmayer (1994) documents the strategic use of rape in former Yugoslavia to show how it was part of military strategy: women are raped to destroy and assert power over the enemy’s national and cultural identity; rape serves to reinforce a type of hegemonic masculinity needed for warfare; this is in turn posited in opposition and superior to the subjugated femininity of women and emasculated enemy men (Stiglmayer 1994; also Slapsak 2001). Ultimately, rape in war is inscribed in the politics of nation building and is yet another way in which both violence and women’s (and other marginalized identities’) subjugation are reproduced. The wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda brought international attention to rape as a war crime and the work of women’s human rights activists and lawyers made its prosecution possible. However, Lene Hansen (2001) contends that wartime rape sometimes presents dilemmas for feminists theorizing on peace. Specifically, mass rapes provided the partial justification for military intervention in Kosovo, though the reliability of information about them was later called into question.

Feminists from the global South observe that public and scholarly attention to violence against women is at times selective. Singling out certain acts of violence against women in the Third World reflects a racist bias that falsely homogenizes the diverse experiences of women in the Third World and objectifies them (Mohanty 1991:57–9; also Oldenburg 2002). This act of representation serves purposes of self-identification for Western women, who in positing themselves in contrast to Third World women can then equally falsely believe in their emancipation and pay marginal attention to the significance of acts of political/personal violence against themselves. In order to understand and eliminate violent practices against women in the Third World, feminist scholars of color argue, one needs to take into account the history of colonial relations, their interaction with domestic patriarchal structures, the contemporary manifestations of imperialism, and Third World’s women’s agency (Jayawardena 1986; Kandirikirira 2002; Oldenburg 2002; Vijayan 2002; Sinha 2006).

Further, Third World women/feminists have been critical of a Western language of rights articulated in an antidiscrimination framework at the expense of socioeconomic justice, in the context of their individual and collective search for human dignity (Ackerly 2000:143). Brooke Ackerly argues that, despite this, feminist human rights activists have theorized women’s human rights as simultaneously universal, contested, and immanent (Ackerly 2008). Postcolonial feminists and feminists of color call Western women’s attention to the far more deadly issue of structural violence against women in the Third World, as economic globalization and neoimperialist policies impoverish societies and put additional burdens on women, while disregarding their contributions and knowledge (refer to Amrita Chhachhi and Thahn-Dam Truong’s essay in this compendium).

Feminists bring visibility to women as actors by looking at the ways in which they participate or sustain war efforts through their work in defense industries (Rupp 1978; Woollacott 1998; Goodman 2002), as nurses on the battlefield (Enloe 2000), in combat as soldiers or revolutionaries (Jayawardena 1986; Elshtain 1995; Pettman 1996; Goodman 2002; Enloe 2004; MacKenzie 2009; McEvoy 2009), in their role as patriotic mothers giving their sons to the nation (Enloe 2000; Addams 2007) and as sex workers and entertainers for the soldiers (Moon 1997; Enloe 2000). As seen earlier, feminists claim that the military and political establishments rely on women for their war-making and war-preparing efforts, which could not be undertaken without the willing, unwilling, or reluctant contribution of women (Enloe 2004:148–51). Laura Sjoberg and Caron Gentry argue that women’s violence destabilizes and highlights popular gender myths, but that it is the inevitable byproduct of the increased involvement of women in international politics. As women seem to be moving closer to the centers of political power they, like men, pursue their political ends by all means they deem necessary (Sjoberg and Gentry 2007:4). However, the persistence of gender stereotypes that mark violent women as the exception to the rule indicates that neither women’s equality nor institutional change are closer to being achieved (Sjoberg and Gentry 2007:8–10).

Postconflict situations have garnered increasing attention by feminist scholars and activists, trying to secure the implementation and assess the effectiveness of UNSC 1325 (Mazurana et al. 2005; Anderlini 2007; Pankhurst and UNRISD 2007). This literature asks whether and how women suffer additional insecurities in postconflict situations and whether they are sighted (or not sighted) at the negotiating table or in informal and more hidden peace-making roles (Snyder 2000; Vincent 2001; Hudson 2005; Mazurana et al. 2005; Chinkin and Charlesworth 2006; Anderlini 2007; El-Bushra 2007; Skidmore et al. 2007; also refer to Simona Sharoni, Annica Kronsell, and Megan MacKenzie’s essays in this compendium). It points to the grossly disregarded but essential fact that peace can only be achieved from the bottom up, in the ignored locations where women rebuild society (Nordstrom 2000; Afshar 2003; Pankhurst 2003). Thus feminism presents a growing body of evidence that what happens to/with women has important consequences for the kind of peace that is achieved and for how long (Cohn et al. 2005; Mazurana et al. 2005; Enloe 2007; Pankhurst and UNRISD 2007; Skidmore et al. 2007).

Complicating Theoretical Constructs

Starting research from the lives of women is but the beginning of feminist theorizing. By putting gender relations at the forefront of analysis, feminism complicates the understanding of issues and concepts that are central to PS. In this section, three of these concepts will be discussed: power, violence, and peace.


Feminists are skeptical of theories of power that do not take into account the experiences of women or other marginalized groups. For instance, Berenice Carroll criticizes PR for uncritically accepting prevailing conceptions of power that imply various degrees of coercion, persuasion, and social control or status hierarchy. Carroll notes that this “cult of power” limits research to a narrow focus on nation states, and prevents us from envisioning radically different futures, thus ultimately violating PR’s normative commitments (Carroll 1972). Similarly, from a historical materialist feminist standpoint, Nancy Hartsock argues that the notion of power as control and domination underlies market theories and the capitalist economy (Hartsock 1983).

Since the 1980s feminists have employed the concept of gender, intended as “a constitutive element of social relations” and “a primary way to signify relationships of power” (Scott 1988:42). Gender, as a way of organizing the world into dichotomous, mutually exclusive categories in relations of super/subordination to one another (Confortini 2006:345), is a relation of power implicated in the construction of violence. Heidi Hudson (2008:14) distinguishes between a structural level and a micro-local level. At the structural level feminists expose how “the gendered nature of power (used as the lens) within a larger system of subordination (patriarchy) relegates women to the private domain of politics and privileges men in the public domain.” At the micro-local level, “attention is paid to the differential gendered effects of this concept of power as they manifest between men and women (and also within the collective identities of women and men) during and after conflict” (Hudson 2008:14). Ultimately, only a feminist grounding in principles of holism, care, and cooperation can bring about the transformation of power relations into just relations.

For feminists, gender relations of power are implicated in the construction of violence in various ways. According to Robert Connell (2000), manifestations of masculinity and femininity as ideal types that call for conformity are historically and culturally contingent (and intersecting with other manifestations of identity), but there exists a type of dominant masculinity that exerts hegemony (in the Gramscian sense) on other, subordinated, masculinities and all femininities. Violence is implicated in the shaping of hegemonic masculinity and, at the same time, it is a tool for the subjugation of others. Much of sports and soldiers’ training offers examples of violence used to shape and regulate male bodies and their tolerance for violence against others and themselves (Connell 2000; Messner 2002).

Charlotte Hooper contends that “[t]he threat of feminization is a tool with which male conformity to a hegemonic ideal is policed,” and that strategies of feminization are used in the formation of “hierarchies of masculinities,” a precondition to men–men relations of subordination (Hooper 2001:70). Feminization and masculinization propel global militarization (Enloe 2007:51–2) and have well served colonial and imperial policies (Sinha 1995; Hooper 2001).

Starting from women’s lives, feminists have offered alternative views of power. Berenice Carroll proposes that viewing power as competence and paying attention to those sites and situations far from the power/dominance centers might help PR shift its focus away from nation states, which are ultimately responsible for the war system (Carroll 1972). Nancy Hartsock draws from women’s experiences in subsistence and reproductive labor a notion of power as empowerment that makes the creation of a caring, noncoercive community and economy possible. Others talk about power as “mutual enablement,” the “human ability to act in concert” (Tickner 1992:65), as power “in relationship” not in hierarchy (Boulding 2000, 2001), or as “the capacity of women to increase their own self-reliance and internal strength” (Moser 1991:107), thus forming the basis for the radical and egalitarian transformation of society.

Feminists are not the only peace researchers aiming at a reconceptualization of power. However, only feminism uses both the experiences of women and gender analysis to understand and transform what is meant by power. For example, Kate McGuinness (1993) puts Gene Sharp’s theory of consensual power through the experiences of women and their relations to the oppressive system that is patriarchy to conclude that his reliance on consent to understand power is inadequate to understand power in gender relations. Moreover, Sharp’s “actor” model of social relations does not account for structural considerations. Thus his theory of power has little value in characterizing power in gender relations or offering alternatives to patriarchy.

Violence and Peace

Gender analysis also complicates PS’ understanding of violence and peace. Feminists are wary of social and symbolic systems based on dichotomous categories, which reproduce and reify the man/woman pair and the relationship of subordination and power mapped into it. Beverly Woodward (1976:5–6) thus critiques the private/public split as perpetuating an unjust system, which undervalues women’s activities inside and outside the home and in the intellectual sphere. Such a system is in opposition to the drastic transformation of society that PS advocates. The works on violence against women cited in previous sections are also inscribed in a feminist tradition that challenges PS to view private violence against women in a continuum of violence that starts in the private sphere and extends to the public violence of war and militarism. Rejecting the separation between “public” and “private” spheres, feminists contend that PS, like international relations, disregards the many wars conducted in feminized “private” spaces (Tickner 1992:57–8). They claim that all acts of “private” violence (from domestic abuse, to trafficking, to sexual harassment in the workplace) have political and international relevance (Joachim 1999:152). They emphasize that, in failing to see the relevance of gendered violence, international institutions devoted to fostering peace end up “enabling and legitimizing a social system and a war system based on gender hierarchy” (Sjoberg 2006:892). Feminist human rights lawyers and activists argue that the public/private split built into the state-centric framework of international law has historically precluded the prosecution of violence against women. They demonstrate that such violence violates women’s human rights and that, while imperfect, international law can be used to hold states responsible for such “private” violations (Joachim 1999; Meyer 1999; Miller 1999; also refer to Laura Parisi’s essay in this compendium).

Feminists critique the dichotomy between “protector” and “protected.” Beverly Woodward (1976:8–9) speaks of “protection rackets,” which extend the paternal role of protector of the family to the larger “in-group” of the nation state, against the perceived menace of “out-groups.” In reality, since the majority of war victims are civilians (hence not protected), the false distinction serves to perpetuate both female subordination and the war system. Likewise, Jean Elshtain contends that depicting women as victims, or “beautiful souls” to be protected, and men as “just warriors” in charge of protection is a myth that serves war making and allows the militarization of everyday life for both men and women (Elshtain 1995:3–13). Judith Stiehm argues that the protector/protected dichotomy is one of three myths that sustain the war system, together with the myths that war is manly (it is fought by men and it makes men) and that soldiers are substitutable. Women’s presence in military ranks exposes these myths, and opens the way to a fundamental questioning of the system they sustain (Stiehm 1989:223–234).

Feminists view the dichotomy of violence/peace as itself gendered. Reversing its hierarchy would do little to transform power relations and to enable the enactment of more just and egalitarian social arrangements. Thus Christine Sylvester encourages the discovery of locations or situations where empowerment opportunities are carved out of potentially or actually exploitative or violent systems (Sylvester 1987, 2002; Cockburn 1998). Efforts at tampering with such spaces and opportunities are, in turn, seen as another form of violence against women (Confortini 2006). Jean Elshtain (Elshtain and Tobias 1990) rejects the idea that a universalizing peace project that separates positive (peace-creating) values and attributes from negative (peace-obstructing) ones would be necessarily good for women. Ann Tickner (2001:58–61) argues that overcoming androcentric thinking means first doing away with the binary thinking that “contribute[s] to the devaluation of both women and peace.”

For feminists, myths of masculinity and femininity are also inseparably intertwined with militarism at the symbolic level and they reflect on the role of language as a symbolic system in reproducing violence and gender relations of power. Brian Easlea (1983), Helen Caldicott (1984), and Evelyn Fox Keller (1992) parade the masculinist sexual imagery of nuclear arms projects, and their use of metaphors about male birth, fatherhood, and even incest (Caputi 1996). Carol Cohn’s (1987:690) dissection of the masculinist, elaborately abstract, and euphemistic “technostrategic” language of defense intellectuals leads her to conclude that it “never force[s] the speaker or enable[s] the listener to touch the realities of nuclear holocaust that lay behind the words.” This language doesn’t have words capable of expressing the suffering and utter destruction that would likely follow a nuclear explosion; it allows the listener and the user to see nuclear weapons from the point of view of the user, not the victim; it precludes the possibilities of thinking differently about nuclear arms; finally, learning to speak and understand it initiates a process through which one’s mind becomes militarized, even when the intent is to beat strategists at their own game (Cohn 1993). For Milliken and Sylvan (1996) the gender order, intended as the “historically constructed pattern of power relations between men and women” (Connell 1987:98–9), was recreated in the conduct of the Vietnam War, as US policy makers determined policy and military options based on their gender imaginary about North and South Vietnamese adversaries. A relationship of coconstitution between gender and violence is then established through language and other symbolic systems.

Visions of Peace, Paths to Peace

As seen in earlier sections, nineteenth and early twentieth century feminists often asserted that women in general dislike war and violence more than men, therefore had a special responsibility in the creation of peace. In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf claimed that killing is a man’s, not a woman’s, “habit”; she linked character traits such as competitiveness and jealousy and the personal and political desire to manifest superiority over other people to war and advocated for women to renounce such traits. She believed that the unjust patriarchal system could not be overthrown by imitation (Carroll 1978:118). Céline Renooz proposed that peace needed to be founded on matriarchal principles of reason, truth, and political decentralization and by restoring women’s dignity and authority (Josephson 1985:800–1). Peace for Jane Addams (2007:5–15) was not a static or sentimental ideal, but a dynamic process of societal re-creation based on humanistic values, the examples of which could be seen in cosmopolitan immigrant communities of the urban US and in women’s historical nurturing and life-preserving practices.

Intersecting developments in feminist peace activism, between the 1970s and the 1990s feminist debates on peace focused again on questions of difference. Woolf’s and Addams’ legacies are taken up by feminists like Elise Boulding (1976, 1984), Helen Caldicott (1984), Betty Reardon (1985), Birgit Brock-Utne (1985, 1989), and Diana Russell (1989), who point at innate or nurtured characteristics of women (caring, connectedness, love, empathy) that are disregarded by peace researchers and politicians alike, but that constitute an important resource for peace.

Sara Ruddick (1989, 1992, 1993) argues that “maternal thinking” (a heuristic concept) stems from a practice grounded in preservative love and sustaining a care-giving ethics that runs counter to militaristic enterprises. Elise Boulding (2000) observes that a human longing for peace manifests itself in every society and that in every society women’s cultures have carried on the caring, nurturing, and conflict-resolving work necessary for the preservation of the community. Hence a world that values those skills that are traditionally, even stereotypically, associated with women’s everyday lives would be more peaceful and just.

As in activism, radical/standpoint peace feminism was critiqued on the ground that it could be “compatible with conservative discourse as to the proper roles for women and men” (Forcey 1996:79). Christine Sylvester (2002:213) claims that the merger between peace and feminist projects “rests on a stereotypical self-sacrificing act by feminists” that would require the death of the feminist project itself and with it the possibilities of a just (if not peaceful) world. Ynestra King (1989:285) admits that supposedly feminine or masculine stereotypes have served the war system well, but she maintains that “[b]y trying to set out of the trap of being identified with nature in a culture defined against nature, [women] ha[ve] dug ourselves into another trap – implicit acceptance of the ideology of antinaturalism, which has been used to denigrate, exploit, and abuse anything or anyone perceived as ‘more natural’ than the dominant white Western bourgeois male” (also Brock-Utne 1994). Following King’s lead, Karen Warren reclaims an association of women–nature–peace, on the grounds that when women are added to conventional accounts of peace, they “challenge the very conceptual framework” on which notions of peace and war were built (Warren and Cady 1994:5). Berenice Carroll argues that discussions of difference sidestep the more fundamental logical connection between feminism and pacifism as political ideologies (Carroll 1987:18).

More recently, quantitative feminist studies have tested the association between women and peace. They draw on Elise Boulding (1984), who pointed at opinion polls regarding men’s and women’s attitudes toward peace, which seemed to validate the existence of a gender gap in regards to attitudes toward military spending, and military intervention. Quantitative feminist research indicates that there is a negative correlation between the degree of sexual equality or sexual empowerment (differently operationalized) and the severity of international crises, more aggressive behaviors of states, or their willingness to pursue nonmilitaristic foreign policies (Caprioli 2000, 2005; Caprioli and Boyer 2001. It is worth noting that, although Caprioli self-identifies as feminist, other researchers who conduct similar studies do not). Joyce Marie Mushaben (2006) argues that gender mainstreaming by the EU between 1998 and 2002 produced a critical mass of women politicians in her German case study that redefined “sustainable peace” policies in internal and external politics. Yet Christine Sylvester (2002:214) is critical of quantitative and empiricist projects that aim at finding causal correlations between sex or equality between the sexes and attitudes toward war, which they see as historically coconstituted.

Today feminism continues to be a plural, complex enterprise, critical of facile universal claims, which risk homogenizing women and masking the hegemony of one group over the rest. Contemporary feminists celebrate complexity and the intersectionality of different forms of oppression. The challenge for feminism has been to articulate a vision for peace that is both global and particular, universal yet culturally specific. Christine Sylvester (2002:217) advocates an “aware cacophony” of multiple standpoints, calling for solidarity across differences, for “empathetic cooperation,” even if at the expense of peace. Charlotte Bunch (1992:185) supports an “ethics of respect for diversity” that would allow for mutual learning. Heidi Hudson (2008:3) argues for a “holistic theory pluralism” that is open ended in its recognition of differences. Carol Cohn and Sara Ruddick (2004) draw on women’s antiwar activism to formulate a feminist antiwar ethics that “opposes war making as a practice and seeks to replace it with practices of nonviolent contest and reconciliation,” in both pragmatic and moral terms. Starting from women’s lives, they propose an ethics of care to guide political decisions in matters of war and peace. Finally, Laura Sjoberg puts the just war tradition through feminist lenses to conclude that it suffers from gender biases that undermine its ethical vision and ultimately human security. She suggests a feminist revision of just war theory “inspired by empathy” (Sjoberg 2006:166). Using Elshtain’s early work and her own feminist reformulation of just war theory, Laura Sjoberg rebukes Elshtain’s later work ( Just War Against Terror), which justifies the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

In common, feminists value greater inclusivity in theory and practice, as a source of less biased knowledge and as a precondition for greater justice.

Peace Education

Feminism contributes to envisioning peace through PE. It was part of the agenda of peace societies since their inception in the early 1800s (Flink 1980:66). Susan Zeiger (2000:53–5) notes that “the earliest identifiable peace education curriculum designed for use in grade schools” was created in 1914 by the American School Peace League, headed by feminist peace activist Fannie Mae Andrews and composed primarily of women. Italian physicist and educator Maria Montessori (Education and Peace) argued for a radical reform of the educational process to foster children’s full potential and saw education and peace as intertwined. For Swedish feminist Ellen Key, mothers had a special responsibility toward peace and in the education of children for cooperation and nonviolence (Key 1972).

Elise Boulding argues for reclaiming women’s “traditional” skills and using them to transform society through PE. For Boulding (1988) and Birgit Brock-Utne (1985, 1989), peace learning, in the classroom or outside, is characterized as participatory, emancipatory, and geared toward establishing a “global civic culture.” Kathleen Maas Weigert encourages experiential learning “where knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, cited in Weigert 1990:313). Not only does experiential learning cultivate students’ skills, it also teaches partipatory citizenry and “provides opportunities for students’ increasing knowledge and understanding of themselves with the accompanying experience of empowerment” (Weigert 1990:314). Thus a class visit to Greenham Common educated students about both nuclear politics and the politics of resistance to nuclear politics.

Peace education supports and fosters “women’s ways of knowing,” emphasizing cooperation, interconnectedness, the empowerment of girls, and the sensitization of boys (Forcey 1995:215–20). Reardon (1988) and Boulding’s (2000) views on peace education also stress the importance of training to develop the imaginative capacity needed to envision a just and peaceful world.


Though almost 20 years ago Mary Burguieres (1990:15) suggested that PS regard feminist research as a “new frontier” for the discipline, the PS community has mostly paid only marginal attention to these contributions. PS texts sometimes include a feminist article by Betty Reardon, Brigit Brock-Utne, or Mary Caprioli, but feminist postmodernist or postcolonial scholars are mostly disregarded. Peace and Change, the journal of the Peace History Society and the Peace and Justice Studies Association, is an exception among major PS journals as it publishes feminist articles with some regularity, but rarely if ever do nonfeminist PS scholars engage in conversations with feminism or take into serious consideration feminist assertions that gender relations of power are implicated in conflict and peace processes.

Feminism presents pressing challenges and important contributions to PS. In drawing linkages between hierarchical social arrangements and violence, in the private as in the public spheres, it points out that there is no peace where there is oppression. In paying attention to women as an essential first step of empirical research, feminism locates the margins of society, the intersections of all social hierarchies, those places that are invisible to “high politics” yet are so essential to it. Then it proceeds to show the “amount and varieties of power it takes to form and sustain” hierarchical and unjust relationships (Enloe 2004:19). By forcing us to question all dichotomies, it forces us to find spaces where empowerment and the dismantling of oppressive structures are possible. It presents visions of that possible world and ways to achieve it, through education, scholarship, and activism.

Emerging areas of feminist engagement with PS are themes situated at the intersection of peace/violence and religion, including forgiveness, reconciliation, and transitional justice. The relevance of queer theory for the study of masculinities/femininities and violence/peace would merit further exploration. Because American and European histories of women’s peace activism form the bulk of WPH, more attention to women’s movements in the rest of the world, particularly prior to World War II, should be welcome. Finally, feminist literature on postconflict transitions also yearns for complementation with further, more theoretically oriented and comparative work. Theoretical engagement between PS and feminism would contribute to a richer, more complete understanding of “gendered peace.”


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Links to Digital Materials

Initiative for Inclusive Security. At, accessed July 26, 2009. Created as part of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, it focuses on research and documentation on women’s role in peace processes and provides partnership, training, and networking for women peacemakers.

International Peace Research Association. At http:/, accessed July 26, 2009. The IPRA website publishes a directory of peace research, job and conference announcements, as well as links to peace education online communities and to regional IPRA affiliates. It offers contact information for its Gender and Peace Commission.

Peacewomen project. At, accessed July 26, 2009. Monitors the implementation of UNSC 1325, providing links to resources, initiatives, and organizations working toward the same goal. It was created and is maintained by the WILPF.

Reaching Critical Will. At, accessed July 26, 2009. Another WILPF project, it provides information on intergovernmental and UN efforts toward nuclear disarmament, with the purpose of facilitating NGO interaction with governments and UN and NGO involvement in nuclear disarmament activities.

Teachers College Peace Education Center (TCPEC) at Columbia University, New York. At, accessed July 26, 2009. The TCPEC is dedicated to furthering and providing outreach, resources, and training for peace education. The website offers a PE learning portal for courses and educational program development. It also provides a list of links to other PE-related organizations.

WomanStats Project. At, accessed July 26, 2009. A compilation of qualitative and quantitative information on the status of women around the world, WomanStats has the purpose of facilitating the understanding of the relation between women’s status and state security.

Women, War, Peace. At, accessed July 26, 2009. This is a portal created by UNIFEM to increase accessibility of information on women, peace, and security, with links to UN, NGO, media, and academic sources.


The author thanks Brooke Ackerly, Anne Sisson Runyan, and two anonymous reviewers for their useful feedback on earlier versions of this essay.