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Article

Feminism operates on various feminist epistemologies, methodologies, and methods. While there is no consensus on how to organize or label these, there are a few generalities that can be drawn between these epistemologies, particularly in the international relations (IR) context. Classifying these epistemologies generally under the umbrella (or in the constellation) of postpositivism makes clear the contrasts between positivist social science and more critical approaches. Moreover, within the many critical approaches in feminist IR are many points of convergence and divergence. Feminist IR theory also focuses on the complexities of gender as a social and relational construction, in contrast to how nonfeminist ontologies focus on the rights of women, but including those of children and men as well. Hence, the postpositivist ontology takes on a more complex meaning. Rather than trying to uncover “how things really are,” postpositivists study how social realities (the Westphalian system, international migration or trafficking, or even modern war) came to be, and also how these realities came to be understood as norms, institutions, or social facts—often examining the gendered underpinnings of each. Most feminist IR theorists (and IR constructivists) share an “ontology of becoming” where the focus is on the intersubjective process of norm evolution.

Article

Nicole Laliberte, Kate Driscoll Derickson, and Lorraine Dowler

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.

Article

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.

Article

Anna M. Agathangelou and Heather M. Turcotte

Feminist international relations (IR) theories have long provided interventions and insights into the embedded asymmetrical gender relations of global politics, particularly in areas such as security, state-nationalism, rights–citizenship, and global political economies. Yet despite the histories of struggle to increase attention to gender analysis, and women in particular, within world politics, IR knowledge and practice continues to segregate gendered and feminist analyses as if they are outside its own formation. IR as a field, discipline, and site of contestation of power has been one of the last fields to open up to gender and feminist analyses. One reason for this is the link between social science and international institutions like the United Nations, and its dominant role in the formation of foreign policy. Raising the inferior status of feminism within IR, that is, making possible the mainstreaming of gender and feminism, will require multiple centers of power and multiple marginalities. However, these institutional struggles for recognition through exclusion may themselves perpetuate similar exploitative relationships of drawing boundaries around legitimate academic and other institutional orders. In engaging, listening and writing these struggles, it is important to recognize that feminisms, feminist IR, and IR are intimately linked through disciplinary struggles and larger geopolitical struggles of world affairs and thus necessitate knowledge terrains attentive to intersectional and oppositional gendered struggles (i.e., race, sexuality, nation, class, religion, and gender itself).

Article

Nancy A. Naples and Nikki McGary

The histories of women’s studies and feminist scholarship reveal the lack of distinction between feminist activism and feminist scholarship. The term “feminism” consists of multiple theories and agendas depending on regional, historical, and individual contexts. Broadly speaking, feminism includes theoretical and practical challenges to gender inequality and multiple forms of systemic oppression. However, the political projects that make women their objects are not always feminist; and political projects that address women’s issues are not always framed around the concept of feminism. Women activists and organizations do not always explicitly identify as feminist, although they might be participants in struggles aligned with broad feminist goals, including women’s empowerment, autonomy, human rights, and economic justice. A major theme that runs through feminist scholarship on women’s activism relates to the question of what difference women’s participation and feminist analyses make for progressive struggles. Feminist philosopher Nancy Fraser argues that there are “gender dimensions” to all struggles for social justice, and “feminists better be in these struggles and bring out those dimensions because certainly nobody else will.” Feminist scholars have also long debated what counts as a women’s movement. Revisioning women’s movements to include the diversity of women’s political analyses and strategies requires rethinking the labels used to categorize feminisms more generally.

Article

Celeste Montoya, Sarah McCullar, and Marjon Kamrani

Feminist international relations (IR) scholars have worked to expand understandings of the global processes through studies of gender. There are multiple forms of feminist scholars and scholarship, with each epistemology having its own understanding of gender and its role in influencing international relations. These include feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, poststructuralist feminist approaches, and postcolonial feminism. Some of the early feminist IR scholarship placed most of their emphasis on critiquing patriarchy, sometimes resulting to a narrow and essentialist construction of masculinity. These early works note the absence of women and the denigration of the feminine, as well as the predominance of masculine subject matter and masculine partiality in IR. This began to change with the recognition of different types of masculinities, offering a broader conceptualization of gender and masculinities beyond attachment to sex. Beyond recognizing the relational differences between masculinity and femininity, feminist scholars have also pointed out the differential value accorded to each, thus emphasizing the problematic hierarchical nature of such binaries. Another goal of feminist scholars has been to uncover the feminine roles rendered invisible, to challenge the masculine nature of IR as a discipline as well as deal with descriptive and substantive representational issues within the field and practice of IR. Meanwhile, the study of sexualities focuses on power dynamics and the hierarchies associated with sexual identity in its many forms. The predominant themes in this study include sexuality in relation to the study of war and nation; sexuality as a commodity; and studies of hetero- and homonormativity.

Article

The engagement between the discipline of international relations (IR) and feminist theory has led to an explosion of concerns about the inherent gendered dimension of a supposedly gender-blind field, and has given rise to a rich and complex array of analyses that attempt to capture the varied aspects of women’s invisibility, marginalization, and objectification within the discipline. The first feminist engagements within IR have pointed not only to the manner in which women are rendered invisible within the field, but also to IR’s inherent masculinity, which masks itself as a neutral and universally valid mode of investigation of world politics. Thus, the initial feminist incursions into IR’s discourse took the form of a conscious attempt both to bridge the gap between IR and feminist theory and to bring gender into IR, or, in other words, to make the field aware that “women are relevant to policy.” In the 1990s, feminist literature undertook incisive analyses of women’s objectification and commodification within the global economy. By the end of the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, the focus turned to an accounting for the agency of diverse women as they are located within complex sociopolitical contexts. The core concern of this inquiry lay with the diversification of feminist methodologies, especially as it related to the experience of women in non-Western societies.

Article

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.

Article

A constant source of concern for feminists working in International Relations (IR) has been the field’s implied or stated boundaries. During the first ten years of its existence (roughly covering the years 1985–1995), the main goal of feminist IR was to challenge a caged-in knowledge realm that excluded more phenomena than it promised to seek. By the early twenty-first century, IR had devolved into a camp structure that was able to accommodate on the inside all manner of theories, people, and places. Yet while feminism contributed to troubled boundaries of IR, it did so against the backdrop of internal boundary dilemmas of inside and outside, good women/bad women, authentic versus dominant voice, gender versus feminism, and so on. Today, feminist IR is somewhat different from its earlier orientations. It now draws heavily on postmodern thinking about margins, multiple truths, subjugated identities and discourses, and power in general, and takes on IR theory and methodology using insights from postmodern thinking and other disciplines such as anthropology and geography. Feminist IR continues to bring new locations of the international and relations to the fore. Two such areas deal with the subject of violent women in international relations and the urgencies of development around the world.

Article

Competing narratives exist in feminist scholarship about the successes and challenges of women’s activism in a globalized world. Some scholars view globalization as merely another form of imperialism, whereby a particular tradition—white, Eurocentric, and Western—has sought to establish itself as the only legitimate tradition; (re)colonization of the Third World; and/or the continuation of “a process of corporate global economic, ideological, and cultural marginalization across nation-states.” On the other hand, proponents of globalization see opportunity in “the proliferation of transnational spaces for political engagement” and promise in “the related surge in the number and impact of social movements and nongovernmental organizations. Feminist involvement in global governance can be understood by appreciating the context and origins of the chosen for advancing feminist interests in governance, which have changed over time. First wave feminism, describing a long period of feminist activity during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, developed vibrant networks seeking to develop strong coalitions, generate broad public consensus, and improve the status of women in society. Second wave feminist concerns dominated the many international conferences of the 1990s, influencing the dominant agenda, the problems identified and discussed, the advocacy tactics employed, and the controversies generated. Third wave feminism focused more on consciousness raising and coalition building across causes and identities.

Article

Kathleen Staudt

Although the study of women and gender flourished at intersection of comparative politics (CP) and international relations (IR), mostly international political economy (IPE) and Development Studies, much of IR itself was resistant at its core. Explicitly feminist analysis challenged the core with several decades of research that instructors can incorporate into their classes. The incorporation/transformation challenge can be daunting, however, as publication outlets for research on women, gender, and feminism often remained separate from mainstream journals, with some promising exceptions. These separate tracks are now changing, but instructors still need to check multiple places to prepare for courses and identify good assignments. And although IR feminists seek interaction with the IR core, the core IR theorists are wedded to frameworks associated with realism, liberalism, Marxism, and others, or to positivist, quantitative methodologies that may rely on flawed and male-centric databases rather than grounded field research. A major challenge in the next 40 years involves growing the interactions among bordered subfields; analyzing the intersections of gender, race/ethnicity, class, and nationality; and engaging with southern voices outside the US and Western-centric IR field. In this vein, the classroom is a major arena in which critical thinking, contestation, new research, and action agendas emerge.

Article

Francine D’Amico

The number of women in national elective leadership positions has grown since 1960 when the first woman became prime minister. As the number of women in high elective office has grown, feminist scholars have worked to fill the “gender gap” in the study of national leadership in the disciplines of history, political science, and international relations. Feminist scholars, for instance, have investigated several gender-based assumptions about what the policy priorities of women leaders will be. The first assumption is that a woman leader will promote social programs and expenditures over military defense; this assumption is based on women’s traditional gender role as caretaker. The second assumption is that a woman leader will be likely to eschew the use of military force in foreign policy. The third is that she will introduce or endorse policies that promote gender equality, that is, that she will pursue a feminist agenda. Thus, the general policy questions scholars approach the study of women leaders with are: Is she a socialist? Is she a pacifist? Is she a feminist? Feminist scholars also consider public perceptions about women’s ability to serve as national leader as well as performance, or women’s style of leadership and effectiveness as leaders. Do women lead in a hierarchical, “top-down” command style or do they tend to be more cooperative, collegial, and collaborative than their male counterparts?

Article

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).

Article

Women’s activism has assumed an international dimension beginning in the nineteenth century. Transnational feminism has been shaped by debates over a wide range of issues: how to name and describe feminist inspired action that crosses national borders; how to create organizations, networks, and movements that acknowledge the multiple power differentials that exist among women while still allowing for concerted political action; and how to craft effective mobilization strategies in the face of highly differing forms of activism. These debates have fueled a surge in scholarly interest in the transnational activities of feminist groups, transforming the ways in which women’s studies, political science, international relations, sociology, and geography investigate the relationships between national and international levels of politics. The scholarship on transnational feminist actions has been influenced in large part by the concept of transnational advocacy networks/transnational feminist networks, which often bring together multiple kinds of actors such as social movements, international nongovernmental organizations, and more nationally or locally based actors. Another issue tackled by scholars who are politically committed to the goals of transnational feminist activism is how feminists are likely to achieve their goals and produce change through their transnational activities. These scholars can be expected to continue to develop their own research agendas on transnational feminist activism and to influence how transnational politics and globalization are studied in other fields.

Article

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.

Article

Annica Kronsell

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.

Article

Lynne Phillips

The concepts of gender, space, and place have significant social and political implications for the kind of world that people inhabit and the kinds of lives we can lead. That there has been a transformation in thinking about these concepts is indicated in references today to pluralized (and polymorphic) spaces, to the waxing, and waning of distinctions between space and place, and to the idea that gender, space, and place are something produced rather than simply lived in, or ventured into. These subtle shifts hint at a complex history of ideas about what constitutes gender, space, and/or place and how we might understand the connections and disjunctures between and among them. The theoretical roots of space act as the starting point for discussion, since these have a longer historical record than work which also explicitly includes gender. Western conceptions of space have drawn primarily from early Greek philosophers and mathematicians, and these conceptions indicate an early distinction between a philosophy of space and a pre-scientific notion of space. From here, the development of feminist methods has become essential for revealing how spatial thinking informs ideas about gender. These methods include deconstructing canons, asking the profoundly spatial question of “Where are the women?” and “ungendering” space. These methodological strategies reveal the extent to which the central concerns of feminism today have spatial and place-based dimensions.

Article

Feminist Gramscian international political economy (IPE) is an interdisciplinary intellectual project that has focused both on theoretical and empirical analysis of women and gender within the field. Feminist Gramscian IPE emerged from the confluence of an eclectic body of work over the last several years encompassing fields as disparate as international relations, IPE, feminist economics, the literature on gender and development, and feminist literature on globalization. As with feminist perspectives in other disciplinary fields, Gramscian feminists have largely embraced postpositivist, interpretivist, and relational analysis while trying to maintain the emancipatory potential of their work for women the world over. Current Gramscian feminist analyses are firmly grounded and draw from early Marxist/Socialist feminist interventions. They have also engaged with the three major categories of analysis in Gramscian thought—ideas, material capabilities, and institutions—in order to understand hegemonic processes that function to (re)construct and (re)produce both gendered categories of analysis and practice. Feminist revisions of Gramscian IPE have focused on international institutions, rules and norms, while simultaneously shedding light on contemporary states and how they are being transformed in this current phase of globalization. Three central tasks that feminist Gramscian scholars may consider in future research are: to be more engaged with the notion of hegemony, to revisit the political methodology employed by many feminist Gramscian analyses, and to devote more attention to non-mainstream perspectives.

Article

Brooke Ackerly and Ying Zhang

The study of feminist ethics in international relations (IR) is the study of three topics. The first is the feminist contributions to key topics in international ethics and the research agenda that continues to further that enterprise. Feminists have made important contributions to IR thought on central ethical concepts. They rethink these concepts from the perspective of their impact on women, deconstruct the dichotomies of the concepts and their constituent parts, and reconsider how the field should be studied. Next, there is the feminist engagement with the epistemological construction of the discipline of IR itself, by which feminists make the construction of the field itself a normative subject. Finally, there is the feminist methodological contribution of a “meta-methodology”—a research ethic applicable in the research of all questions and able to improve the research practice of all methodologists. The contention here is that ethical IR research must be responsive to the injustices of the world, hence feminists have also explored the connections between scholarship and activism. And this in turn has meant exploring methodologies such as participatory action research that engages one with the political impact of research and methods. Furthermore, contemporary challenges related to climate, globalization, shifts in people, and shifts in global governance are encouraging feminists to work from multiple theoretical perspectives and to triangulate across multiple methods and questions, in order to contribute to our understanding of global problems and the politics of addressing them.

Article

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.