Feminism seeks to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to such opportunities for men. Until now, women face serious inequalities based on social institutions such as norms, cultural traditions, and informal family laws. Scholars argue that this aspect has so far been neglected in international policy debates, and that there needs to be further discussion about the economic status of women (labor force participation); women’s access to resources, such as education (literacy) or heath (life expectancy); and the political empowerment of women (women in ministerial positions). In some instances, social norms such as female genital mutilation or any other type of violence against women–within or outside of the household–not only violate women’s basic human rights, but seriously impair their health status and future chances in a professional career. Gender stereotypes are also frequently brought up as one disadvantage to women during the hiring process, and as one explanation of the lack of women in key organizational positions. Liberal feminist theory states that due to these systemic factors of oppression and discrimination, women are often deprived of equal work experiences because they are not provided equal opportunities on the basis of legal rights. Liberal feminists further propose that an end needs to be put to gender discrimination through legal means, leading to equality and major economic redistributions.
Elisabeth Prügl and Hayley Anna Thompson
More than twenty years ago, feminist scholars began challenging conventional approaches to the study of war that they accused of being gender blind and excluding women’s involvement and experience of conflict. This feminist critique was articulated by Cynthia Enloe in her question “Where are the women?” in reference to the study of conflicts. Since then, numerous scholars have produced works that not only include women in existing accounts of war but also offer radical alternative approaches to the study of war. This body of feminist scholarship has sought to deconstruct and challenge three foundations of mainstream scholarship on armed conflict: equating gender with women or women’s issues; conflating women and children together as victims of war; and narrowly defining war as a masculine, public activity with a clear time frame. Feminist scholars such as Judith Butler theorized the concepts of gender and sex in order to complicate feminism beyond “women’s studies.” Despite these inroads into the way conflict is conceptualized and researched, mainstream approaches to the study of war in the past decade remain resistant to systematic and comprehensive considerations of gender. Recent scholarship presents a broader picture of women’s relationship to international conflicts. Feminist scholars demonstrate women’s multiple roles within, and impacts on, war; disrupt stereotypes and gendered norms associated with “women’s place” during war; and highlight some of the many different ways that women—as soldiers, rebels, and as perpetrators of violence—perform in, and influence war.
Mary K. Meyer McAleese and Susan S. Northcutt
The interdisciplinary field of international studies has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Indeed, the field of international relations, both theory and practice, has been argued to be gendered in highly masculinist ways. Whether as practitioners or as scholars, women have had a difficult time entering and advancing in such male-dominated fields, both in the United States and around the world. Their admittance and full acceptance in the profession has been hindered by laws and regulations, institutional practices and inertia, gendered stereotypes and customary expectations, overt discrimination and subtle biases, or benign neglect. As such, women have adopted a number of different strategies to make their ways into such male-dominated fields. These include working to expand the field to encompass questions of interest to women, developing new networks with other women for mentorship and resource development, and organizing themselves into distinct groups to promote women’s professional interests and advancement. One of these women’s organizations is Women’s Caucus for International Studies (WCIS), a formal section within the International Studies Association (ISA). Since its formal organization in 1996, the Women’s Caucus has worked hard to fulfill its mission of upgrading the status of women in the profession. Specifically, it seeks to promote equal opportunities for women in their professional lives, as well as women’s professional development. The Caucus fulfills its mission in numerous ways, including sponsoring scores of panels and roundtables focused on women’s professional development, and organizing mentoring networks, both inside the Caucus and beyond.