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Gender In International Relations Essay

1654 words - 7 pages

International relations (IR) is the study of relationships among countries. As an academic field it uses normative theory to provide a conceptual framework with which the discipline can be analyzed. These theories can be divided into two fields. The first, positivist/rationalist, focuses on state-level analysis to determine causal explanations of why or how certain phenomena occur. Things that are important to this type of theory are state interactions, size of military forces, balance of power, etc. The second field, post-positivism, rejects the idea that the social world can be studied in an objective and value-free way. This field focuses on constitutive questions about important ...view middle of the document...

For example, liberal feminism focuses on women’s ability to maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Different strands of feminism focus on different themes but, all of these different strands of feminism have a unique influence on introducing different perspectives to the field. Feminist’s share the principal concern that the “approach to IR must be responsive to women, reflect their experiences, and seek to transform their lives in a manner that recognizes individual agency and corrects disproportionate power imbalances” (Mertus, 323). Despite the slight and varying differences within feminisms the central goal of their theories is to draw attention to areas that have otherwise been ignored by traditional IR theory. That is why it’s important to bring different and new methods into the field. Gender (like class, ethnicity, age, etc) can help inform our understanding of how people/nations act. An example of this can be seen with our perception of war. A masculine construction of war defines men as takers of life and women as providers of it. Therefore, men’s inherent nature is defined as being aggressive and threatening, whereas women are defined as exactly the opposite. From this construction women have no place in war, and are therefore excluded from it. This concept of war still influences IR theories today and is not limited to just this theory, other areas like sovereignty, foreign policy, etc are also constructed in this manner. Therefore, feminist international relations is a relevant theory, not only for women, but because it introduces us to many factors that are missed within traditional IR studies, and give us a way to change the theories and language associated with it.

International relations are examined in terms of levels of analysis who’s concepts are those that define and form the international system. This international system is characterized by the overarching concept anarchy. The concept of anarchy is the foundation for realist, liberal, neorealist, and neoliberal international relations theories. While constructivism disputes this idea, choosing instead to believe that anarchy is a construct of states in the system. Important concepts in IR including sovereignty and power, which according to Pettman “war and the world are either ungendered, written in a language of ‘man’ where women are invisible” or it is “profoundly gendered where it is assumed that men are political actors and states are masculinist constructs” (65). Therefore, masculinity is a social construct, and as such, it is influenced by gender biases, hierarchies, stereotypes, etc., which have a profound effect on the way theories and discourse are constructed.

Sovereignty

International relations depends on the idea of sovereignty. In this state the sovereign power has absolute power over their territories and this foundation allows for interdependence and independence to occur. The concept of sovereignty is problematic because the...

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