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Wheels Keep On Rolling: Women And Foreign Policy

1938 words - 8 pages

Over the last three months we have searched and explored, absorbed and
digested, and journeyed to what, at times, seemed like the farthest reaches of
historical inquiry. Along the way, we have read and discussed the various
scholarly debates regarding the place of the traditional (post-1945, elite white
male) approach to Cold War diplomatic history, and considered the proliferation
of other approaches. Topics covered included culture, world systems, national
security, corporatism, internationalism, discourse, psychology, and gender.
Now at the end of our pilgrimage into the depths of Cold War historiography,
what inferences can be offered? What can a novice historian with little
knowledge of the Cold War or the "state of the art" of diplomatic history
possibly contribute? Would it be yet another, albeit less sophisticated, addition
to the "babble of labels"?
This essay will attempt to explore the validity of one of the "alternative"
approaches to diplomatic history examined in class, namely, gender and foreign
policy. It is a topic scholars have just recently begun to explore in large part
because of the surge in women and gender studies. It is a new direction that
promises to enrich our understanding of diplomatic history. But questions
remain. Are women and gender studies central to the field of study? Or might
this avenue of inquiry be simply another peripheral addition to the already
multifarious, fragmented discipline? The contention of this paper is that gender
should not be added as another feature to examine. Instead, gender should be
woven into the tapestry of diplomatic history, creating a more complete
understanding of the social, political, and ideological nature of American foreign
The following essay will present a plausible framework for future studies
in U.S. foreign relations. It is an attempt to move beyond a narrowly
state-centered mode of inquiry where it is assumed that the state should stand at
the center of attention, and the non-state actors assume importance by their
connection to the state. But before suggesting an alternative framework, it will
explore the question: is gender a viable area of study, and why is it useful? In so
doing, it will suggest possible questions to be asked and areas to be investigated.
The Problem
By definition diplomatic history is concerned with the political elites and
the institutions of government. If a handful of women have occupied positions
of power in policy making; if, until recently, women's influence remained
largely outside of government institutions; if women could not even vote until
early this century; how can women and issues of gender be a legitimate avenue
of study? For several reasons this apparent conundrum is just that: apparent.
First, it is well documented that throughout American history various individual
women and women's organizations have been very influential in policymaking
(i.e. abolition, temperance, social security, peace movements). ...

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