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Why Are Gender Relations Important To Include In The Study Of Power In Society?

2963 words - 12 pages

Why are gender relations important to include in the study of power in society?The study of power is very important to almost all branches of international politics and relations; gauging where it lies, where it should lie and how it should be distributed. When answering a question on "power" it is important to define power. Stephen Lukes coined it as "an essential contested concept" (Lukes 1974: 137), on the other hand, Kenneth Boulding believed it is the "potential for change" (Boulding 1989: 15). Feminist writing on power however, reflects their focus on the patriarchal structures of power and the requirement of such systems to be revised and rethought in their outlooks on power so that it serves an emancipatory role, particularly in the lives of women. Gender relations are therefore important to include in the discourse of power because understanding power is tantamount to understanding the intrinsic meaning of 'patriarchy'. Feminism by its nature tackles head-on the politics, the practice and the experience of 'power'. Gender relations are inexorably tied to matters of power and through this bond are they ultimately understood more deeply. Conventional theories stress that international relations should be understood solely in expressions of the masculine concepts state, sovereignty, war and power. Feminine notions, chiefly in the domestic sphere, are not thought to be pertinent. As such the foremost Realist and Liberal theories in the discipline uphold a sharp dichotomy between the interstate, political, public male sphere and intrastate, domestic, private feminine and give credence only to the former, thus disregarding the impact of the latter. Power emerges as essential in conventional theories, to both the theory and practice of international relations. But the feminist viewpoint is about more than simply critiquing the mainstream ideas in IR, by its very nature it could reinforce any arising ideas away from the atomisation and fragmentation so inherent in traditional IR theories toward a more interlinked, institutionalised approach that is does the emerging reality justice. The feminist standpoint may also contribute to a conception stressing togetherness and obligations to fellow humans, which would be represent a meaningful break away from the contractual morality of traditional theories. In this essay I will outline some of these understandings and transformations of discourse, and then go on to outline how they fit inevitably into the dialogue of power and explore how feminist theorists have interpreted the concept of power, as it exists in traditional international relations theories, as it manifests in international order and how it might be reformulated to better accommodate gender into the discipline, allowing a deeper and more accurate understanding of the international.International Politics' traditional idea of power might be one explanation for its incapability to foresee or explicate modern key changes in world order; a...

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