• International Relations (IR), being a discipline studying the politics among nations within a changing pattern of power relations among them, has been the last of the body of knowledge to be influenced by the feminist perspective.
  • Women have always, remained hidden in International Relations, which has been predominantly treated as a masculine discipline. In international politics men are always in the forefront and women heads of states or diplomats are hand to find it.
  • Where do we find women in international relations?
    • For long women have been located as wives of diplomats, politicians or as comfort women for military personnel, But women have, always been the victim of decisions taken by men in international politics regarding war and peace. During water ethnic clashes or separatist movements. They are the worst victims and in the aftermath too, especially if they are forced to leave their country as refugees their conditions become deplorable. In peace time, women become victims of trafficking. Trading in women workers or easy recruits in sex tourist industry fond globally. Thus, it is not justified to keep women out of the purview of any sort of discussion in the discourse of international Relations (Cynthia Enloe).
  • From the late 1980s and 1990s; attempts were made for re-evaluation of traditional IR theory from the feminist perspectives, which opened up a space for gendering international Relations.
  • Several conferences and published literature marked a new outlook for examining world events. Jean Bethke Flshtain’s Women and War (1987), Cynthia Enloe’s Bananas Beaches and Bases Making Feminist Sense of international Politics (1989), J Ann Tickner’s Gender in international Relations Feminist Perspectives in Achieving Global Security (1992) and Christine Sylvester’s Feminist Theory and International Relations in a Postmodern Era (1994) made their mark in the early 1990s.
  • Several international conferences also paved the way for highlighting women’s issues. The important among them were:
    • Mexico Women’s Conference (1975)
    • Copenhagen Women’s Conference (1980),
    • Nairobi Women’s Conference (1985).
  • Three conferences also boosted the launch of feminist thought into the IR study,, They were the
    • Millennium: Journal of International Studies Conference at the London School of Economics (1988),
    • The Conference at the University of Southern California (1989), and
    • The Conference at Wellesley (1990).
  • In 1997, in a debate led by J. Ann Tickner in the International Studies Association’s International Studies Quarterly, she suggested three types of misunderstanding that were to be blame for the lack of insight of IR scholars regarding woman’s issues. They are
    • (1) misunderstandings about the meanings of gender’
    • (2) different ontologies and
    • (3) Epistemological divides.
  • Tickner in her ‘Vans Morgenthau’s Principles of Political Realism, A Feminist Reformulation (1988)”, presented a reformulation of Morgenthau’s six principles of Political Realism, which is the dominant perspective in International Relations and very much masculine in nature, focusing only on power politics.
  • Tickner criticizes realism as only ”a partial description of international polities, owing to its deeply embedded mascuHnist bias. Her main concern is to offer a feminist reformulation of certain realist principles.
  • They were:-
    1. Objectivity is culturally defined – and is associated with masculinity objectivity is always partial.
    2. National interest is multi-dimensional so not one set of interests can (or should define it).
    3. Power as domination and control privileges masculinity.
    4. All political action has moral significance – cannot or should not separate them.
    5. Perhaps look for common moral elements
    6. Feminists deny the autonomy of the political realm – building boundaries around a narrowly defined political realm defines political in a way that excluded the concerns and contributions of women.
  • However, contemporary world affairs have forced the feminist to face challenges and consequently respond to, analyze, and confront forces of globalization and fragmentation. Globalization with its market forces has severe impact on women. It affects and often devastates women’s lives, family and livelihood, and drastically reduces political space for making claims against the state.
  • Further, the political identity movements producing new wars, mostly in non-western states, have women as victims in such movements. Therefore; these new developments need a feminist understanding of nationalism, militarization, war and peace, identity conflicts, religious fundamentalism, functioning of the global political economy and impact of forces of globalization. Unfortunately, despite sincere efforts of the feminists. IR still remains a male dominated field. International Relations scholars have worked out their own exclusions and inclusions and it is very hard for them to think beyond the issues of power and national interest when it comes to the question of politics among nations.

Criticism of Feminist Theory of IR

  • Two of the most well-known scholars to raise criticism against feminist approach to IR have been Robert Keohane and Francis Fukuyama. For Keohane, feminist IR needs to develop scientific, testifiable theories. Fukuyama questions the feminist scholars’ view that if women ran the world, we would live in a much more peaceful world, which, to him, is doubtful.
  • In the face of such criticism, the feminist IR scholars need to develop a much more nuanced and sophisticated argument order to meet the overwhelming challenge posed by mainstream theorists.
  • However, the impact of feminist engagement on politics and on public policies across the world cannot be denied. That several conventions recognize women’s rights itself is a positive development. Untiring efforts of the feminist have raised consciousness about gender issue.
  • Feminists and international lawyers have been successful in getting rape classified, for the first time, as a war crime, and categorized by the international tribunals on former Yugoslavia and Rwanda as a form of torture. Sexual discrimination and maltreatment has been accepted by some countries like Canada and Spain as grounds for political asylum International non – governmental organizations and also aid agencies involved in providing assistance to the developing countries have specified in their development policy in general gender concerns as the center of their donation policies. Sweden became the first country to adopt feminist foreign policy. In practice, however, a lot has to be done to increase the level of gender sensitivity in IR.

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