Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Feminism in international relations

Welton O’Neal III
March 23, 2015

When analyzing international relations issues, it is often analyzed through a variety of theories with the main viewpoints being realism and liberalism. Both theories agree that within the international arena, only anarchy exists. However, realism emphasizes that nation-states interact with each other through their own self interest and intent to maintain their sovereignty and obtain more power. In regards to liberalism, it views nation-states interacting with each other in order to obtain peace. This can be achieved by nation-states being members of the United Nations. When it comes to feminism, it views these two theories as being dominated by the male perspective.

          Feminist theory uses gender and patriarchy to describe the field of international relations.  Overall, feminist theory says that most actors in international relations, such as diplomats and policymakers, have been, and still are males who come from patriarchal social and political backgrounds.[1] Therefore, discussions within international relations remain largely limited by those who lack consideration of women’s roles in world politics. If international relations continues to exclude women from its discipline and practice, then it will remain as an example of patriarchy. [2]

          In criticizing the most predominant international relations theory which is realism, feminists argue that realists over-value the role of the state in defining international relations, without questioning how the nation-state is politically and socially structured. Feminist theory would consider how the nation-state includes the views of its individual citizens, and how the nation-states domestic views translate into foreign policies.[3] Additionally, feminism views realism as the antithesis to achieving gender equality in discussion and practice. Nation-states are the actors and the individual is of little importance. When the individual is de-emphasized, there is even less acknowledgement of a female individual, which effectively excludes feminist discussion.[4]

          Feminists also challenge the other international theory, liberalism. The critique of it is that international institutions provide for ways in which women can be more politically and socially acknowledged and empowered. Since the leaders and the processes of formal international organizations come from patriarchal systems, their work can keep women at a disadvantage.[5] In criticizing the main international relations theoretical viewpoints, feminism has developed its own theories to explain international relations. This consists of feminist empiricism and feminist standpoint.

          In defining feminist empiricism, it observes that states and the interstate system have been fundamentally gendered structures of domination and interaction. Feminist  empiricism asks 'whether it is accurate to focus on states and worldwide capitalist processes and not also examine the social attitudes and structures which impart a gender to international relations'.[6]

          Regarding feminist standpoint theory, it argues that women's experiences at the margins of political life have given them perspectives on social issues that provide valid insights into world politics. Additionally, for this form of feminist theory it provides a critique of theories constructed by men who put themselves in the position of policy-makers.[7] Instead, feminists critically examine international relations from the standpoint of people who have been excluded from power.The feminist standpoint conception doesn’t imply that feminist perspectives are superior to traditional views. Rather, they contain valid insights into the complex realities of world politics.[8]

          It is important that when discussing issues and trying to resolve them within the international arena, there is always a feminist perspective. Women are just as likely to be affected by the various economic and social issues that occur and more likely than not, are not given a voice in resolving these issues due to political and social reasons. Women within this world play just an important role in society than men and in some cases, are the only family provider. For all countries to continue or maintain their political and economic development, women should be included in the development process. No country can truly develop, despite their political and economic system, unless women are treated equally and posses the same amount of political and economic power as men do.  

[1] Ruiz, Tricia. "Feminist Theory and International Relations: The Feminist Challenge to Realism and Liberalism."

[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Ruiz, Tricia. "Feminist Theory and International Relations: The Feminist Challenge to Realism and Liberalism."
[5] Ibid
[6] Keohane, Robert. "International Relations Theory: Contributions of a Feminist Standpoint." 1989, 9.
[7] Ibid
[8] Ibid

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