International politics has been depicted as a man’s world. A view on the political arena globally indicates that a vast majority of people involved are men. It influences an approach which politics and international relations take. Mainly, most of interactions happen between and among men. Consequently, a female perspective is ignored or neglected. Feminism has taken the female approach when dealing with political issues at the international level. It encourages gender inequality in international politics and relations (Sylvester 2011). Quintessentially, the feminists involved in the modern international politics focus on the individuals involved in shaping global politics. They also check whether the women are involved during a decision making process. They analyse also the manner in which females can alter the foreign policy, in addition to, other international relations’ aspects. The approach that feminists take in relation to international relations criticises the present social norms. It also questions the patriarchal hierarchy in politics, economy, and military, among other fields. Feminists also raise a concern about females being disadvantaged in that they do the larger percentage of the world’s labour than men. They only own about one percent of the world’s property (Sylvester 2011). The current paper seeks to understand the issues that feminism has sought to address. The study analyses whether it has been successful in international relations.
Feminism in International Relations
There were some early signs of feminism in international relations in the 1960s with the joining of different feminists. It happened so as to deal with some issues of peace and conflict through a feminist approach. During the International Peace Research Association conference in 1975, feminists presented the notion of gender as an aspect of structural violence. However, most of the mainstream feminism in international feminism was seen in the late 1980s (True 2009). Compared to other social sciences, the application of a feminist thought in international relations took place quite late. It began when some of feminists began questioning political assumptions. It led to the insufficient coverage and explanation of various events in the international politics. They began censuring conventional theories that failed to give the detailed explanations related to the issues, such as the Soviet Union collapse and the end of the Cold War (Shepherd 2010). Feminists have taken a different approach in international relations. It entails different theories which compete with each other and work together. There are different groups of feminists. They have the varying perceptions but need to participate in the international relations. For instance, the liberal feminists fight for equality in the access to education and contribution in the economy. On the other hand, Marxist feminists focus on the restructuring of an oppressive socioeconomic situation in a society that is capitalistic (Shepherd 2010).
There is also the standpoint feminists who argue on the knowledge that women have has been influenced by marginalization. Hence, it can provide a deeper insight in the international relations than men. However, the post-modern feminists oppose most of the views of other feminist groups. They state that it is not possible to use a single approach or offer a single story to represent the experiences of females (Shepherd 2010). Although there were all the different perspectives from the diverse groups of feminists, gender is a uniting concern. It is an ideology that revolves around the inequalities between men and women, as a social construction, as opposed to being either male or female. The inequalities that impact on gender involve different aspects of the society including social structures and power relations. It has a significant consequence on either men or women (Baylis, Smith & Owens 2008). In their quest, feminists aim at giving an explanation on a gender role in both theory and practice of international relations. They aim to do so by identifying the position of females in international politics and examining the way that the structures and behaviour of international systems influence on them. They also target at the exploration of approaches that can be used in the restructuring of international relations theory. It should be done in a manner that supports both genders.
Although the gender aspect and equality in the issues involving the feminists is vital, most of early feminists have not really focused on equality. Rather, they aimed at unveiling the crucial role that women had played in the international politics. It was not recognised. Their focus was on the issues such as high politics, war, and global economy. For instance, Enloe (2014) has focused on the daily experiences of women. She has demonstrated their essentiality and contribution in a progress of state systems as the workers in plantations, the wives of important personnel, consumers, and prostitutes near military camps, among others. Her assertion was that the omission of women in the international relations issues has offered incomplete and naive conclusions (Enroe 2014). Issues, such as, war had an impact on females. It has increased the economic inequities between men and women. Often, females had to contribute the unpaid labour due to the effects of war throughout the globe. Such work included taking care of the injured and the sick people (Riley, Mohanty & Pratt 2008). Up until today, in warring areas, women are still used as sex objects forcefully so as to maintain the soldiers’ morale. It has led to a high number of people who have died during such wars to be the non-combatants. Military forces have also used the systematic rape as a weapon during the war; for instance, in Congo and Bosnia (Riley, Mohanty & Pratt 2008). Therefore, feminists argue that the involvement of women in international relations is important. They will introduce a new perspective and experiences not witnessed by men. Rather than focusing on the cost and causes of war between nations, it can introduce the perspective that sheds light on the suffering of individuals.
The liberal feminists have been focusing on the inclusion of the role and work of women in the public life. Additionally, the standpoint and post-positivist feminists have gone an extra mile by questioning the gender distortions and biases. They have come to be accepted or are unnoticed in international relations (Riley, Mohanty & Pratt 2008). For instance, the use of male terms when referring to both men and women has been an issue with feminists. They do not agree on the use of terms, such as, a chairman and headmaster to indicate the positions of authority, which may be held by either men or women. In addition, there is the use of a socially constructed language highlighting the use of dichotomies. They may perceive masculinity as worthy than femininity.
Feminists have decried the arbitrary distinction between the public and private life in mainstream politics as a main cause of barring women from international politics. Influential individuals and philosophers have used terms that omitted the position and contribution of women. Thus, they are still in use today. For instance, the term citizen is used to refer to a man who works in a public sphere and defends the nation as a combatant (Pettman 2002). However, it has omitted the contribution of women in such courses as wives, mothers, and caregivers. Their role is very essential for the survival, but it has been ignored. The term has implied that women were helpless and relied on the assistance offered by men for protection. Hence, they could not be independent (Baylis, Smith & Owens 2008). The patriarchal nature of the nations has been fostered by the terms used by popular people, such as Machiavelli through the use of prince.. It has advanced the paternal image of the state in the protection of its people. Therefore, the system has favoured the masculine into subjugating the feminine nature into holding control and power through anarchy.
Understanding a gendered aspect of power and security is vital in getting the females involved in mainstream politics. Feminists have stated that men use power as a tool to control and force women into doing things that they would otherwise not do (Sjoberg 2011). They have perceived the focus of power as a way of coercing or deterring a state to or from doing something through the military might as a masculine outlook. The feminists focus on altering the system to have the power with as opposed to the power over (Sjoberg 2011). Therefore, the involvement of feminists in the international relations is vital so as to eradicate the current challenges that exclude women.
Success of the Feminists in International Relations
There has been a significant contribution of feminism in international relations. Feminism has succeeded in influencing international relations in practice, as well as the studies conducted at school. It has prompted the re-evaluation of epistemology and ontology of the discipline. The involvement of women in studying international relations has increased in the recent years. It is one of success factors of the push by feminists. Through feminism, the international relation has expanded to target a wider audience (Tickner & Sjoberg 2011). It has happened due to various reasons. The critical theorization within the international relations discipline has led to the expansion of its key areas of interest. Consequently, it covers a wider range of issues and has included more actors. For instance, it has triggered international organizations and NGOs introducing political agendas revolving around human rights, as well as the protection of the environment (Tickner & Sjoberg 2011). The focus is on the influence and impact of all human beings without marginalising females.
There has also been an increased focus on global and trans-national processes and activities being experienced. In recent years, the involvement of females in global issues has increased. Their problems are also discussed at a global level. Although women are still marginalised, especially in developing countries, measures are underway to eliminate the hindrances leading to marginalization (McBride, Mazur & Lovenduski 2010). For example, numerous programmes have been established to focus on the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) being a multinational cultural problem. It leads to marginalization of women, and it is a form of gender violence. Involvement of females in international relations has promoted such initiatives as women are the victims. It has also been successful to see that an increased number of females are independent. They have jobs and property. They are visible in the international platform through their involvement in governments and international organizations (McBride, Mazur & Lovenduski 2010). There has been success in the elimination stereotyping women as belonging to the kitchen or just being housewives. Therefore, although there is still work that needs to be done in order to promote the presence of females in the international platform, feminism has experienced success in various areas.
Every human being has a right to get involved in the issues that affect him or her. In the past, women have been marginalised and their contribution in the international relations has been omitted. However, feminism has played a significant role in the promotion of gender equality in the international platform, as well as the recognition of the female contribution. For instance, the majority of people have recognised as war veterans are men. The recognition omits the contribution made by women as caregivers, wives, and mothers. The feminists have been successful in highlighting the plight of females and the importance of their involvement. For instance, feminists argue that when women being the victims getting involved in international relations. They shall offer a new perspective to an issue, which will lead to their empowerment. Success has been witnessed in the increased participation of women in public positions and less dependence on men.