Breaking with the powerful bond among manly men, states and war, feminist theories of international relations have proliferated since the early 1990s. These theories have introduced gender as a relevant empirical category and analytical tool for understanding global power relations as well as a normative position from which to construct alternative world orders. the political rupture created by the magnitude and significance of the events of September 11, 2001 has given new impetus to feminist perspectives on international relations. With their focus on non-state actors, marginalized peoples and alternative conceptualizations of power, feminist perspectives bring fresh thinking and action in the post-9/11 decentred and uncertain world. It differentiates three overlapping forms of feminist International Relations that represent a useful heuristic for discussing the varied contributions to the field. These are: (1) empirical feminism, that focuses on women and/or explores gender as an empirical dimension of international relations; (2) analytical feminism, that uses gender as a theoretical category to reveal the gender bias of International Relations concepts and explain constitutive aspects of international relations; and (3) normative feminism, that reflects on the process of theorizing as part of a normative agenda for social and political change. These forms do not prefigure or suggest any particular feminist epistemology.
Focusing on politics at the margins dispels the assumption that power is what comes out of the barrel of a gun or ensues from the declarations of world leaders. Indeed, feminist efforts to reinterpret power suggest that International Relations scholars have underestimated the pervasiveness of power and precisely what it takes, at every level and every day, to reproduce a grossly uneven and hierarchical world order (Enloe 1997). A first generation of feminist International Relations in the late 1980s sought to challenge the conventional ontological and epistemological focus of the field by engaging in what was called the ‘third debate’ among positivist and post-positivist. In this debate, feminist scholars contested the exclusionary, state-centric and positivist nature of the discipline primarily at a meta-theoretical level. Often implicit in their concern with gender relations was the assumption of a feminist standpoint epistemology. Such a standpoint maintains that women’s lives on the margins of world politics afford us a more critical and comprehensive understanding of international relations than the objectivist view of the realist theorist or foreign policy lens of the statesman since they are less complicit with and/or blinded by existing institutions and elite power (Keohane 1989a: 245; Sylvester 1994a: 13; see also Harding 1986; Tickner 1992; Zalewski 1993). A second generation of feminist research promises a new phase in the development of feminist International Relations. This emerging body of scholarship seeks to make gender a central analytic category in studies of foreign policy, security, global political economy through an exploration of particular historical and geographic contexts (Moon 1997; Chin 1998; Hooper 2000; Prugl 2000; True 2003; Whitworth 2004; Stern 2005).
Empirical feminism turns our attention to women and gender relations as empirical aspects of international relations. Feminist challenges to International Relations contend that women’s lives and experiences have been, and still are, often excluded from the study of international relations. This sexist exclusion has resulted in research which presents only a partial, masculine view in a field in which the dominant theories claim to explain the reality of world politics (Halliday 1988b). Since the 1990s, empirical feminist research has taken a variety of
methodological and substantive forms in International Relations. Studies under the rubric of ‘women in international development’ (WID), and more recently gender and development (GAD), have documented how male bias in the development process has led to poor implementation of projects and unsatisfactory policy outcomes in terms of eradicating poverty and empowering communities (Newland 1988; Goetz 1991; Kardam 1991; Kabeer 1994; Rathergeber 1995).
Analytical feminism deconstructs the theoretical framework of International Relations, revealing the gender bias that pervades key concepts and inhibits an accurate and comprehensive understanding of international relations. The feminist concept of gender refers to the asymmetrical social constructs of masculinity and femininity as opposed to ostensibly ‘biological’ male–female differences (although feminist postmodernists contend that both sex and gender are socially constructed categories, see Butler 1990; Gatens 1991). International Relations’ key concepts are neither natural nor genderneutral: they are derived from a social and political context where masculine hegemony has been institutionalized. Feminist scholars argue that notions of power, sovereignty, autonomy, anarchy, security and the levels of analysis typology in International Relations are inseparable from the gender division of public and private spheres institutionalized within and across states.
Normative feminism reflects on the process of International Relations theorizing as part of a normative agenda for global change. ‘All forms of feminist theorising are normative, in the sense that they help us to question certain meanings and interpretations in IR theory’ (Sylvester 2002: 248). Feminists are self-consciously explicit about the position from which they are theorizing, how they enter the International Relations field and go about their research. They view their social and political context and subjectivity as part of theoretical explanation. Empirical feminism and gender analysis are important contributions, but they are only starting points for feminist goals of transforming global social hierarchies (Persram 1994; Ship 1994; Hutchings 2000; Robinson forthcoming). Feminist theorists bring the insights of feminist praxis – for instance, care ethics and Third World women’s social activism – to bear on debates about international ethics, humanitarian aid and intervention and human rights instruments (Cochran 1999; Robinson 1999; Hutchings 2000; Ackerly 2000).
The three forms of feminism (empirical feminism, analytical feminism and normative feminism) all suggest that the theory and practice of international relations has suffered from its neglect of feminist perspectives. Feminists argue that conventional International Relations theories distort our knowledge of both ‘relations’ and the ongoing transformations of the ‘international’. These International Relations theories overlook the political significance of gendered divisions of public and private institutionalized within and by the state and state-system and, as a result, ignore the political activities and activism of women: whether they are mobilizing for war, protesting state abrogation of their rights or organizing for the international recognition of women’s human rights. Moreover, the objectivist approach of much International Relations theory produces relatively superficial knowledge and tends to reproduce the dichotomies which have come to demarcate the field. These dichotomies are gendered: they define power as power-over ‘others’, autonomy as reaction rather than relational, international politics as the negation of domestic, ‘soft’ politics and the absence of women, and objectivity as the lack of (feminized) subjectivity.
In sum, approaches to international relations that fail to take gender seriously overlook critical aspects of world order and abandon a crucial opening for effecting change. Feminist International Relations contributes to expanding and strengthening existing theories and analyses including liberal, critical theory, postmodern, constructivist and green theories of international relations. For example, International Relations feminists advance constructivist International Relations approaches by uncovering the processes through which identities and interests, not merely of states but of key social constituencies, are shaped at the global level. Elisabeth Prugl (2000) exemplifies this feminist constructivist approach in her study of home-workers in the global political economy (Locher and Prugl 2001; Kardam 2004). Prugl (2000) shows how transnational rules and regimes of gender in international organizations such as the ILO and global solidarity networks have been powerful forces in determining the plight of these workers around the world.
Jacqui, True. 2005. ‘Feminism’ dalam Theories of International Relation. New York: Palgrave McMillan
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