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Selina Pascale

Selina Pascale


Total Article : 213

About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!

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Rediscovering the Role of Women in IR Theory

Rediscovering the Role of Women in IR Theory

A multitude of issues are raised by feminism in an attempt to bring women under political limelight in the same manner as men. All the highly complex and multifaceted issues which cater to feminist theory relate back to the pursuit of power - which is intertwined with political agenda setting that determines which issues are salient. Power has been best described by Robert Dahl as ‘the ability of A to get B to do something he or she would otherwise not do’. An issue raised by feminists is that, when discussing power in IR, women are completely marginalised from decision making. Consequentially, feminist issues are seldom on the political agenda and power-politics remains a masculine world. Feminist Ann Tickner argues that the realist understanding of power is androcentric and that IR provides a ‘partial account of world politics, because its conceptualisation of power depends upon the exclusive agency of rational men’. This power to devise the political agenda with the exclusion of women – which leads to an exclusively masculine realm of IR - entails strong critiques of the core theoretical discussions of traditional IR theory that involve political economy, history, the concept of war and national security amongst an array of other subtopics.


By concentrating on the gender-blind nature of discourses related to power, feminists can alter the very foundations of IR theory. In fact, the international realm continuously forgets about the impact war, for example, has on women. In the midst of heated discussions on strategic warfare, it is customary to focus on the use of weapons, technology and the conditions of soldiers. It is not as widely acknowledged, however, that in modern conflict the majority of victims are civilians, not soldiers, and are primarily women and children. Political scientist Jean Bethke Elshtain (1987) provides perhaps one of the earliest analyses of gender in warfare in her book Women and War. Through a mixture of personal experiences and historical accounts of gender division, Elshtain explores the role of women in conflict from the standpoint of America’s societal vision of gender stereotypes; therefore, women are perceived as beautiful souls, the female non-combatants, whereas men are just warriors, the glorified fighters.


Amongst the economic issues feminists cater to are equal pay and occupational segregation. In 2012 women still only owned 1% of the world’s property (The World Bank 2012) and women are still continuously excluded from the sphere of economics. The correlation between economic exclusion and international relations can also be seen theoretically by a revision of feminist theory in economics books. In fact, on an academic level, core economic scholarly books lack an in-depth analysis of feminist claims.  Cohen’s International Political Economy, for example, only mentions feminism once, in the same area located to critical thought and ‘other schools of radical thought’ (Cohen 2008, 62).  Another prominent piece of literature, Global Political Economy edited by Ravenhill (2008), mentions feminism in one of the chapter titles – a slight improvement – yet, feminist political economy is designated to a textbox. Although more recent economic books are providing greater space for feminist thought, it appears that academics are separating feminist theory from economics just as it is separated from IR. Women are excluded from IR in so many ways, can you think of any others? If so comment below!



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