Security Studies and the Marginalisation of Women and Gender Structures

James Chisem | e-International Relations | May 2011


In her seminal 1987 text, Bananas, Beaches and Bases, Cynthia Enloe directs the reader's attention to the realm of international politics and asks the question "where are the women?". One might reasonably be expected to answer - they are everywhere. From the political economy, in which women comprise 80% of the global factory workforce and unpaid female domestic labour is estimated to contribute up to 35% of global

GDP, to modern warfare, a theatre wherein the majority of victims are women, gender is centrally implicated in the machinations of the international system. The emergence of critical theory and the encroachment of feminist scholarship into the mainstream International Relations (IR) discourse, along with the ratification of resolution 1325 by the United Nations Security Council in 2000, have gone some way toward highlighting the position of women within the international security framework. And yet, the theoretical perspectives which dominate security studies, specifically realism and neo-realism, have been accused of approaching the study of IR "through a male eye and apprehended by a male sensibility", neglecting the gender variable. Indeed, out of five thousand articles in the top five security journals, fewer than forty addressed gender issues as an independent theme.

It is the opinion of the author that traditional approaches to security have underestimated, or ignored the role played by gender in international relations. As a result, the existence of gender based hierarchies has been obscured, marginalising the unique security concerns of women.

The narrative will be divided into two constituent parts. Firstly, it will examine the gendered dimensions of states and the state system relating this to the exclusion of women from the domestic and international security discourse. Section two will look at the way in which this impacts on women's experience of security and insecurity, with reference in particular to violence and conflict.

Read the full article here.

Image source: jrseles


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