Category: Gender

WPTPN: From the Stove to the Frontlines? Gender and Populism in Latin American and Western Europe

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Malliga  Och and Jennifer M. Piscopo. Dr. Och (on Twitter @malligao) is an Assistant Professor in the Global Studies and Languages Department at Idaho State University. Her research focus on women’s political representation in conservative parties and she is the co-editor with Shauna Shames of The Right Women. Republican Activists, Candidates, and Legislators (forthcoming Praeger Press, 2017).  Dr. Piscopo (on Twitter@Jennpiscopo) is Assistant Professor of Politics at Occidental College and a 2016-2017 Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. Her research on women, representation, and gender quotas has appeared in numerous academic journals. 

Donald Trump swaggered along the U.S. campaign trail, a hyper-masculine figure whose braggadocio extended to celebrating sexual assault. In France, Marine le Pen clothes anti-Muslim rhetoric in language about protecting women’s equality, rights, and bodily freedom. The majority of white women and men voted for Trump, but with a notable gender gap of 53 and 63 percent respectively. By contrast, the gender gap for populist support is narrowing in France, with Le Pen gaining support among female voters (Mayer 2013, 172). Populist movements have differentially affected men and women in their roles as party leaders, parliamentary candidates, and voters, but these outcomes are not consistent across regions or cases (de Lange and Mügge 2015; Kampwirth 2010). Yet understanding the gendered dimensions of the populist resurgence is critical for explaining why and how these parties cement their appeal.

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Why Do People Buy #Pizzagate?

Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory started by alt-right Twitter which alleged that John Podesta‘s emails exposed some members of the Democratic party as being part of a DC pizzeria-based child-sex ring, has made its way into Russian social networks. Now some people are convinced of the existence of pedophile lobby that ‘rules’ the US, and believe that both ‘lamestream’ media and elites are trying to hush it up. As one Russian LiveJournal user puts it: its’ ‘American internet community versus pedophiles in politics’. Why do people believe that debunked conspiracy theory? Two reasons: the blood libel trope and a pattern of misinformation.

As children are viewed as a universal symbol of the future, the attack on them can be viewed as an existential threat to a nation. This is the way homophobic fears are stocked as well: in the US and most recently in Russia homosexuality was constantly discursively linked to pedophilia. This is the mechanism borne out of ‘blood libel’ cases, which were pretexts for organizing Jewish pogroms: the ‘killing of babies’ and the ‘use of their blood’ during Passover is a perfect way to incite hatred. Hillary ‘nasty woman’ Clinton is also present in the blood libel narrative.

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Empathy, Envy and Justice: The Real Trouble for Algorithm Bias

Rousseau once remarked that “It is, therefore, very certain that compassion is a natural sentiment, which, by moderating the activity of self-esteem in each individual, contributes to the mutual preservation of the whole species” (Discourses on Inequality).  Indeed, it is compassion, and not “reason” that keeps this frail species progressing.   Yet, this ability to be compassionate, which is by its very nature an other-regarding ability, is (ironically) the different side to the same coin: comparison.  Comparison, or perhaps “reflection on certain relations” (e.g. small/big; hard/soft; fast/slow; scared/bold), also has the different and degenerative features of pride and envy.  These twin vices, for Rousseau, are the root of much of the evils in this world.  They are tempered by compassion, but they engender the greatest forms of inequality and injustice in this world.

Rousseau’s insights ought to ring true in our ears today, particularly as we attempt to create artificial intelligences to overtake or mediate many of our social relations.  Recent attention given to “algorithm bias,” where the algorithm for a given task draws from either biased assumptions or biased training data yielding discriminatory results, I would argue is working the problem of reducing bias from the wrong direction.  Many, the White House included, are presently paying much attention about how to eliminate algorithmic bias, or in some instance to solve the “value alignment problem,” thereby indirectly eliminating it.   Why does this matter?  Allow me a brief technological interlude on machine learning and AI to illustrate why eliminating this bias (a la Rousseau) is impossible.

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Tweeted and Deleted by APSA: Gender and Race in the Academy

I’ve been wanting to write a Duck post about the experience of a woman with visible minority status in IR for quite some time now. I was waiting for the right moment.  So thanks to the American Political Science Association (APSA), the professional association for US-trained political scientists, the moment has come.

Yesterday morning, an email came from a friend with a screenshot.  The screenshot showed an attractive Asian woman in a frilly top who looks like she’s having a good time looking into the camera.  I was confused.  Then I read the blurb next to it: this was a promotion from PSNow, one of the official APSA dissemination bullhorns.  They were promoting my recent piece with Sarah Stroup in Perspectives on Politics on international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and authority in global politics.  Instead of contacting us to request a photo, or choosing a stock photo that reflects the subject of our article, APSA decided to accompany this promotion with a photo of a random Asian woman.

I was stunned.

So it’s pretty obvious to me why this is offensive, but let me spell it out.

  • What does the Getty Image “Portrait of a young woman smiling” have to do with INGOs? Or authority?  Or politics?
  • What happened to my co-author?
  • What kind of search terms were being used to even generate such a photo that APSA found worthy of posting not just on PSNow, but tweeting?
  • Has all of my work on INGOs boiled down to some irrelevant stock image?
  • Is it that hard to Google “NGO” for images related to the work being advertised?
  • Yea, “all Asians look alike,” but REALLY?!

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What Canada’s New ‘Pretty Boy’ Prime Minister Can Teach Us About Hegemonic Masculinity

Like most Canadian citizens, I was delighted to see the back end of our former Prime Minister Harper as he conceded defeat to the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau. Although I’ve felt slightly disconnected watching both the campaign and the reaction to Trudeau’s win from my home in Sydney, Australia, I’ve been fascinated by what arguably became one of the main campaign foci: Trudeau’s hair.  ‘Hair’ clearly stood in for much larger hang ups about Trudeau’s appearance, masculinity, sexuality, and life choices. Both the gleeful memes celebrating Canada’s ‘hot’ new Prime Minister (the National Post asked if Trudeau was ‘the sexiest politician in the world‘) and the sneering claims that being a drama teacher and the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau hardly qualify him to run the country (the ol’ ‘get a hair cut and get a real job‘ argument) seem to tell us more about hegemonic masculinity in the world of politics than anything else.

But first, in case you haven’t been paying close attention and you think Trudeau’s hair wasn’t a big campaign issue, here is a summary:
Arguably, hair-gate kicked into full gear when the Conservative Party started referencing Trudeau’s locks in their attack ads- they commented that Trudeau was ‘not ready to lead’, but added ‘nice hair though.’ The ‘nice hair though’ became somewhat iconic. In her excellent piece ‘The Feminizatin of Trudeau’, Winnipeg Free Press Editor Shannon Sampert summarized: “the Conservatives tend to belittle his leadership skills by focusing on his hair. It’s become a common insult. Trudeau has nice hair, but no policy.” In 2012 the Toronto Sun reaffirmed this argument with the headline:  “Justin Trudeau: Great hair but no credentials.”

But the Conservatives and Canadians have not been the only hair-obsessed. The international reaction to Trudea as a candidate and as the future PM has largely been framed around his hair. The Economist called him the “hair apparent“, the UK’s Mirror noted his “luscious brown hair, spellbinding eyes” and “chiseled physique,” Spain’s El Mundo called Trudeau Canada’s “pretty boy,” and the The Huffington Post has a gallery with differently named versions of Trudeau’s iconic locks. By the end of the campaign, each Canadian candidate’s hair had its own (unofficial) Twitter account, and Mulcair’s beard had two: @trudeaushair, @graybouffant (for Harper), @MulcairBeard and @Mulcairsbeard. Continue reading

Civilian? Not an Insult

Over the past week, in reaction to the reports about the gender-integrated Marine study, I have seen plenty of pushback mostly against women who tweet but also some male tweeps that basically say: “civ? Of course.”  Which basically says that if you are civilian, you will have dumb opinions about the military.  Kind of like today’s NYPD message to the media that they cannot understand policing because they are not police.

This is so wrong in so many ways.  I will focus on the military side of things, but the problem is the same for police and other folks who think that only members of the particular profession can understand their profession:

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Continuing the “all-male” theme at EISA

It was with a distinct sinking feeling yesterday that I learnt that conference rooms for the EISA’s upcoming 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations have been renamed after eminent theorists of European origin and that there is not a single woman amongst those selected to be honored.

A close reading of the conference program brought together the following list of names, which was posted on the Congrats, you have an all-male panel Tumblr:

EISA all male rooms

To add insult to injury, some conference rooms have retained their usual Italian names, so it’s not even as though there wasn’t space to include some female theorists, even if one wished to stick solely to Europeans on the grounds that it’s a European association and  conference (and I’d note that this reasoning is far from unproblematic both in terms of defining “Europe” and deliberately excluding “non-European” theorists from a discipline that purports to be “international”).

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Foreign Affairs Iran Deal Poll – Congrats You Have Nearly an All Male Panel

It looks like the Obama administration has secured 42 votes for the Iran deal in the Senate, enough to filibuster even a vote, and despite today’s machinations in the House, the Iran Deal will likely go through. Indeed, when Republicans agreed back in May to a review process that would require a super-majority in both chambers to overturn the deal, the die was already somewhat cast.  Still, I’m thrilled that supporters have been able to hold the line in the face of a multi-million dollar campaign against the agreement. In the final days, we’re seeing a surge in efforts to get views on the table from supporters and opponents.

In a stock-taking exercise, Foreign Affairs released the results ($) of a survey of a “broad pool of experts” about whether Congress should approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Deal for short. 32 of the 52 experts — 62% – answered  “strongly agree” in support of Iran Deal. Adding in the “agree,” support rises to 72%.

The virtue of this survey is that individual respondents are on the record about where they stand. For many of them, there is a bit of explanatory text about their reasons. As the graphic above shows, they are asked to rate their level of support on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strong disagree.” They were asked to provide their confidence in their assessment on a 10 point scale, which, as my collaborator Craig Kafura noted, showed an extraordinarily high level of confidence in their judgments.

The public stance of individual respondents is important. Other magazine elite surveys will reveal who was surveyed but not their answers to particular questions so you can’t create a dataset to examine crosstabs between salient demographic characteristics and survey answers. Even anonymized versions of answers are almost never provided so you can read the write-up but not much more; the recent release of the revised Chicago Council elite surveys in which I participated is an exception.

Still, some of the attributes of this particular survey raise important questions about representativeness and who is actually being surveyed. I took the liberty of coding all the respondents’ responses, their gender, citizenship (to the extent this was easy to find), and I made some preliminary efforts to code partisanship (a Google doc is here, and if useful, I could crowd-source the partisanship field).

Congrats – You Have an (Almost) All Male Panel

Only 3 of the 52 — roughly 6% — respondents are women (including former head of the Carnegie Endowment Jessica Mathews, European-based Iran analyst Ellie Geranmayeh, and CNAS’ Elizabeth Rosenberg). Now, I know that international security and nuclear policy are male-dominated areas, but there were some obvious omissions of women expert in this arena, Cheryl Rofer and Kori Schake for starters, who could have been surveyed. To be fair, Foreign Affairs might have asked them or other women to participate and just had to go to press with whoever responded. That said, some of my concerns about the pool go beyond gender and raise other questions about how to draw inferences from surveys of elites in general and samples of convenience in particular. [Addendum: Foreign Affairs reached out to comment that the low response rates among women accounts for the final tally. They wrote: “In fact, we asked nearly a dozen women to participate in that survey–mostly actual Iran experts, fwiw–but only three of them responded.” The wider survey included people with deep expertise in nonproliferation or Iran, with a few prominent general figures of authority.] Continue reading

New Evidence on Gender Bias in IR Syllabi

The following is a guest post by Jeff Colgan, Richard Holbrooke Assistant Professor at Brown University, and is @JeffDColgan on Twitter.

It’s that time of year again, when professors are designing syllabi as fast as they can with deliberation and care. Recently I analyzed IR syllabi for PhD students. The data suggest a gender bias that instructors could easily correct.

The case that gender diversity is good for IR and political science has been made elsewhere, repeatedly and persuasively. According to APSA, women are 42 percent of graduate students in political science (in the US), but only 24 percent of full-time professors. If we assume that part of what it means to encourage female students to pursue academia in IR involves showing them examples of great research by women, early and often, then we ought to pay attention to our syllabi.

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What’s an expert?

Yesterday’s post Confidence and Gender in International Relations got me thinking. The post draws on the excellent survey data from the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project at William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations and notes that in the snap polls conducted by the project over the last year, women international relations scholars choose the response “I don’t know” more often than their male counterparts. They conclude that structural factors such as socialization might explain this “confidence gap” between female and male respondents who possess similar levels of knowledge and expertise.

Full disclosure: I have dutifully completed several TRIP snap polls, I have often selected “I don’t know” and I am a woman. I do not lack confidence in my expertise, but I do know the limits of it, which is why I respond, “I don’t know” when asked about topics outside my realm of expertise. Continue reading

Confidence and Gender in International Relations

The following is a guest post by Rachel Merriman-Goldring, Susan Nelson, Hannah S. Petrie at William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations.

For decades, survey research has suggested that women lack confidence in their answers, responding ‘don’t know’ or ‘maybe’ at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Initially, this trend on political surveys was attributed to topic-specific political knowledge gaps between men and women.

 

However, recent research, including a study on the confidence gap between male and female economists, suggests that, while background knowledge matters, other structural factors, including gender-differentiated socialization, may contribute to women’s tendency to select ‘don’t know.’

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Money Talks: Giving Women a Voice on U.S. Currency

The grassroots advocacy campaign, Women on 20s, had a simple request: put a woman on the $20 bill by 2020 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. Starting with a list of 15 women candidates, on-line voters cast an electronic ballot in the primary round and chose four finalists: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Wilma Mankiller. One month later, voters elected Harriet Tubman as their choice for the portrait on the twenty dollar bill. As the final votes were pouring in, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced S.925 Women on the Twenty Act, which is currently being considered by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The momentum of the campaign came to a halt when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that a woman would appear on the redesigned $10 bill, but she would share the honor with Alexander Hamilton who is currently on the bill. Continue reading

Sexism in Political Science, part II: The Very Least One Can Do

Last night, I posted this about sexism in political science.  It has gotten a pretty strong response getting 10x as many hits (so far) as my usual post, lots of retweets by female political scientists, and some sharing on facebook.  The sharing on facebook came with props as my female political science friends were happy to see a senior male political scientist talk bluntly about this.  

These props/kudos made me feel squishy because it is not that hard to blog and notice on occasion that there is sexism in the poli sci business (as it is everywhere as one FB friend noted).  My female friends and former students (who I also consider to be friends) have put up with all kinds of crap over the years.  Indeed, the conversations sparked by last night’s post as revealed a bit more of that stuff.  

So, besides from regularly posting about this stuff, which is pretty much the definition of the least one can do (unless one is doing nothing at all), what can a male political scientist do? 

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Sexism in Political Science

There is a discussion on PSR about sexism in political science, with most folks concurring that it is still an issue with some deniers pointing out that support groups for women are exclusive, too.  Um, yeah.  How to address such discussions?  I go to my standard operating procedure: what have I seen over the years?  The answer: a heap of sexism which has not gone away.

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There is No Lone Wolf Terrorism: but there is anxiety about brown men, loneliness, and mental illness


There’s something about ‘lone wolf terrorism’ debates that stinks. I can’t quite find a singular source of the smell, but after further investigation, it seems the relatively recent surge in the use of  the category ‘lone wolf’ to describe individual acts of political violence draws on extremely rank racist, sexist, and alarmist logic. When you compare the sparse literature on lone wolf terrorism and the slough of articles on the topic, one thing is clear: definitions of lone wolf terrorism are “fuzzy”, disparate, and often rely on contradiction and assumptions about mental health and motivation. The defining feature of the lone wolf terrorist is his or her (actually it is almost always a male) lack of wolf pack (I can’t get past the Hangover reference either, but stay with me). They are loners, committing political violence. Below, I raise several questions about the literature and discussion on lone wolf terrorism in the hopes of inviting dialogue and debate about why this term has such political purchase.

1. Is it possible that ‘lone wolves’ are neither lone nor wolves? The problems with definition:
The US Government defines terrorism as “premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” The overarching argument is lone wolf terrorism differs from ‘regular’ terrorism in that it is orchestrated by an individual. Yet the existing definition of terrorism seems to include agents as well as groups. So what purpose does ‘lone wolf’ serve? If ‘lone wolves’ are defined as acting politically, doesn’t this assume- by definition- the affiliation, or at least association, with a larger group? Recent research into 119 lone-actor terrorists in the United States and Europe, concluded that the individuals clearly expressed their beliefs and grievances to others, primarily family, friends, or an online community. This seems to indicate that ‘lone wolves’ aren’t that lonely. Continue reading

Gender in IR, Now at the Cutting Edge

[Note: The following is a guest post by Prof. Dan Reiter of Emory University]

Joshua Goldstein wrote in the preface to his award-winning, 2001 book War and Gender that while finishing his book he “discovered a list of unfinished research projects, which I had made fifteen years ago at the end of graduate school. About ten lines down is ‘gender and war,’ with the notation ‘most interesting of all; will ruin career—wait until tenure.’” This was probably not a completely inaccurate assessment, at the time. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the study of gender and international relations was viewed by many as outside the mainstream of IR, lending itself only to post-modern and critical methods of inquiry. Fortunately, during this period scholars such as Cynthia Enloe, Ann Tickner, Spike Peterson, and others sloughed off this marginalization, producing path-breaking work on gender and IR, asking new questions, posing new theoretical answers, and crafting entirely new agendas.

The status of the study of gender and IR could not be more different today than what it was when Goldstein wrote those words in the mid-1980s, as I describe in a forthcoming Journal of Conflict Resolution article. Continue reading

Women’s Integration into Combat Stuck in a Physical Stalemate

Last week 60 Minutes ran a feature called Women in Combat: Cracking the Last All-Male Bastion of the US Military.  The segment, led by David Martin, focused on Marine Infantry Officer training. He finds that, although the Marines are required to integrate women as a result of the removal of the combat exclusion, no women have made it through the rigorous physical training requirements. This re-raises key questions around women in combat:
*Do women have what it takes to serve in combat? and
*Should the military adjust its standards to accommodate women?
Physical standards are- by far- the greatest sticking point when it comes to debates on women in combat. Opponents of gender integration have long argued that the average physical differences between men and women are proof that women are inferior. They also argue that any adjustments in the current physical standards would be tantamount to ‘softening’ ‘diluting’ or weakening the standards and thereby reducing military effectiveness. Focusing on whether women can meet the current physical standards maintains a stalemate in terms of their full integration into the US military and limit the military’s ability to develop standards that reflect modern warfare. There are three reasons for this:

1. Physical standards are out of date and disconnected from the job.
2. Physical standards are not as objective as we think.
3. There are no exclusive combat roles, and therefore no need for exclusive combat physical standards. Let me explain: Continue reading

A Hip-Hop Artist in Burkina Faso Fights Female Genital Mutilation

Each time her sex is butchered with the pretext of purity…three million of our sisters face this violence each year…

In his new song “Tomber la Lame” or “Drop the Blade,” Burkina Faso hip-hop artist Smockey has an amazing call to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure that remains widespread in parts of Africa and the Middle East that removes a piece of a girl’s genitals with a knife so that she won’t experience sexual pleasure as an adult and, so the logic goes, be less likely to stray from her husband. It’s a horrifying practice, but one that foreign groups fought with limited success until local change agents and organizations like Senegal’s Tostan took up the mantle.

Smockey is a middle-aged married guy so having a man advocate an end to FGM makes for an interesting messenger. He himself argues in this PRI interview that woman are the main bearers of the tradition, which I’m not sure is exactly true or indeed an artifact of him speaking in his non-native tongue.

One of the most important observations of the transnational social movements literature over the past couple of decades is the importance of locally resonant messages and messengers (here Amitav Acharya’s 2004 IO piece Whose Norms Matter is an exemplar). Having foreign actors champion norms is often a recipe for a local backlash, though certainly history is rife with foreign actors trying to change local beliefs, whether it be through proselytizing religion or related campaigns to stop cultural practices like female footbinding (documented in Keck and Sikkink’s masterful Activists Beyond Borders).

Thus, the success of Tostan, documented in Molly Melching’s autobiography, and future success of efforts like Smockey’s is a function of local actors with deep roots in their communities persuading their peers to change practices and outside actors, where they are involved in such struggles for cultural change, finding local interlocutors to carry the message forward.

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