Tag: feminism (page 2 of 4)

Gang Rape and “Peaceful Death”

The world has payed attention to the gang-rape of a young woman (her name has not been made widely public) in Delhi and her struggle to survive over the last few weeks. The reports of the brutal incident on December 16th broke through the national news of India and set waves of reports through the rest of the world. The sheer violence, randomness, and horror of it seemed to fixate the globe.

Now, as we learn that this woman’s struggle to survive after multiple surgeries, cardiac arrest, and evidence of brain damage has ended, there seems to be an attempt to shift this story back into familiar categories of domestic sexual violence and out of the political sphere. Reports on the death of this woman consistently re-report the hospital’s claim that she ‘died peacefully.’ This may seem like a side note to the entire story, yet these words hold significant political value and raises some important questions, including:

Does the focus on her ‘peaceful’ death detract from the violent nature of her attack and her exhausting struggle for life over the last 2 weeks?

Continue reading

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James Bond, Ambiguously Gay Villains and Masculinity

The James Bond movies aren’t the first place most would look to learn about masculinity; it’s an action movie, the special effects are always amazing, and most of us just leave the gender analysis at home…BUT just humor me for one scene. In my view the best part of an otherwise mediocre movie (sorry super-Bond fans!) is when Bond is confronted by the ultimate villain, Silver (played spectacularly by Javier Bardem). Silver is a unique antihero, he meditates, he often speaks in a high pitch voice, he giggles, in many ways he is- well- effeminate. In his intro scene he snuggles up to a handcuffed Bond, fondling his chest and stroking his leg, challenging him to recall if his training has taught him to deal with this type of advance. He teases Bond that “there’s a first time for everything.”

For an action movie, this type of homo-erotic interaction seems rare. The viewers are held in suspense wondering what to think of the villain and how the hero character will handle this apparent challenge to his masculinity. Of course, Bond rises to the occasion (unfortunately there is no hero-villain love scene, maybe we’re just not there yet). Bond retorts back, “what makes you think this is my first time.” In that moment, Silver is taken aback and the audience seems to relax. By keeping his cool and lobbing the advance back to the villain, Bond’s masculinity seems to be not only reaffirmed, but in some ways enhanced. How did a male on male flirtation lead to masculine enhancement for the characters?  Continue reading

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War Rape is Not Declining

The Human Security Report Project (HSR) recently released their 2012 Report. The first chapter on wartime sexual violence makes sweeping conclusions and provocative claims about the nature and rates of sexual violence. The overarching message, and certainly the one picked up by the media is that wartime sexual violence is on the decline. Before taking a closer look at the 5 Myths about sexual violence that HSR seeks to dispel, it is important to put this report in a bit of context.

In case you aren’t familiar with HSR, they have made a name out of making counter-factual hypotheses and offering provocative- if not always accurate- headlines. They revived the ‘war is declining’ headline in 2005- over a decade after most political scientists widely acknowledged that inter-state war was indeed declining (and being replaced with other forms of conflict and political violence). What’s precious about HSR is that their depiction of successful peacekeeping, a global decline in violence, and impending peace in international relations ignores the increase in intra-state violence, political violence, and terrorist activities, as well as research pointing to conflict and violence as the primary influence behind global poverty and evidence that the annual percentage of civilian fatalities perpetrated by non-state actors is on clear, upward trend. Most concerning is that HSR have used the tenuous ‘war decline’ hypothesis as the foundation for numerous other tenuous claims, including that the number of child soldiers has decreased and, now, that sexual violence is decreasing. Continue reading

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Is Feminism Back in Vogue?

SURVEY: Ladies: Do you like having the option of wearing pants, do you enjoy taking time off after giving birth and do you like that people don’t freak out if you have to breast feed in public, is voting something you’re glad you can do- what about getting a university education, short hair, tampons, female doctors, bras that don’t torture, or working in fields like engineering?

Gentlemen: Is it nice to know that the women you may date will likely have an education, opinions, and that if you choose to get married you’re not going to be expected to be the sole family earner? Do you like not getting belittled for wanting to take on an active parenting role? 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Do you like the fact that premarital sex was an option, that birth control meant that your first experience of pre-marital sex didn’t make you a parent? Isn’t it nice that rape (against men and women) within and outside of marriage is a crime?

If you answered yes to any of these (of course there are many more non-heteronormative possibilities), you might be a feminist. Gasp!
According to some, feminism died in the early 1980s. You know, when we achieved equality…

Even fashion weirdo public intellectual? Donatella Versace declared that “feminism is dead in the world, it comes from another era.” She should know, she basically replaced her face over the last few years and works for an industry that established a 12 year old boy body as the norm for women. Similarly, a year ago, French blogger Leona Lo announced that French Feminism was dead in light of the apathetic (and even sympathetic) reaction of women to the DSK affair.

But Donatella and French women might just be behind the times- after years (maybe even decades) of feminists having a tough time attracting new recruits, we may be experiencing a feminist renaissance of sorts.

I’m pinpointing the shift to international media frenzy caused by law student Sandra Fluke’s testimony regarding birth control and health care in the US. Women and men rallied behind her message, Rush Limaugh was professionally castrated (temporarily) for his sexist remarks towards Fluke, and an widespread debate under the heading of ‘the war on women‘ ensued.

Meanwhile, there have been several social media trends indicating that feminism is shedding its bra burning, man-hatting, plaid shirt stigmas:

  1. Feminist Ryan Gosling has become almost iconic (and new Ryan Gosling memes still show up across the waves regularly). This phenomena isn’t simple trite eye-candy, it helps displace old ideas of feminism as uptight, boring, unsexy, and female-only.
  2. The huge success of Catilin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman, and her ability to reach a new demographic with her humor and common sense. Her claim “Congratulations You’re a Feminist” in a New York Times interview has become somewhat of a rally cry for the new feminist resurgence. When asked how she responds to young women who are skeptical of the feminism title she responded: “What? You don’t want to vote? Do you want to be owned by your husband? Do you want your money from your job to go into his bank account? If you were raped, do you still want that to be a crime? Congratulations: you are a feminist.”
  3. The influx in blogs and websites re-defining feminism as modern, empowering, and an obvious title for women AND men. Jennifer Hansen gave a (somewhat problematic) list of “6 Reasons You Should Want to Date a Feminist” for any men who might be afraid to date a woman who likes equality. A recent Jezebel post entitled “What No one Else Will Tell You About Feminism” basically comes to one conclusion: you are a feminist, so get over it.

Hopefully feminism will stop being treated like high waisted pants — in one week and out when linked to Jessica Simpson. We all need to remember that we live out feminist politics and we enjoy the fruits of feminist movements’ labor every day- regardless of whether we feel too wimpy to accept the title.

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The Sexual Scandal Factor in Military Policy Making

Do scandals- particularly the kind that receive international attention- inspire progressive gender policies? While there is no conclusive research on this question, there are indicators that sexual violence scandals may be as important as public opinion or operational changes in influencing policy change in the military (perhaps more so).

My prediction– you can quote me on this- is that the current onslaught of sexual violence scandals in the US military will provide the tipping point needed to remove the combat exclusion. Do I think this is the answer to the problem of one in three female service members facing rape during their service? Absolutely not. Will it be a temporary distraction to a widespread systematic problem? Absolutely- just take a look at some earlier cases.  

There is almost no comparative research shedding light on why 14 of the world’s militaries have decided to remove the exclusion. BUT, if you look at each country case by case a startling pattern emerges: major sexual violence scandals rocked many of these countries in the period immediately preceding the removal of the exclusion. For example, New Zealand didn’t officially remove the exclusion until 2001, only a few years after a scathing investigation indicated that 42 sex charges had been laid with the navy within five years. Canada removed the combat exclusion as a result of a Human Rights Tribunal decision in 1989. However, leading up to the decision there were widespread accounts of sexual violence plaguing the services. This culminated in a late 1990s Maclean’s magazine detailed expose on sexual violence, including evidence of multiple rapes at gunpoint and widespread acceptance of sexual harassment. Australia is the latest country to remove the exclusion, making the decision only last September. This policy change came on the heals of the famous “skype scandal,” which saw an Australian Defence Force Academy cadet broadcast, without consent, consensual sex with a fellow cadet. This incident proved to be the tip of the iceberg as evidence of “decades of abuse” continue to come to light in recent reports.

How can one account for an international sex scandal as a contributing factor to major policy changes? What are the implications if some gender policy changes are “shush” policies designed to detract from institutional sexism?

Only time can answer these questions- and tell if my prediction is correct. But with new reports of sexual harassment and violence within the US military emerging almost daily- including headlines declaring “Rape on US bases left unchecked,” and “Why rapists in the military get away with it“- and with the documentary “The Invisible War” drawing international audience’s attention to the problem of rape within the forces, ignoring the problem is no longer an option. Removing the combat exclusion as a distraction from institutionalized and endemic sexual violence would be the right policy for the wrong reason. The problem does not call for adding more women, or allowing women to ‘do more’ within the forces; rather, it requires a change in sexist attitudes and behaviors. This will involve far work than a single policy change. 

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IR Course Uncovers the Romantic Comedy Foruma

My students and I have unlocked the key to writing a blockbuster romantic comedy script. When lecturing on masculinities in my Gender and Human Rights course I gave students the following challenge: think of an stereotypical, ideal-type character that symbolizes one form of hegemonic masculinity. Remembering that hegemonic masculinities are fluid ideal types that vary across history and context,  students came up with answers like “the macho rugby player,” “the workaholic CEO,” “the playboy” and “the quiet, rugged cowboy.” After getting them to list the qualities that define these masculine types, I asked them to imagine a scenario or event that would completely challenge, undermine, or seemingly contradict these masculine identities and to talk about how their immediate community and society might react. Well, the answers produced almost every romantic comedy script you can imagine.
Here are a few examples:
Scenario 1: Rugby player decides to be a stay at home dad
Result: fans and teammates are shocked, hilarity ensues. I think there is an entire sub-category of comedies dedicated to macho men trying to raise babies: “Three Men and a Baby,” “Kindergarten Cop,” Vin Deisel’s “The Babysitter”
Scenario 2: star athlete reveals a secret love of ballet/opera etc, or, more specifically, hockey player reveals a secret love of figure skating
Result: his mates initially ostracize him but end up being impressed with is skills. This is loosely the real plot line of “The Cutting Edge”, a cheesy 90s romantic comedy.
Scenario 3: playboy falls in love
Result: “Crazy, Stupid Love”and a million other romantic comedies premised on the macho main character ‘softening’ as his goofy sidekick ‘hardens’ up- the result is that both find true love.
Scenario 4: Rugged cowboy comes out of the closet
Result: you see where I’m going here.

So what’s the take home message? Romantic comedies could not exist without very specific and stereotypical ideas about masculinity (and femininity). We tend to over-examine the representation of women in popular culture (for good reason) but are less apt at looking at how the construction and unraveling of masculinity is key to almost any Rom Com script. Never mind the fact that there is almost always a great example of complicit masculinity- those characters that do not fit the stereotype of hegemonic masculinity but who benefit from the power structures associated with the identity. Think “Pretty Woman”, where a hardened CEO softens under the spell of employee while his jerk of a partner grapples with the situation. Go on, think of your favorite Rom Coms and spot the hegemonic masculinity/complicit masculinity at play. Have fun.

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Let’s (Keep) Talking About Sex

Foreign Policy just published its latest issue online. The letters section includes a response that expands on my earlier blog post calling the recent “Sex” issue a Teen Magazine. For those interested in reading further, my letter points FP editors to a wider range of scholarship and contributors they might have considered and challenges them to reconsider gender as only a ‘special issue:’
“Women are half the population (are we still having this discussion?), and norms associated with gender and identity affect everyone. So forget the special issues. Instead, start publishing more articles that focus on gender and pay more attention to the excellent research on gender, feminism, and sex that is happening all around you. Your readers will thank you.”
This echos Charli Carpenter’s excellent post on the issue, which included a dos and don’t list for anyone considering a gender/sex/sexuality issue, and reminded the editors of FP that “you can’t just assert that “sex is the missing part of the equation” and that this works “to shore up the abusers and perpetuate the marginalization of half of humanity” and then tell us that besides “this one issue” (which by the way mostly focuses on sexuality, not on women’s issues or gender relations broadly) you’ve done your due diligence…”

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International Women’s Day: Cupcakes and Hateraid

I did not make these to destroy feminism.

Duck readers, I have a confession. I bake cupcakes. Thousands of them. I love doing it, I love icing them, I love decorating them and I really like eating them.

This is not something that I would typically share with a blog on international politics. Normally I write about things that blow up or try to calmly argue that twitter is not going to stop a war lord. But you see I am compelled. I am compelled to write in defence of cupcakes for International Women’s day.

Apparently some people think my love of cupcakes makes me a bad feminist: real feminists hate cupcakes:

Cupcakes are just so twee-ly, coyly, ‘ooh no I really shouldn’t’-ly, pink and fluffily, everything that I think feminism is not. It’s feminism-lite, feminism as consumption and ‘me time’ (grr), rather than feminism as power and politics and equal pay.

You see, this “Bun fetish deals a blow to feminism”:

Because these cupcakes – mark my words, feminists – these trendy little cupcakes are the thin end of the wedge. It will start with cupcakes and it will end in vaginoplasty.

And so – maybe you thought the ideological battle was between men and women. Or even liberal feminists and radical feminists. You’re wrong. The real debate has moved to Cupcake Feminism.

This move is not deliberate – probably not even conscious. But the pop-culture image of feminism today – as perpetuated at Ladyfests, in BUST magazine and its Craftaculars, on so-called ‘ladyblogs’ and at freshers’ fairs – is ostensibly the direct opposite of the Hairy Dyke. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call her the cupcake feminist….
Twee and retro have been seeping into feminism for a couple decades now, gaining potency. It’s all about cute dresses, felten rosettes from Etsy, knitting, kittens, vintage lamps shaped like owls, Lesley Gore. And yes – a lot of cupcakes.

Another problem with this trend towards the high-femme is that we inadvertently court the enemy. We inadvertently justify the vilification of the Hairy Dyke image, as if we were ashamed of it all along. Why are ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, ‘gay’ or ‘never-been-fucked’ still the first insults sent whistling towards the trench? What is their supposed import? To cry ‘We’re not all like that!’ only lends power. Some of us are fat/ugly/gay, some of us aren’t. So? Really, though, so what?
Mainstream society only finds cupcake feminism more palatable because it can lick off the icing and toss the rest.

These chickies want equal rights, darn it!

Look, I take these points seriously. Feminists who fought for the right to have equal pay, birth control and the idea that I could basically become whatever I wanted are uncomfortable with women “cooing” over pink fluffy things.

Tend to your cupcake lady-garden!

But I’ve never seen a woman “coo” over a cupcake. (Seriously? Who does this? Who are these anti-cupcake feminists hanging out with?! Get better friends!) I’ve seen an entire Department of Politics and International Relations devour 30 of them in under an hour. But I’ve never seen a woman making an intelligent point suddenly suffer a cupcake-lobotomy because of some buttercream.

In fact, the very reason I like baking cupcakes is that they are cheap, easy as hell and don’t take very long to make. I can make an entire batch in under an hour. It’s a fantastic way for me to be creative and then write about targeted killing. Or mark essays. Or reference letters for many of my excellent female (and male) students applying to do masters programs in their chosen fields.

Surely, the worst kind of feminism is the one that tells feminists what to do in uncompromising terms. Or the kind that perpetuates a “Hairy Dyke” vs “Cupcake Feminist” false dichotomy. Cupcakes, cupcake bakers and cupcake aficionados are not secretly trying to make feminism more palatable. To see cupcakes this way is to unthinkingly buy into the gendering of an activity – or wholeheartedly buying into a male-created stereotype without thinking about how the humble cupcake might be an act of liberation for those who partake in the cake.

I don’t consider myself to be a “Cupcake Feminist” – I’m just a feminist who likes cupcakes. I believe in questioning gender barriers AND unnecessary carbohydrates. But most importantly, I’m tired of individuals explaining to me what I am, who I am and what I can or can’t do on baseless, dated logic – whether they are feminist cupcake haters or Rick Santorum.

So I am asking you, Duck readers, this International Women’s Day – please consider ways we can rethink the gerontocratic patriarchy – and have a cupcake. These activities are not mutually exclusive. Plus I spent, like, an hour on these things.

EDIT: And for the love of cupcakes, read this excellent post by Sarah Duff at Tangerine and Cinnamon

Come to the Feminist Side! 
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All Male Soldiers are Rapists and all Female Soldiers are Weak Homewreckers: Fox News on Female Soldiers


I mostly try to let Fox News polemics slide past me like water off a ducks back. It was easy to dismiss Liz Trotta’s first rant about the proposed changes to the US military, which will allow more women into front-line positions (and recognize those women who are already in these posts) but the second iteration, in which she clarifies her position (and clearly reads a diatribe from a prompter) demands another interruption to my blogging hiatus. We should start with a briefing of Liz-isms, including: “hardline feminist,” “feminist biology,” and “feminist creed.” Let’s see if these become clear after a quick view of her main arguments:
1. The women and combat issue has “never gotten a fair and open hearing” and has instead been established as a “fait accompli” by “hardline feminists.”
2. These same hardline feminists have helped to fabricate “silly and dishonest fairy tales about women’s heroism in war” to support their case for removing the exclusion.
3. Biology is destiny and that men are facing “feminist biology” and having to work with weaker women.
4. Testosterone rules in war and that in closed combat “basic instincts” take over, which put women at risk.
5. Signs of abuse within the military are all too often used to support the “never enough bureaucracy of women victims within the armed forces.”

Let’s just leave her rant about pregnant women and the desecration of the American family aside for now and work with these 5. First, the women and combat issue has received almost as many open hearings as Fox has failed Republican hosts. Liz herself cites the 1991 Senate hearing on the issue and fails to note that the policy changes she is talking about came as a result of a commission initiated by Congress. Second, Trotta cites the Jessica Lynch fabrication as evidence that women’s participation in combat more generally has been essentially ‘made up.’ The Lynch debacle is something to take note of precisely because the fairy tale it created was one of female victimhood and male heroism. Why turn to this example of military propaganda when there is other evidence of women’s participation in combat- for example, women make up 16% of the fatalities in the Iraq and Afghanistan missions and several have won medals for their contributions to combat missions in Iraq. Trotta is right on the third point in the sense that women do measure up differently than men in physical standards tests. But, as reported in a previous blog, the military chose to have sex-specific testing- not because it wanted women to have lower standards, but as part of a recognition of physical difference and the requirements needed to test job capacity rather than meet the male standard. And PS Liz, biology isn’t destiny because according to experts like Maia Goodell, over 5% of women are kicking men’s butts on physical standards tests. The AVERAGE women has less upper body strength and endurance than men, but the military often attracts and creates above average female candidates. The fourth and fifth points that Trotta makes are the most troubling. This ‘basic instinct’ argument is a thrown back to prehistoric analysis of men as incapable of controlling their drive and their genitalia. The argument is insulting to men and ignores subsequent evidence that women and men can work in close proximity without men feeling obliged to rape. As for the sexual violence statistics- surely this is evidence of a major gender problem within the military rather than proof that women need to be kept out.
How did we get here Liz (I feel like we’re on a first name basis since you call feminists whatever you want)? What is your objective? Who are these crazy hardline feminists you speak of and why are you so cynical and dismissive of a “feminist creed” focused on “the right to choose, rights over one’s body etc” as you put it? Why are you and other Republicans like Santorum making this about family values rather than seeing it as a sign the changing reality of the US military (and others)? Australia, Canada and 12 other countries have NO restrictions on women in combat roles and the family structure has not disappeared, men do not rape every female in their proximity, and feminists have not overrun the countries with their irrational cries for respect, rights, and recognition.

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Whitney Houston, Chris Brown, and Grammy Irony


image taken from Jezebel.com

This Sunday the 2012 Grammy Awards attracted more attention than normal due to the untimely passing of Whitney Houston on the eve of the awards show.
During the Sunday night event, numerous artists dedicated their award to Houston or mentioned her amazing talents and the loss her death will mean to the industry.
Interestingly, running counter to this somber dedication theme of the evening was a notable counter story: the ordained comeback of Chris Brown’s career. Chris Brown was made infamous in 2009 when he was charged with beating his then girlfriend Rihanna. Images of a brutalized Rihanna surfaced across the web and Brown’s skyrocketing career was effectively snuffed out with big names in the business like Jay-Z and Kanye refusing to associate with the artist.
But that was 2009 and this is 2012. Since the incident Brown has had a subsequent album that rose to the top of the charts. He’s back in favor with key R&B players, and is largely viewed as one of R&B’s sexiest males (Glamour.com nominated him the hottest male solo artist in 2010).
The 360 turn-around for Brown culminated at the Grammys on Sunday, where he performed alongside the other industry top-players, and won for best R&B album.
There are several troubling aspects of these counter-themes to Grammys.
First, that a man who was publicly associated with domestic abuse would be so generously celebrated at the same awards show that made tribute to Whitney Houston, a woman who herself suffered a public battle with domestic abuse from her former husband Bobby Brown.
Second, the music industry’s general amnesia or hypocritical acceptance of an artist it chose to shun just three years ago- what about all the hype in 2009 about sending a message about violence and respecting women?
Finally, what’s most concerning has been some of the unexpected responses to, and defense of, Chris Brown’s return- including a surge in women not only supporting him, but also sending tweets about their desire to ‘be beaten’ by him (see the following summary of tweets if you want to be completely dismayed).
What does this all mean about the state of domestic abuse generally, and the music industry and its promotion of womanizing, degrading, and violent lyrics and artists? Does no one connect Houston’s drug abuse to her experience of domestic abuse and her tumultuous private life? I don’t look to awards shows to stand as moral beacons, but I do think it is worth considering these counter Grammy narratives as a signal of the state of popular culture and gender relations at the moment.

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What ‘Hot’ Guys Can Tell us About Masculinities and Social Norms


My second option for a title was: ‘How to teach masculinities by looking at pictures of handsome men.’ (Note: this photo was sent to me as a humor-gift from one of my students…I didn’t do it myself!)

Feminist Ryan Gosling, a website featuring photos of actor Ryan Gosling posed next to intelligent quips about feminist politics is a perfect tool to use in a lecture on gender- no really. Why has this website gone viral (it was even re-posted on the Duck last week)? We know from movies and interviews that Gosling is buff (he sports a mean six pack in Crazy Stupid Love) and tough (he recently broke up a fight on the street in NYC)- classic ‘manly’ stuff. Bim Adewumni at the Guardian goes further in her answer to the question ‘Why do Feminists love Gosling?’ claiming “It goes beyond looks. He was raised by a single mother to whom he’s close, and he waxes lyrical about his female co-stars and ex-girlfriends. Guys love him too- he kissed Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn on the Cannes red carpet…Basically, he’s perfect.” Putting him next to feminist engagement is so unexpected that viewers seem to find it titillating and super-sexy (or so I’ve heard). Discussions of these types of gender contrasts, as well as broader debates of who is considered a male icon (sexy, ‘hot’) at particular moments in time can actually be very useful when trying to talk about different forms of masculinity and the social expectations placed on men and women in class.
Every year when I give my first lecture on gender I struggle to find new ways to make it resonate with students. Most men in the class assume that gender is ‘not about them’ or that they can’t say anything in a gender lecture without getting lashed from me or the female students. The female students- on the other hand- appear equally isolated in lectures on gender: they seem to feel like they are supposed to have an opinion or respond a certain way about gender.
Each year I start this lecture with a brainstorming session- getting students to list the qualities associated with both masculinity and femininity. Then we have a chat about what characteristics are valued in different roles or different elements of society. I often put a box around the set of characteristics- to illustrate gender stereotypes and social expectations- and have them talk about how individual men or women that have characteristics that are outside their sex-specific box are often seen as different- or even problematic. For example, a guy who is otherwise quite ‘manly’ but spends too much time on his hair and clothing choices is meterosexual (students still think this categorization is hilarious). If this same guy was less ‘manly’ (too sensitive, too weak etc) people would probably assume he was gay- he would be too far outside his gender box. We think Ryan Gosling with feminist quotes is sexy because it is just slightly outside of the box- the contrast is interesting and exciting. He seems even more manly because he can pose next to quotations about Enloe or Mohanty but still flex his arms and seem pensive.
While working in and out of these boxes can be a boon for your hotness factor, the problem is that these boxes cause all kinds of problems for individuals who don’t fit in them. Take gay male military service members. Somehow people can’t quite get their heads around a physically dominating man serving his country in one of the most hyper-masculine institutions in the world. The public- and policy makers- have often assumed that gay servicemen must be somehow weaker and less able to bond with their platoons- that they are a threat to the military somehow. Surely they can’t embody hypermasculinity AND want to have sex with men? It is a real head trip for people with strict gender boxes.
So next time you see something like the Feminist Ryan Gosling, or semi-pornographic photos of women in bikinis with AK47s, websites like Hot Navy Chicks (for real) that feature female service members that are also apparently sexy- remember that the reason why these are sexy and exciting is that they challenge the gender stereotypes we have engraved in our minds. Unfortunately, while Feminist Ryan Gosling and other gender contrasts may have elements of ‘inside/outside’ the box, they don’t exactly do much to erase our gender boundaries. That said, I think its safe to say that these photos will keep my students awake and engaged through my first gender lecture of the year next year…we can slowly work on getting rid of the boxes.

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Feminist Ryan Gosling

And now for something completely different… Feminist Ryan Gosling

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The Aussie Military Accepts GI Janes into the Ranks


While the US and UK continue to debate the ways that women impact cohesion and combat effectiveness, effective immediately, the Australian military will allow women to participate in combat roles. Australia joins a small group of countries that have removed combat restrictions for women, which includes Canada, New Zealand, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, France, Serbia, Israel and Switzerland.

Several individuals within the Australian Defence Forces I’ve spoken to over the last year have indicated that this policy change has been a long-time coming. Defence Minister Stephen Smith came out several months ago indicating his support for the policy change– even in the face of national concern and criticism. Despite warning signals from the department of defence, several national media outlets and opposition leaders are calling the policy a gimmick and an attempt to distract attention from recent sex scandals associated with the military, including the now infamous ‘skype scandal’ involving the un-consented broadcasting of a sexual encounter within a military academy. Neil James of the Australian Defence Association said that the policy ‘jumped the gun’ and warned that there could be more female casualties if women were allowed to serve in all combat roles.

One former naval officer told ABC radio that she didn’t expect many women to meet the physical requirements for some of these positions but that “it just has to be done, and I think Australia’s very brave to do this.”

The impact this policy change will have on the Australian military and its ability to recruit and retain women can only be measured in time. But if other military’s experiences of gender integration are any indication, this policy will largely be forgotten in a few months and women who meet the physical requirements will enter these roles with little fanfare. Perhaps this renewed debate will spark attention back in the US, where policy-makers and the US government still cling to weak arguments about the need to keep women out of combat.

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Post-revolution Walk of Shame in Libya: women asked to ‘go home’ in the afterglow of the revolution


The exciting and tumultuous eve of the revolution in Libya has achieved many of its objectives: the power balance has swung in the rebel’s favor, many national governments around the world now recognize the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate leadership, and most (though not all) of the country is under their control.

In many ways, this week can be described as ‘the morning after’ the revolution in Libya. Rebels drunk on gun battles are now waking up with adrenaline hang-overs to the realities of post-revolution Libya. There’s mortar rounds everywhere, hundreds of displaced Libyans are crashing indefinitely in Tripoli, and- perhaps worst of all- Cameron and Zarkosy showed up way too early, keen to help get the revolutionary council on its feet/ensure their financial interests.

In keeping with classic ‘morning after’ politics, men are waking up with only hazy memories of which women were at the party and what they did to contribute to the revolution. The TNC are trying to get their house in order for Cameron and Zarkosy as well as for the international media and for some reason these women just keep hanging around asking about what kind of future there is for them together, wanting some kind of commitment. The TNC’s responses so far reminds me of the scene in the movie Bridesmaids when Jon Hamm’s character turns to Kristen Wiig after a one night stand and says “I really want you to leave, but I don’t want to sound like a dick.”

Women supported the revolution in Libya in countless ways- from hiding and feeding rebel fighters to taking up arms themselves– yet now that the post-revolution glow has worn off, the TNC seems to be asking women to take their walk of shame. The party is over, and this morning, the Transitional National Council has just one woman. Will the rest of the women who sacrificed for the movement- taking up new roles, and fighting for political change- be asked to get out of the political bedroom? Can the TNC really expect to rebuild Libya and move forward without acknowledging the significance of women’s role in the movement?

Unfortunately, women’s walk of shame post-conflict or post-revolution is all too familiar. Women have struggled to maintain a significant voice in the new Egypt; similarly, women who fought as soldiers within rebel forces in countries like Sierra Leone and Angola often found themselves left out of post-conflict political agenda setting. For these women, as is likely for many Libyan women, the last thing desirable post-conflict/revolution is a ‘return to normal.’ For women, this means giving up any power gained and fitting themselves back into traditional patriarchal gender hierarchies. The TNC and the international community must stop the pattern of revolutionary one-night stands and work not only to acknowledge women’s role in the political movement, but also to secure political space for women as Libya faces a new day.

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Assessing the Arguments Against GI Jane II: Unpacking the Cohesion Hypothesis

In my post last week I talked about the three main arguments against removing the combat exclusion for women: the physical standards argument, the moral argument, and the cohesion hypothesis. My main point was that with increased research on physical standards, the intangibility of the moral argument, and increased evidence that women already are in combat, the cohesion hypothesis remains as the most significant set of arguments against GI Janes.

There are two main premises to the cohesion hypothesis: 1. cohesion is causally linked to group (in this case military unit) performance; 2. women negatively impact cohesion and thereby negatively impact troop effectiveness.

The trouble with these two premises is that they both have been largely discounted by researchers. In her 1998 article on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in International Security, Elizabeth Kier concludes that “the results from more than five decades of research in group dynamics, organizational behaviour, small-group research, sports psychology, social psychology, military history, and military sociology challenge the proposition that primary group unit cohesion enhances military performance.” Some research even indicates that high levels of cohesion can be detrimental to military performance as it results in conformity, groupthink, and a lack of adaptability. Many of the studies on cohesion and the military find that leadership and task- not social- cohesion have a greater impact on performance than social cohesion.

In terms of the second premise, as mentioned in the last post RAND’s major study on cohesion in 1997 found that women don’t impact group performance or military readiness. Subsequent research has reconfirmed this conclusion.

In addition to shaky (at best) premises, another major problem with the cohesion hypothesis is that it is never clear what exactly is meant by cohesion within the military context. In hopes of finding answers to this puzzle I went on a wild goose chase for cohesion clarity.



Sifting through research on social cohesion in the military I found myself sinking in masses of studies on social cohesion, citizenship and multiculturalism, group dynamics, as well as military studies on cohesion. It turns out that social cohesion is the meaningless catchphrase of the moment (I think it may have even eclipsed ’empowerment’ and ‘deliberative democracy’). Social cohesion has been used to explain the London riots, failed and successful immigration policies, winning sports team dynamics, as well as the need to keep women out of combat roles. Cohesion has also been defined as everything from: shared norms, ‘liking’ one another, commitment to a group, bonding, and trust. So how can one vague concept explain such wide-ranging and disparate policy decisions and social dynamics?

There is little substance to the cohesion hypothesis, almost no empirical evidence supporting it, and even the different forces with the US military seem to define and measure cohesion differently. I certainly don’t have the answer, but it does seem that in most contexts it is employed- especially in discussions of migrant integration, multiculturalism, and the combat exclusion- ‘cohesion’ is a red herring that distracts from attention to deeper issues of discrimination and cultural bias. In the case of the US military, cohesion is a smoke and mirrors debate that will persist until sexist attitudes and gender discrimination are addressed.

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Pornography and National Security: The ever expanding threat

In today’s ‘horrors of bad social science’, we have a piece by Jennifer S. Bryson, director of the Witherspoon Institute’s Islam and Civil Society Project, (which seems to be a conservative think-tank) who has written a piece for the Institute’s blog on the threat of pornography for national security. (No really.)

Bryson asks the question that no serious scholar has ever, ever addressed and comes up with an argument to be considered. In fact, she is getting right on top of this hard and pressing issue.She reaches around the boundaries of conventional thinking about terrorism and slowly but steadily penetrates the burning question as to whether pornography drives a serious challenge to National Security:

With the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks staring us in the face, we already know that our failure to have an approach to security that is robust and accurate has dire consequences. Pornography has long circulated nearly unbounded due to calls for “freedom,” but what if we are actually making ourselves less free by allowing pornography itself to be more freely accessible?
Are there security costs to the free-flow of pornography? If so, what are they? Are we as a society putting ourselves at risk by turning a blind eye to pornography proliferation?
I wonder further: Could it be that pornography drives some users to a desperate search for some sort of radical “purification” from the pornographic decay in their soul? Could it be that the greater the wedge pornography use drives between an individual’s religious aspirations and the individual’s actions, the more the desperation escalates, culminating in increasingly horrific public violence, even terrorism?

Let me tell you, now that we’ve been stirred to this threat – of young men somehow being converted to wicked, wicked ways – we need to act now, right here and now, damn it! Clearly the perpetrators of this filth have been very, very bad and need to be punished.

I believe that we all need to come together, scholars, government workers, NGOs, and throw caution to the wind. We need to straddle the division between us, fuse ourselves together and come up with an inspired solution. Let’s use each other to the very best of our abilities, and respond quickly to this vitally important need.

It’s Friday night so I’m just going to be at home thinking really long and hard about a solution to this problem. I’m just going to lie back right here by my lonesome self, thinking about nothing but pornography… for the sake of National Security.

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The Similarity between ‘Feminist’ Politicians and Female Sideline Sports Reporters — They’re Hot

Like Megan, I think that Naomi Wolf’s post on Al Jazeera is dumb, dumb, dumb. Wolf gets it completely wrong because the whole popularity of Palin and Bachmann (particularly the former) is a function not of feminism, but of the ‘new chauvinism.’

What do I mean by that? The feminist movement has of course radically transformed American society. Women have broken into some of the last bastions of male dominance — the sports locker room and the newsroom. But we aren’t going to let them in if they aren’t hot…..

Stay with me. Don’t get offended. When I say we, I really mean conservative males, which isn’t really me. Palin and Bachmann’s appeal to conservative women is not very surprising. It seems that thankfully all women these days believe that they have a right to a successful career AND a family, conservative women included. This is the victory of feminism and what Palin might represent. But women still might believe in traditional values as long as they don’t have to stay in the kitchen. They just carved that part out of social conservatism and kept the rest.That kind of ideological transformation takes place all the time. It is not like Democrats have always been big on gay marriage.

So the puzzle of Palin’s appeal is in her appeal to conservative males, who are, more likely to be more chauvinistic than weeny, fancy-glasses-glasses-wearing academics (not nerds!) like me. Survey data I collected show that conservative men like her just as much as ideologically like-minded women. Here we have seen a shift. Men are OK with women even in the inner sanctums of their maleness, like sports. The feminists won that battle. But they better be good looking.

Look at the picture of the three female sideline sports reporters for major networks above. What links them? They’re all physically attractive. I have not seen an unattractive female sports anchor, but there are plenty of fat, balding men. Unless we want to argue that among women there is a correlation between sports IQ and physical attractiveness, this is unjust. But this is the price that men insist on to be in the club. I am sure that all of these women know sports up and down, but that is only a necessary not a sufficient condition to get a job on TV doing work in sports.

We see this at Fox News too, of course. Many have remarked on how Fox newswomen are disproportionately blond and attractive (see picture). Well of course. The average conservative male viewer of Fox might put up with a woman delivering the news, but she better be purty.

An insistence that women in high places reserved historically for men be attractive is of course chauvinistic, just chauvinism of a different kind. Sarah Palin is popular among conservative men because she is the most physically attractive female politician I can think of. I can imagine that this could be offensive to feminists, that I am reducing Sarah Palin’s popularity to her physical characteristics rather than her abilities and intelligence. But then you’d be arguing that Sarah Palin had abilities and intelligence, and I don’t think that is an argument that you’d want to be making. Unlike Hillary Clinton, there is nothing else going on there. Men do not like Palin for her brains. You can google “Sarah Palin porn look-a-like” and you will get doctored pictures of her. That isn’t true of Diane Feinstein. (Please, please do not click on these images, though. You will get a virus for certain. Computer virus, not STD, of course.)

I am not sure if I were a woman that I would exchange the old chauvinism for the new chauvinism. The old chauvinism was patriarchal, traditional and oppressive. But this new chauvinism objectifies and sexualizes women more. Is that progress? Not much of a choice either way.

As for Bachmann, I would put more weight on saying crazy shit. Insane people used to be somewhat filtered out of the mainstream media by the heavies who deemed them unnewsworthy. But now they are especially newsworthy. Why? Because they’re crazy of course!

To be fair, this chauvinism might be true of liberal men viewing CNN too; they just like more ethnically diverse women like Soledad O’Brien. In which case, all men are dogs. But I suppose women already knew that. I do, however, take great comfort from Candy Crowley.

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The Difference Between Feminist Politicians and Politicians with Breasts: a response to Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf recently posted a blog on Al Jazeera entitled “America’s Reactionary Feminists: what do Palin and Bachmann have that make them so appealing to the American public?” I don’t doubt that this is an interesting question. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the confusing and simplistic answer Wolf provided- particularly the discussion around right wing feminism.

It may be worth taking a step back to ask why female politicians who do not identify as feminists continually get categorized as one. Surely we must be beyond the ‘woman=feminist’ discussion? Sadly, apparently no.

First, the scoop on where Palin and Bachmann stand on feminism: Palin wasn’t a feminist, then she was. She changed her stance on the term and now identifies with it- largely equating the term with her ‘rogue’ approach to politics not her anti-abortion, anti-social safety net, and her support for cuts to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Bachmann has made it more clear that she is NOT a feminist; instead, calling herself pro-woman and pro-man (hmm).

Back to Wolf. Let’s just ignore her references to the two women as tigresses, soccer and hockey moms for now and get to her central argument, which is that there are two reasons Palin and Bachmann are attractive to American voters.

First, Wolf argues that these two candidates are able to project the same emotional populist demagoguery (her words, not mine) that other popular figures like Malcom X and Joe McCarthy did. Truthfully, I’m not sure where Wolf is going with this point- can we put Palin, Bachmann and Malcom X in the same category??- so I’m not going to dwell on it. Instead, I’ll focus on her second point, which is that their popularity is due to “a serious historical misreading of feminism.” She explains “Because feminism in the 1960s and 1970s was articulated via the institutions of the left…there is an assumption that feminism itself must be leftist. In fact, feminism is philosophically as much in harmony with conservative, and especially libertarian, values – and in some ways even more so.” She goes on to claim that “the core of feminism is individual choice and freedom, and it is these strains that are being sounded now more by the Tea Party movement than by the left” and that “even if they themselves would reject the feminist label. In the case of Palin – and especially that of Bachmann – we ignore the wide appeal of right-wing feminism at our peril.”

It is hard to know which feminism Wolf is talking about. Maybe liberal feminism- which does emphasize institutions, equality, quotas, and choice- but certainly the various black, radical, and Marxist feminist voices that were equally relevant- and more focused on labor exploitation, racial discrimination, marginalization, and recognizing difference- during this time weren’t necessarily focused on established institutions of the left or right. To say that the core of feminism is about individual choice and freedom also doesn’t reflect the diversity in feminist approaches and is as intangible and vapid as most other political generalizations about choice and freedom.

So how can Palin and Bachmann prove a wide appeal to right-wing feminism given that they don’t identify as feminists (at least not all the time) and the types of policies they support? Wolf seems to be making the leap to argue that the conservative politics that Palin and Bachmann share represents a new type of right wing feminism; however, feminism has been about eliminating gender inequalities, acknowledging difference, and radical change- the antithesis to the call for a return to ‘traditional values.’ There seems to be some ‘degrees of separation’ logic happening here: most feminism is political, most feminists are women, therefore political women must be feminists. Logic 101 would help identify the problem with this train of thought and point Wolf (and hopefully those who want to write about Palin and Bachmann together in the future) to the following conclusions: the only thing remotely feminist about these two is that they both have breasts.

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Friday Nerd Blogging: GoT IR?

I was recently asked whether Game of Thrones was going to become “the cult IR series of 2011.” My initial response, spouted on a FB update was, “it remains to be seen,” not least since by next Spring GoT will of course be competing with Blood and Chrome.)

As of today, however, “seen” it has clearly been, with multiple IR bloggers posting on various “IRGoT” themes. So I guess that answers that. We can look forward to a veritable bevy of GoT-blogging among IR types for the foreseeable future.

OK, let’s see, Steve suspects the show can best be viewed through the lens of cognitive psychology, and Dan thinks it demonstrates the timeless wisdom of realism. Pablo K, however, in a remarkable, wide-ranging piece at The Disorder of Things takes a more critical view, interrogating gender and racial imagery in Season One with all the tenderness of Gregor Clegane:

The most common female figure is that of the whore; the most common male one a loyal killer. Physically weak, generically meek, hopelessly devoted to their menfolk, the women of Westeros cower and sob at violence and prove useless at the calculations of politics. Catelyn Stark provokes outright war by bowing to her maternal urges and kidnapping Tyrion Lannister on slim evidence that he tried to kill her son, a decision unlikely to have been endorsed had she consulted with her husband, notorious as he is for bad decisions. Cersei Lannister, as Queen of the realm, fares better, managing to manoeuvre her son onto the throne, at which point he becomes a power-mad sociopath, forcing Tywin Lannister to send his own imp son to the capital to pick up the pieces and rule from behind the scenes. Which leaves Arya Stark, everyone’s favourite tomboy, protected from the solid binaries of Man and Woman by the relatively ungendered space of girlness. Thin and still flat-chested, she is able to pass, Shakespeare-like, as a boy. For now.

Married off to Drogo as the bargaining chip for his army, Daenerys Targaryen becomes the sock-poppet for a Game Of Thrones version of feminism… In a parody of anti-rape politics, it requires the authority of this high-born Queen to prevent the conquering Dothraki army from sexually violating the wives, mothers and daughters of the conquered… Wilful in spite of her relative fragility, Daenerys derives her determination from the male heir inside her… empowered by protective feminine impulses over her precious boy cargo, she transcends the pliant object we first encounter to become a commander of men, but only so long as she can claim to speak for their true Lord (wait until I tell Drogo about this!)

Burn! [Sorry…] Seriously, read the whole thing. The discussion of the heavily racialized Dothraki is pretty spot-on – “like Klingons without technology. Oh, and they’re quite swarthy.” The comments thread is also to be studied closely.

I do however see a few things differently from Pablo in terms of gender. I may develop a longer and more coherent essay on feminisms in GoT in due course (this one was drafted at 2am), but here are four initial thoughts:
1) Any discussion of gender in GoT needs to closely examine men as well as women. (To give only the most obvious example, the institution of bastardism is as fundamental to social relations in the show as are male/female hierarchies.) And let’s not exaggerate: the most common male character is not a “loyal killer,” it is (probably) a conflicted witness to killing. Of course there are loyal killers aplenty, but even more disloyal killers plus all manner of men and boys trying to avoid the profession: spies, cravens, eunuchs, squires, metal-smiths, clerks, and capitalists. And the male characters with whom we are most allowed to identify are those who embody an ambivalence toward violence and aim to wield it, if at all, justly. (That Martin means it this way is evident from the way he organizes his book chapters.) There is more complexity here than meets the eye.
2) The most common female character is certainly not the whore (Ros, Shae). It is the political figure – queens (Cersei, Daenerys), ladies of the realm (Catelyn, Lysa), or princesses (Sansa, Arya). But more importantly, it is simplistic to suggest that the female characters all follow any single gender archetype – different “ladies” do different things with their status and power, and even the “whores” are multi-dimensional. I see tremendous and fascinating variation in the way women are portrayed and their connections to gender and politics generally in their societies.
3) Pedagogically, one can usefully distinguish strong women from feminist characters in the show, and also different models of feminism with which Martin toys: i.e., there is not “a Game of Thrones version of feminism” but rather different representations of different feminisms that have analogues in global politics. First, there are many strong, smart women here – I certainly count Cersei and Catelyn among them, if not Sansa and Lysa – but this doesn’t necessarily make them feminist characters (in my view) since their frame of reference has nothing to do with overturning gender hierarchies. Arya, however, does embody a liberal feminist discourse: she insists on the right to take on ‘male’ roles but resists denying her own sex in order to do so. “Passing as a boy” is not her modus operandi but rather a strategy imposed on her, an eventual, temporary nod to traditional norms in a desperate bid for survival.
4) Consider Daenerys by comparison. I continue to disagree that Dany’s character simply reflects and reifies patriarchal norms. She does not, first of all, derive her determination from her male fetus, but rather from the friendship and mentorship of women who surround her (especially her handmaiden and later, at least for a time, a female priestess/healer), as well as the respect of powerful men (she has no time for those who disrespect her – her brother, Drogo’s men, duplicitous merchants).
True, it’s vital to interrogate what peculiar kind of gender ideology she represents. I would argue that Dany, in contrast both with Arya’s rejection of conventional gender norms and Cersei/Catelyn’s indifference to them, represents, for want of a more appropriate term, “state feminism” – her strategy is to accept and embody patriarchal gender archetypes long enough to achieve insider credibility. She then uses the formal power this gives her to engage tribal governors in the service of feminist ends, seeking common cause with other women across clan boundaries and attempting to alter the violent gender norms of her new society marginally in their favor, without questioning its foundations. But her embedded position within a violent, gendered governance structure means she can take this agenda only so far. Ultimately, Dany fails to question, empathize and comprehend the perspective of women with a different standpoint, so her best intentions turn on her and on the objects of her pity. Hers turns out to be the neo-colonial feminism of the white northerner bent on rescuing the oppressed (and in so doing obfuscating her society’s brutality to its ‘own women) rather than seeking to understand them. Failing in this effort this she turns oppressor to reconsolidate her own power base against the “other.”
Is this a patriarchy-affirming narrative? Certainly it is a narrative of patriarchy, illustrating its capacity to divide women against themselves despite their best intentions. But it is also a story of female agency and of identities that cut across and transcend sex and gender. The Maegi’s death represents the post-colonial feminist lesson about the limits of state/colonial feminism. We are meant to be sickened and shamed by it, and to be reminded that neither women nor feminism should be equated with nonviolence. The denouement of this chapter in Dothraki history should not be interpreted itself as being blindly orientalist or patriarchal but as tragically illustrative of the promise and pitfall of different feminist strategies.
Now, Pablo K would (I think) respond as follows:…

fiction is an important stage for tropes of war, diplomacy, sex and race, not least because we’re freed to engage in a more fulsome emotional investment precisely because it’s not real. Excepting professional researchers, activists and inveterate news addicts, the time spent with such representations outstrips that devoted to engaging them in the realm of contemporary politics.

Maybe. However since I’m thinking about this series primarily as a pedagogical tool, I hope I can be forgiven for thinking the series is – or can be understood as – more subversive than it means to appear. Thoughts?

*Though in fairness, the HBO version of Dany and Drogo’s first ride is very different than the book version.

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Feminist IR 101, Post #10, Feminist Scholarly Community

One of my favorite characterization of feminist theorizing is in Sarah Brown’s 1988 Millennium article, where she calls feminist work “fundamentally a political act of commitment to understanding the world from a perspective of the socially subjugated” (p.472). From this and other reading in feminist theory and praxis, I’ve always seen feminism as not just an intellectual interest in gender as a force in global politics, but also as a politics of knowledge, and a politics of scholarship. As a politics of knowledge, to me, it is a commitment to multiple knowledges, perspective, (inter)subjectivity, and changing the power dynamics of science.

As a politics of scholarship, I’ve always thought that there are ways feminist thought suggest scholars treat each other and each other’s research. I’ve articulated it as a research claim before: “I make an ontological, epistemological, and methodological choice that my process of knowledge-acquisition is constructive in nature … in this spirit, I explicitly choose not to emphasize debates between or among feminisms. Instead, … I note where feminisms disagree, but focus on how those disagreements can be seen as contributing to a more complete understanding of political situations rather than as confounding knowledge.” (Gender, Justice, and the Wars in Iraq, p.41).

In theory, this has meant to me that my purpose in feminist theorizing is solidaristic, bridge-building, and pluralistic. In Hayward Alker’s terms, I’ve seen the substance of feminist IR in the debates, discussions, and disagreements. In Christine Sylvester’s terms, I’ve seen it as art. In my terms, I’ve embraced feminist IR theories as multiple.

But I think that feminist research process is more than about how one writes one’s research. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what feminist theory tells one about how to be a professor, a scholar, and a political scientist, but rarely articulated it. When I have, I’ve called it a “pay it forward” idea of how to operate in the academic community. But what does that mean, and how do I see it as explicitly (and necessarily) feminists?


If feminist IR theory is critical of the violent and competitive nature of the international system which selects for dominance, masculinity, and power-over, feminist IR theorists should be critical of the cut-throat and competitive nature of the academic pursuit of international relations, which selects for dominance, masculinity, and power-over. If feminists suggest that, instead of complicity with the competitive international system, feminisms suggest alternative policy strategies – including but not limited to empathy and care, then feminisms might suggest that instead of complicity with the competitive academic system, we should live and experience our careers with empathy and care. If feminisms suggest drawing attention away from the traditional halls of political power (and their necessary narrowness) in studying global politics, feminisms might also suggest drawing attention away from the traditional halls of scholarly power (and their necessary narrowness). If feminisms suggest that they have an inherent political commitment to the margins of global politics, they might also have a commitment to the margins of academia – to people traditionally disempowered, either by theoretical/methodological proclivity (outside the mainstream), institution, location (around the world), or position (graduate student, adjunct faculty, junior faculty, teaching faculty, etc.)

If the feminist political movement has talked about feminisms as a community, working together to show and correct gender subordination; feminist research is a community, working together to show and correct gender subordination in global politics; and being a feminist scholar is being part of a community, working together to show and correct gender subordination in academic political science and international relations.

There are those who will say that their main concern isn’t the academic community – in fact, after years or decades of the community’s mistreatment, masculinism, and exclusivity – who needs it? And the real world needs feminism more, right? At the same time, that logic, however true, can often serve as an excuse for not “practicing what feminist theory preaches” (or some other cliche like that) within the academic community. And perhaps for good reason – it is much easier to write about empathizing with potential enemies in far away lands that it is to empathize with people who treat you poorly in an academic context. It is much easier to talk about sacrificing self-interest for the good of others and/or a community in a distant country than it is to sacrifice self-interest for the good of others and/or a community in our lives and in our careers.

And, certainly (and before I get 1000 comments about it), I haven’t been flawless at practicing what feminisms preach in my career. I’ve tried to take a solidaristic view of feminist theory, to put advancing the needs of the collective over advancing my needs, to work to care for others – but I have been far from perfect at it. But I didn’t write this post to say I was good at it, or to hold myself up as an example. Instead, I wrote it because I truly believe feminist theorizing tells us a lot of good stuff about global politics, but it also tells us, perhaps through that good stuff, a lot of good stuff about how to be scholars of international politics. And perhaps I wanted to remind many – most of all, myself – of that enduring legacy that our intellectual work has in instructing our day-to-day work.

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