Tag: feminist theory

The Politics of “Fitting” Feminist Theory in IR

(Note: This post is cross-posted at The Research Centre in International Relations at King’s College, London’s Blog)

Feminist theorists have long made and substantiated the argument that gender “matters” in International Relations (IR) theory and practice, and that it matters in complicated and hybrid ways. Gender analysis has been used (in my view effectively) across a wide spectrum of theoretical approaches, issue areas, and contemporary political events.  I thought about this as I was reading news stories and opinion pieces expressing disappointment that Malala Yousafzai did not win the Nobel Peace  Prize. There are so many gendered dimensions to her story: her activism and agency; the gendered reaction to by the Pakistani Taliban; the gendered reaction to that repression around the world; the gendered narratives surrounding her candidacy for the Nobel Peach Prize; and then the gendered reactions to the Nobel committee’s choice not to select her. All of these gendered framings, reactions, and receptions went on in the context of a gendered conflict between gendered states in what I would argue is a gendered international system. Reading those stories was, to me, another example of how gender “matters” in global politics – an example which could richly inform IR theory.

But what part of IR theory? Where does feminism fit? Is it another “ism” to go along with realisms, liberalisms, and the like? Does it cut across the “isms”? Where does it fit politically? Epistemologically? Methodologically? This question has been tackled again and again by feminist IR theorists like Ann Tickner, Marianne Marchand, Cynthia Weber, Marysia Zalewski, and Jill Steans, as well as by some theorists in mainstream IR interested in the question of feminisms’ fit. In the rest of this short post, I suggest that perhaps fit and positionality are the wrong language to talk about the relationship between feminist work on global politics and the field of IR in which it is (at least partly) situated.

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Liberalism all the way down? …. six hours on a plane with Judith Butler’s Frames of War

On a plane ride a couple of days ago, I picked up Judith Butler’s Frames of War, perhaps a couple of years after I should have. Though there is a lot of the book that I disagreed with, reading it was a transformative experience. It is perhaps particularly relevant to the subject and content of Megan MacKenzie’s latest post, given Butler’s suggestion that “specific lives cannot be apprehended as injured or lost if they are not first apprehended as living” such that “if certain lives do not qualify as lives or are, from the start, not conceivable as lives within certain epistemological frames, then those lives are never lived or lost in the full sense” (p.1).

Butler spends the book carefully considering the relationship between precarity, violence, and war – considerations that made me think a lot, about the book, about gender/violence more generally, and about the role of reading in our lives as scholars. My thoughts about the book are below the fold, and a separate post about reading is forthcoming.

Frames of War is to me a frustrating combination of absolute and piercing brilliance and letdown …

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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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Feminist Rick Santorum

via. H/T Catia Cecilia Confortini. With apologies to Ryan Gosling and Danielle Henderson.

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