You are on page 1of 30

Feminism and Gender

Approaches to Security

Sanaullah Khan

29 October 2013

Chapter 2 of Critical Security Studies: An Introduction by

Columba Peoples and Nick Vaughan-Williams

Salient terms and concepts Introduction of the chapter Arguments propagated in the chapter Thoughts of renowned feminists referred in the chapter Poststructural approaches to security Criticism on poststructural approaches to security



For most feminists, sex highlights biological

determination of human, and therefore is an ineradicable

difference between female and male.

Gender: Sex and gender are often used interchangeably in everyday language. Gender refers to the social construction of sexual difference. As such, gender is clearly distinct from sex. Gender denotes a set of culturally defined distinctions between women and men. Gender either operates through stereotyping, or it is a manifestation of structural power relations.

Patriarchy: Patriarchy literally means rule by the father. Feminists use patriarchy in this specific and limited sense, to describe the structure of the family and the dominance of the husband-father over both his wife and his children. Patriarchy thus means rule by men.

Femininity: Characteristics to identify female (emotionality, caring, dependence).

Masculinity: Characteristics to identify male (strength, aggression, autonomy).

Performativity: The idea that gendered identities are not

neutral, but produced through being acted out in social life.

Feminism: Feminism can broadly be defined as a movement for the social advancement of women.

Feminist theory is based on two central beliefs: that

women are disadvantaged because of their sex; and that this disadvantage can and should be overthrown.

Liberal Feminism: A form of feminism that is grounded in the belief that sexual differences are irrelevant to personal

worth and calls for equal rights for women and men in the
public realm.

Focus of liberal feminism is invisibility of women in security. Exponent of this theory is Synthia Enloe.

Radical Feminism: A form of feminism that holds gender

divisions to be the most politically significant of social

cleavages, and believes that these are rooted in the structures of family or domestic life.

Stand Point Feminism: A form of feminism that focuses on the experiences of women in global politics for

theorizing global security relations. This approach stresses

that the views and experiences of women be taken in theorising global security relations. J. Ann Tickner is the exponent of this theory.

Radical Feminism: A form of feminism that holds gender divisions to be the most politically significant of social

cleavages, and believes that these are rooted in the

structures of family or domestic life.

Essentialism: The belief that biological factors are crucial in determining psychological and behavioural traits.

Poststructural Gender Approach: This approach does

not give any special ontological status to woman. Instead it

contends that woman (as sex) is a discursive construct. V. Spike Peterson is the exponent of this theory.

Poststructuralists argue that there is no objective yardstick that we can use to define threats, dangers, enemies, or, underdevelopment etc.

We need to investigate how constructions of the world and those people and place that inhabit it, make

particular policies seem natural and therefore legitimate.

Poststructuralists raise questions about ontology (theory of existence) and epistemology (theory of knowledge).

Historically most of the state leaders, diplomats, soldiers and international civil servants have been men.

Men make wars because wars make them men (Barbra Enenriech)

International politics and security are mans world.

Feminists contend that realist-oriented security studies have disregarded women study of men by the men.

Pythagoras (570 to c. 495 BC) wrote, "There is a good principle that created order, light and man and a bad

principle that created chaos, darkness and woman.

Aristotle (384 to 322 BC) Women are inferior in reasoning. Menander (c. 341 to 290) Woman is a pain that never goes away.

Paul the Apostle, (c. 5 to c. 67 AD) "Of all the wild animals,

none can be found as harmful as women.

Gender inequalities (employment, wages, type of work).

Women form only one third of the work force. Womens earning has been 50 to 80% of the mens.

Of 1.3 billion people living in poverty, 70% are women.

Women are assigned to positions that have less or no authority.

Resource scarcity affects women more than men; women spend most of their time in collecting water.

Women have less education opportunities; two third of

worlds female are illiterate.

Women more vulnerable to sexual violence especially during conflict situations, displacement, and in refugee camps.

Women represented far less in government; developing countries are comparatively better as 1st female prime minister was in Sri Lanka in 1960 whereas in West British female prime minister was in 1979.

Discipline of security has been gender-blind. Women remained invisible in high politics i.e. security, military, war for a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons is that traditional perspectives were

state centric which disregarded gender.

Secondly, the state, institutions, processes and world politics have been patriarchal in character.

Almost all decision making institutions have been dominated by man. Even if there is a woman member in such institutions, her voice is not heard well.

The concept of liberal feminism is that women be given equal rights in all walks of life.

French feminist Simone de Beauvoir (190886), Women are made, they are not born.

The idea that gender is a social construct was originally conceived as a means of refuting biological determinism,

the notion, favoured by many anti-feminists, that biology

is destiny, implying that womens domestic or private role is an inevitable consequence of their physical and

biological make-up.

French feminist and political activist.

Her feminist work is a voluminous

book The Second Sex (1949)

She posits that man and woman are socially constructed. Historically women have been portrayed inferior,

so as to subordinate them.

In 1989, US Academic Synthia

Enloe published Bananas,

Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International


She contends that men are dominant to an extent that world politics is peopled by men.

By mid 1980s there were 3000 foreign powers military bases across the world.

She is of the view that unpaid work of military persons

wives was unnoticed.

In these bases, the sons adopt military career but daughters emulating their mothers become housewives.

She also says that behind each male working on banana

plantation there is unpaid women working at home.

Masculine traits: strength, power and autonomy.

She contends that ideals of

manhood and state are mutually reinforcing to exclude women from high politics (security, military, war)

Heroic characteristics i.e. chauvinism and patriotism are attributed to men and women are systematically kept deprived.

Peterson argues that feminists actual job

is to transform ontology (theory of beings)

and epistemology (theory of knowing) to make these gender neutral because

masculine or feminine traits are socially


Argues that sex and gender are misnomer. Shares thoughts of Michel Foucault who

said that sex is bodily effect of gendered

regimes of power/knowledge in society.

Posits that sex/gender is not permanent but performativity is used to identify it.

She gives example of the behaviour and

looks of drag queens which displays their


Post structuralism has raised questions on liberal feminisms efforts to merely make woman more visible in the security.

Post structural gender theorists contend that categorization of humankind into male and female is radically unstable.

There are diverse debates and arguments in feminist and gender approaches to security.

The authors say that various debates on gender have

opened important areas of research in Critical Security

Studies relating to issue involving identity, violence and justice.

There are challenges of poststructuralist feminist and

gender approaches to the study of security.

Discriminatory patriarchal structures of the society were considered to be major reason for feminist movements but poststructuralism eliminates patriarchy.

The writers have adopted very difficult method to explain the point of view.

Long winded sentences impede assimilation of the

context and reach to the core issue intended to be explained.

Poststructuralism appears to refute biological determination of sex.

Earlier definitions of sex and gender and difference thereof is easy to understand but saying that sex/gender

is not static and instable is incomprehensible. Confusing

the matter by drawing analogy with drag queens also appears to be untenable.

Feminist perspectives presented in this chapter are eurocentric. Gleaning through the chapter indicates that most feminists have raised the issue of unpaid household work. Monetization of services rendered by the women in their homes is considered unnecessary.