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Feminist Theory and International Relations


The incorporation of feminism in such grounds as philosophical and theoretical grounds is what is referred to as the feminist theory. Feminist theory has been incorporated in various works and also a variety of disciplines which include all approaches to the females’ role and the lives of the feminist issues in psychoanalysis, anthropology, philosophy, feminist literary criticism, economics, gender studies and continental philosophy.

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It is important to note that feminist theory is particularly focused on the issues of inequality and politics of gender. It is also concerned with other issues like the relationships of power and sexuality. The field of feminist theory is also greatly concerned with the promotion of the rights of women, their interests and other women issues as well as the issue of gender inequality (Carol; 126; 1988).

In international relations, the feminist theory is very important as it elevates the women to international politics. However, this theory is not fully incorporated into international relations and in many diplomatic negotiations the role of women is greatly undermined. This has brought about resistance from women and they have argued that they have to be treated as equals in all matters that relate to the society especially in the international level. This paper will look into the relevance of the incorporation of the feminist theory into the international relations.


Feminism can be defined as the political, philosophical and intellectual discourse that has the objective of protecting the rights and equality of women in social, economical, intellectual, political and cultural issues. Feminism involves various theories, movements and philosophies that are all focused on the issue of the gender difference and these are very vocal in the advocacy of the equality of women and they also promote the rights and interests of women.

Feminism can be historically categorized into three categories which include; the first wave which was experienced in the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. The second wave was experienced in the 1960s and the 1970s while the third wave is being experienced from the 1990s to date. These movements bore the feminist theory through various historical periods. Feminism is manifested in a multitude of fields and they include such disciplines as the feminist literary criticism, feminist history and feminist geography (Tickner; 45; 2001).

The feminism issue has been responsible for altering many predominant perspectives on a wide range of fields around the whole around and especially the western societies and these fields include such things as culture to the law. The activists of feminism have greatly campaigned for the women in various aspects as legally, integrity of the women bodies and also their autonomy, rights to abortion and reproduction, rights to protection, occupational rights and against all other forms of discrimination that can be rooted to gender biasness (Meyers; 185; 1997).

Historically, feminist movements and theories were championed by middle class women who were mostly white and they originated from Western Europe and North America. However, in the modern times the women from other races and spheres of life have joined in advocating for the protection and the promotion of the women rights around the world.

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There are new developments to the approach of feminism and this can be attributed to the fact that the women from other regions apart from Western Europe and North America have proposed new forms of feminism and this was greatly influenced Civil Rights Movement of the United States which run in the 1960s, the gaining of independence to various countries in Latin America, South East Asia and Africa. After that, the women from third world countries have proposed Third World Feminism. Some of the postcolonial feminists have criticized the western feminists as being ethnocentric and this is a feeling that is shared by some black feminists all over the world (Monk; 125; 1996).

After the 1980s, feminists who have a standpoint outlook are arguing that the issue of feminism should be related to how the experience of women inequality has been incorporated into such issues as homophobia, racism, colonization and classism. During the late 1980s and the 1990s feminists have argued that the roles of the genders are constructed socially and that generalizing the experiences of women across the histories and cultures is impossible (Carol; 126; 1988).

International relations

International relations can be defined as a representation of foreign affairs study and also the study of the global issues that are accrued to countries and nations at the international level. It involves such things as studying the states’ roles, also the intergovernmental organizations’ roles, the roles of the non-governmental organizations and the multinational corporations. International relations can be said to be both an academic field as well as a public policy.

It can either be normative or positive and this is because its objective is to analyze and formulate the foreign policy of the countries around the world. Many experts have asserted that international relations are under the umbrella of the field of political science (Cynthia; 145; 1994).

However, international relations can be said to be incorporated under other fields which are very diverse in nature and they include such disciplines as sociology, philosophy, history, geography, anthropology, economics, psychology, law and cultural studies. There are a lot of issues which are also very diverse that are concerned with international relations and they include such things as state sovereignty, global finance, globalization, ecological sustainability, nationalism, development, economy, terrorism, human rights, human security, nationalism, and foreign interventionism among a contingent of other issues.

Feminism in international relations

Feminism in international relations is a term that is broad and given to the works of the scholars who have attempted to bring gender concerns to the international relations field of study. In the field of international relations, feminism is brought in from a school of though known as reflectionism.

Many scholars have cited Cynthia Enloe’s books title ‘Bananas, Beaches and Bases,’ a text that critically examined the role of women in the international politics as the wives of diplomats, plantation workers and military bases sex workers. Most important, the book is that it emphasizes the women to look at their perspective in relation to the international politics and also calls upon the men to look at the position of the women in international politics and reflect on their feeling about the involvement of women in international politics (Kenney; 258; 1997).

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However, it would be wrong to think that the feminist international relation was concerned solely on the position of the women in international politics. It is important to note that from the time feminism was incepted, it had a major apprehension with the notion of males and its major focus was the notion of masculinities (Andrew; 59; 1994).

International relations by feminists is always concerned with how international politics are impacted by both sexes and also looks at the major concepts that are applied at the international relations for example in such aspects as security and war and how these aspects are related to gender. Feminist international relations is not entirely focused with the international relations on the traditional level of the states and diplomacy but it has extended with the emphasis of the significance of paying attention to how gender affects the international politics and economy. It is in this respect that there is no clear distinction between the feminists who focus on the international relations and the international political economy (Carol; 126; 1988).

Feminist international relations has emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century and it is important to note that towards the end of the Cold War and the re-evaluation of the theories that were accrued to the traditional international relations particularly during the 1990s there was the chance of feminists gendering international politics. Feminists in this respect have adopted several methodologies which include deconstructivism which is highly linked to such methodologies as post structuralism and postmodernism.

However, the influence of feministic international relations has been steadily developing and international issues and international policy communities such as the United Nations and the various institutions have had to be more responsive to the requirements of the liberal feminist and how they emphasis on the opportunity equality of the females (Vivienne; 156; 1999).

Relevance of Feministic theory to international relations

Throughout the history, women have been sidelined from the critical issues that have been major concerns to any given society. In almost all societies, women were viewed as not being equal to men and this led to a form of a society where the man was the head of everything and the woman was viewed as a subordinate or secondary entity in any matters that concerned the society. However, with the world undergoing through tremendous changes, the females were found to be an integral part of the development that the world was going through.

One of the most important aspects of the feminist approach was that the world while undergoing through globalization found that the women were being left behind in international relations and yet they had a very important role to play in the field of international relations (Jensen; 196; 1996).

One of the reasons of incorporation feminist theory in the field of international relations was that women had been marginalized for a very long time and this was a great hindrance to the global development. This can be seen from the perspective that women played a very major role in the development of any society and man alone could not be left with the responsibility of ensuring that the human race developed to its current position and still to more heights. This is why feminist theory is very important to the field of international relations and it can further be noted that on every background of development, the role played by women is very critical (Cynthia; 201; 2004).

On some issues that are under the umbrella of the field of international relations, the input of women have been noted to be very beneficial to the field of international relations and one this can be evidenced by the role the women have played in certain critical areas of international relations. It is important to note that women have for a long time been involved in various diplomatic negotiations especially those accrued to human development and also to the issues of security. It is important to note that women have had a very good approach to some of the international matters and these have helped shape the human life in a positive manner.

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For example women have played a very good role in ensuring that all matters that pertain to the freedoms and rights protection have been enforced through international. However, the involvement of women has been limited and this can be rooted to the fact that women have never been given an equal opportunity with men in the picture. However, the involvement of women has ensured that various developments have benefited all the people around the world (Carver; 98; 1998).

If feminist theory is incorporated into the international relations field, then the women will have equal opportunities as men and this means that development will be evenly spread between the two sexes. This will be very beneficial because the issue of marginalizing women will be done away with and the women can have access to such things as power just as men have had historically. However, it is important to note that women have had powerful position but the main idea behind equal access to power is that when a country has a woman president, she is referred to as a ‘woman president’ and not just as ‘the president.’ This can be seen as some sought of gender inequality (Andrew; 59; 1994).

On the issue of security, when feminist theory is incorporated into the international relations, the security might improve. It is important to note that some feminists have argued that that the 9/11 attacks on America by terrorists was accrued to the fact that the United States was changing to a feminine country. This can be true because the country had some very influential women in some very powerful posts. With the incorporation of this theory in the international relations, security is bound to improve because various other countries will adopt the United States’ position on women and power and hence there will be no particular target for international crime that can be related to feminism (Tickner; 45; 2001).

It is also important to note that women are more informed about the requirements and the needs of the society more than man can be informed. If this is to be applied to the international relations, then it is important to note that the woman is in a better position to change the world to a better place than man alone can do. It is important to note that man is also important and hence the need for the two sexes to come together and bring a better world for the current generation and the future generations.

It is important to note that woman has played a very important role in the development of the world to the position it is in albeit the woman is never recognized for the effort she has played to bring the world to where it is now. It is in this respect that it is important for the woman to be involved in any matter that will bring development to the world and also sustain life for the future generations (Cynthia; 201; 2004).

The feminist theory when incorporated into the field of international relations will eventually bring about the changes that the human race have been yearning for a number of centuries now. However, with the concept of masculinity still playing a major role will, this may not be achieved unless the world changes entirely. The activists of feminist theory have some very good reason to be incorporated into the international relations and this is because they have some policies that will ensure that the world is a better place to live in. This can be seen as an important aspect of the feminist theory being incorporated into the international relations.

Feminists have not only argued for a place of the women in the international politics but have been arguing for better policies to be implemented and they are mainly concerned with such issues as the protection of the human rights, protection of the environment, life sustaining development and other critical issues. This means that women can bring forth a better world than what we have and hence they need to be involved in the policy making at an international level (Vivienne; 156; 1999).


Women have a major role to play in any type of issue that the world needs. This means that they have to be seen as an integral part of any issue. This is more for international relations where women may play a very important part in ensuring that the world is a better place to live in.


Andrew, Barbara (1994). The psychology of tyranny: Wollstonecraft and Woolf on the gendered dimension of war. (Mary Wollstonecraft; Virginia Woolf) (Special Issue: Feminism and Peace) Hypatia v9, n2:85 (17 pages).

Carol Cohn, Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals, Signs, (1988).

Carver, Terrell and Veronique Mottier, ed. Politics of Sexuality. NY: Routledge, 1998.

Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases (Pandora Press 1990).

Cynthia Enloe, The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire, University of California Press 2004.

Jensen, Pamela Grande, ed. Finding a New Feminism: Rethinking the Woman Question for Liberal Democracy. Rowman and Littlefield, 1996.

Kenney, Sally J. and Helen Kinsella, ed. Politics and Feminist Standpoint Theories. Haworth Press, 1997.

Meyers, Diana Tietjens, ed. Feminist Social Thought: A Reader. Routledge, 1997.

Monk, Janice and Maria Dolors, ed. Women of the European Union. Routledge, 1996.

Tickner, J. Ann. Gendering World Politics. Columbia University Press (2001).

Vivienne Jabri, Eleanor O’Gorman, Lynne Rienner, Women, Culture, and International Relations (Critical Perspectives on World Politics). Publishers Inc, US, 1999.

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