Towards the Fourth Generation of Modern Aesthetics?

Below without comment are excerpts from Chapter 1, “Gender Makes the World Go Round,” from Cynthia Enloe’s “Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics

This is mainly for my own use, though (if time permits) I may make a blog post out of it later. Particuarly, Enloe’s focus on 4G and her (accidental?) comparison of aesthetics to human conflict.

But if we employ only the conventional, ungendered compass to chart international politics, we are likely to end up mapping a landscape peopled only by men, mostly elite men.

In the 1930s Hollywood moguls turned to Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda into an American movie star. They were trying to aid President Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to promote friendlier relations between the US and Latin Ameica. When United Fruit executives then drew on Carmen Miranda’s popular Latinized female image to create a logo for their imported bananas, they were trying to construct a new, intimate relationship between American housewives and a multinational plantation company. With her famous fruited hats and vivacious screen presense, Carmen Miranda was used by American men to reshape international relations. Carmen Miranda alerts us to the fact that it would be a mistake to confine an investigation of regional politics or international agribusiness to male foreign-policy officials, male company executives and male planation workers. Omitting sexualized images, women as consumers and women as agribusiness workers, leaves us with a political analysis that is incomplete, even naive.

Military policies, which occupy such a large part of international politics today, require military bases. Bases are artificial societies created out of unequal relations between men and women of different races and classes.

Power infuses all international relationships. Most of us, understandibly, would prefer to think that our attraction to a certain food company’s marketing logo is a cultural, not a political act. We would like to imagine that going on holiday to Bermuda rather than Grenada is merely a social, even aesthetic matter, not a question of politics. But in these last decades of the twentieth century, that unfortunately isn’t so.

Ignoring women on the landscape of international politics perpetuates the nation that certain power relations are merely a matter of taste and culture. Paying serous attention to women can expose how much power it takes to maintain the international political system in its present form.

Women’s roles in creating and sustaining international politics have been treated as if they were ‘natural’ and thus not worthy of investigation. Consequently, how the conduct of international politics has depended on men’s control of women has been left unexamined.

Perhaps international politics has been impervious to feminist ideas precisely because for so many centures in so many cultures it has been thought of as a typically ‘masculine’ sphere of life. Only men, not women or children, have been imagined capable of the sort of public decisiveness international politics is presumed to requre. Foreign affairs are written about with a total disregard for feminist revelations about how pwer depends on sustaining notions of masculinity and femininity.

Silence has made us dumb.

It’s difficul to imagine just what feminist questioning would sound like in the area of international politics. Some women have come to believe that there is a fundemental difference between men and women. ‘Virtually everyone at the top of the foreign-policy bureaucracies is male,’ they argue, ‘so how could the outcome be other than violent international conflict?’ That is, men are men, and men seem almost inherently prone to violence; so violence is bound to come about.

Men comprise the majority of the media people assigned to tell us what each day’s revelations ‘mean.’

But when it’s a partriarchal world that is ‘dangerous,’ masculine men and feminine women are expected to react in opposite but complementary ways. A ‘real man’ will become the protector in such a world. He will suppress his won fears, brace himself and step forward to defend the weak, women and children. In the same ‘dangerous world,’ women will turn gratefully and expectantly to their fathers and husbands, real or surrogate. If a woman is a mother, then she will think first of her children, protecting them not in a manly way, but as a self-sacrificing mother.

These differences have ignited nationalist movement which have challenged the existing international orer, dismantling empires, ousting foreign bases, expropriating foreign mines and factories. But there have been nationalist movements which ahve engaged in such world challenges without upsetting patriarchal relationships within that nation. It is important, I think, to understand which kinds of nationalist movement rely on the perpetuation of patriarchal ideas of masculinity for their international political campaigns and which kinds see redefining masculinity as integral to re-establishing national sovereignty.