More Feminist Troddle

Feminist Perspectives on Security Jill Steams “Gender & International Relations” 1998

This is because adopting a feminist perspective challenges the view of the military as a defender of a pregiven ‘national interest.’

Militarism is relevant to any discussion of security because militarism is both rooted in and fosters a refusal to recognize the humanity of others.

A broad definition of security might be a ‘state of being secure, safe, free from danger, injury, form of any sort,’ but few International Relations scholars would accept such a persuasive definition.

Realists and neo-realists usually define peace in negative terms. That is, peace is seen as an absense of war.

Those who adopt critical approaches view the state in dynamic rather than static terms, as a ‘propcess’ rather than a ‘thing.’ The ‘state’ does not exist in any concrete sense; rather it is ‘made.’ The state is made by th eprocesses and practices involved in constructing boundaries and identities, differentiating between the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside.’ Andrew Linklater has recently argued that criticla approaches to the study of International Relations centre around understanding the processes of ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion,’ which have in a sense alwyays been concerns of the discipline.

Indeed, David Campbell argues that the legitimation of state power demands the construction fo danger ‘outside.’ The state requires this ‘discourse of danger’ to secure its identity and from the legitimation of state power. The consequences of that is that threats to security in realist and neo-realist thinking are all seen to be in the external realm and citizenship betcomes synonymous with loyalty to the nation-state and the elimination of all that is foreign.

As we discussed at length in chapter 4, some feminists have argued that women sould serve in combat roles in the armed services because this would give women a stake in national security. However, the liberal ‘right to fight’ campaign has been criticized because it advocates the politics of access while accepting uncriticfally a profoundly gendered conception of security which legitimizes state violence. They have also failed to address the degree to which the military playts a central role in justifying a social order and value system which, in the name of ‘national security,’ privileges men and masculine values.

Militarism can be defined as an ideology which values war highly and, in doing so, serves to legitimize state violence. Alternatively, militarism can be viewes as a social process which involves the mobilization for war through the penetration of the military, its power and influence, into more and more social areas. Militarism can be defined as the subordination of the civil society to military values and the subordinatino of civilian control of the military to military control of the civilians. [note these are three, somewhat contradictory definitions — tdaxp]

Militarization occurs when any part of the society becomes controlled by or dependent upon the military or military values. In this way virtually anything can become militarized, toys — marriage, scientific research, university curricula, motherhood.

So far the discussion has concentrated largely on the importance of understanding how ideas about masculinity foster and support militarism. However, a gender analysis has to understand not about masculinity and feminity as such, but rather the relation between the two. Women contribute to the militarization of society in both material and ideological terms.

Many feminists, while sceptical of the degree to which values can be seen as essentially male or female, have nevertheless argued that the values of caring and nurturing are symbolically, if problematically, linked to women. Furthermore, while there may be no evidence to support the view that men are essentially aggressive and women naturally peaceful, there may be good reasons to think women’s particular relationship to the state and the excersize of state-sanctioned violence can serve as a point of departure from which to radically rethink our approach to these areas.

If war has historically been associates with men and masculinity, so peace has long been associated with women and the ‘feminine’

Others, while rejecting biological or essentialist acocunts of apparent gender differences, have noted the close association of peace and the ‘feminine’ and have argued that the experience of maternity on the part of the vast majority of women and women’s historical exclusion from public power means that women do have a special relationship to peace.

Women also act as peacemakers. For example, Nobel Peace Prize winners Betty Williams and Mairead Corringa were motivated to protest for peace when three small children were killed and the other seriously injured in Northern Ireland in August 1975. This intiative eventually mushroomed into marches supported by over 100,000 people as the local community ‘began to imagine a different way of solving conflict.’

A number of feminist thinkers have criticized the idea that women are specifically privileged or situated because they are products of ‘women’s culture’ or ‘ways of knowing.’ Micaela di Leonardo has argued that any reinvigorated image of women as more peaceful will have disasterous consequences for the women’s movement. Indeed, Janet Radcliffe Richards has expressed deep concern with the position that women are either by nature or socialization more peaceful than men, because this plays into the hands of those who would keep men and women in seperate spheres and limit women’s equality. She points out that male chauvinists have always used the idea of ‘difference’ to discriminate against women.

Dinnerstein argues that equal-rights goals matter because they are to do with psychic growth.

Sometimes this leads to the conscious and subversive use fo women’s traditional place as mother and ‘Other,’ but at the same time demonstrates that women are refusing to stay in their place on the margins.

Feminist thinking about peace is not necessarily locked into the war-peace dichotomy. Because feminists, generally, start from the conditions of women’s lives, and because they see many forms of violence, unhappiness and distress, they define pace as women’s achievement of control over their lives. Similarly, non-violence is not just about the absense of war, but a total approach to living, a strategy for change. When wars end it is women who relinquish their freedom. It is women who are expected to repair the damage done to their militarized sons, husbands and lovers. Peace, therefore, is also seen as a process which must reproduce itself.

Women also tried to work in supportive ways, sharing tasks, skills and knowledge.

As Enloe notes, women’s peace movements in general deliberately avoid forms

Furthermore, women’s psycho-socialization leads them to adopt a moral code which is different from, though not inferior to, the moral code adopted by men. Whereas men are socialized to adopt an ethic of justice or an ethic of rights based on abstract concepts of autonomy and rationality, women adopt an ethic of care or an ethic of responsibility — a mode of reasoning which arises out of attention to concrete particulars, to the specific needs of the concrete, rather than the generalized, ‘Other.’

According to Gilligan, militarism and caring give rise to different concepts of control.

However, while virtually every state has accepted that people do have human rights in principle, just which categories of ‘rights’ should be recognized as ‘human rights’ has been the subject of intense political, ideologicla, and more recently, religious and cultural conflict.

When security is viewed outside of the nation-state context and in terms of the multiple insecurities that people face, the argument that what is really needed is a global perspective on security becomes persuasive.

When Cynthia Enloe asks, ‘What does it mean to theorize state-sanctioned violence? she reminds us that all to frequently theory is seperated from human activity.

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