Tag Archives: gender

Caging Confessions: My Womanhood in David Lake’s White Man’s IR

(A really long caveat): I have nothing but respect for David Lake. In the last few years, I have interacted with him professionally on a number of occasions. I have found him to be generous, open-minded, and self-reflective. I have found him to intend inclusion at every time possible. Many people in David’s position of privilege in the field either fail to reflect on the issues that David does or fail to take the risk of sharing their reflection. Many people in David’s position of privilege in the field fail to do the hard work to make the field better that David does every day. I have rarely met a more thoughtful leader, and appreciate the work that he does in the field. I think that the field is better off for David’s leadership, and significantly so. I say this because I think David’s piece is a brave thing to have done, and something he did not have to do – and it is important to note that the critique that comes here is only possible because David took that risk, and that my critique should be (and is) louder towards those who failed to take the risk. That said, I couldn’t read David’s confessional and not react. My reaction is partial – it is my experience and my confessional, rather than a full-scale engagement with the argument. Particularly, I didn’t comment extensively on the discussion of race in the confession, because I don’t think I would/could do that justice. Like David, I benefit from many of the discipline’s axes of power, and its important then to recognize that this critique can always be only partial. RelationsInternational would be happy, however, to publish both further discussion and any engagement David might want to have with this conversation.

David Lake’s White Man’s IR: An Intellectual Confession suggests that the exclusion of women and minorities from the field of IR results in intellectual convergence, “leaving other questions unasked because they do not appear relevant, other theories unexamined because they do not resonate with our intuitions, and other predictions untested.” Dr. Lake then suggests that he would be a better scholar, and IR would be a better field, if it had more a more diverse representation of scholars. As he critiques the “practices and privileges” that keep IR largely white and largely male, Dr. Lake admits to having been complicit in those practices and privileges, and benefitting from them. He then also suggests that little he writes about making the field more diverse is new, suggesting that “it is precisely as a beneficiary of the ‘system,’ however, that I hope my remarks might have some impact. I apologize nor for the lack of originality in this essay, only for my tardiness in understanding the issues and why they are important.” Lake goes on to recognize that disciplinary hierarchy and gate-keeping reify a lack of diversity, and should be questioned – “white man’s IR begets white man’s IR.” He suggests that, even when it is non-white or non-male scholars doing IR, they are constrained by disciplinary and job-related incentives.

This premise for the article, I think, is impressive: a recognition of the substantive need for diversity and an apology for not coming to that conclusion earlier. It is when Lake goes on to explain why he sees diversity as substantively important that I stop being on board with the article. His argument (paraphrasing here because this is likely already going to be a long blog post) is that lived experience shapes intuition, and intuition shapes theorizing. Because “the lived experience of white males in the US during the twentieth century, for instance, share similarities that are different from those for women, blacks, Hispanics, and other racial minorities,” their different lived experiences will cause them to contribute different theorizations.

It is true that lack of representational diversity makes for a lack of substantive (and, though not recognized by Lake, epistemological and methodological) diversity. But that realization does not necessitate an essentialist claim that women, blacks, Hispanics, and other racial minorities (either across groups, which could be read into the comments, or, more likely what Lake meant, within groups) necessarily have something in common. There’s a reason there aren’t a lot of standpoint feminists left in academia – because of the realization that there is violence in assuming that there is a standpoint which women have. That violence is three-fold: first, it suggests standards that legitimate (and therefore delegitimize) claims to womanhood exist and can be deployed; second, it suggests that biological sex is a clear and primordial thing; third, it suggests that gender maps onto sex one-to-one.

So, in one sense, I’m exactly the woman that Dr. Lake is talking about – someone whose intellectual interest is in gender, which is a topic that was traditionally ignored by the white men who constituted the field, and is getting more attention as the field gets more (but still embarrassingly not enough) diversity of scholars. On the other hand, my interest in gender in global politics comes less from being a woman than from being a person who was labelled a woman but felt intensely uncomfortable with that label itself and the expectations of femininity that come with it.

Why does that matter? Is it just that one confessional deserves another?

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Women Shouldn’t Need Different Guidelines for Achieving Tenure (And Other Observations on Gendered Academe)

*while Foreign Policy editors expressed initial interest in this post, a long-delayed response time to its actual draft suggests to me that such interest has faded, though I cannot imagine why. I’ve decided to self-publish it here on RI. 

Recently, Foreign Policy contributor Stephen Walt published an article on how to get tenure in political science, and Erica Chenoweth, Page Fortna, Sara Mitchell, Burcu Savun, Jessica Weeks, and Kathleen Cunningham responded with an article on the different experiences women have when they go through the process of seeking tenure. Both pieces are, in some ways, spot-on. As Chenoweth et al note, Walt’s points are reasonable, but “the likely effect of his recommended strategies would be drastically different” for men and for women.

Chenoweth et al correctly identify the source of that difference – that “processes may be biased against women, often due to implicit bias rather than conscious discrimination.” They then make a very strong case that implicit bias affects almost every facet of the tenure process, from letters of recommendations to research expectations, from hiring committees to the probability of citation, from publication opportunities to syllabus assignments, from teaching evaluations to service expectations. They also correctly point out that there are different behavioral expectations of women in the field than there are for men.

The authors then go on to give women junior faculty a number of survival tips for the tenure process: get what you need at work, get what you need at home, create time, set boundaries with others, filter commentary and criticism, network, and get your work out there. All of these (if they are realistic) are excellent pieces of advice for navigating the gendered nature of the tenure process. And Chenoweth et al do not leave it entirely to women to navigate the process: the last two paragraphs of the piece talk about advice for allies to make sure that they are aware of, and not complicit in, the gendered dynamics of the discipline.

One the one hand, this advice is solid – after all, to an extent  we all navigate the existing system individually. On the other hand, from a feminist perspective, I have two serious concerns about the advice provided. First, I am concerned that providing advice for navigating the gendered system of achieving tenure without strategizing to change the system as a whole puts the primary responsibility for overcoming bias on the victims of the bias. Second, I am concerned that a significant number of the strategies provided are only available to a small percentage of those who might seek professional success as political science faculty, narrowing the spectrum of those to whom tenure might be available.

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News Report: Angry Women Angry Again, Part 2 of 2

A few days ago, I posted with a strong reaction to Inside Higher Education’s framing of female political scientists as angry. I think that my reaction was quick and strong both because the piece and conversation warranted it, and because it wasn’t anywhere near the first time I’d had to deal with the “angry woman”/”angry feminist” trope when there is a reaction to gender injustice.

If fact, in December, I posted one of two really important conversations that I had at the “What’s the Point of IR” conference at the University of Sussex – one with Patrick Thaddeus Jackson on epistemology, ontology, and (sometimes) God. The other important conversation I didn’t write here about, because I wasn’t yet sure what to say. That didn’t stop me from tweeting about it real time, though. I’ll show you my “angry” reaction first, and explain the conversation after.

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So, I’ll tell you a (brief, four-month-old) bit of context. I won’t identify the people in the story, though they are more than free to identify themselves if they’d like. A speaker who was discussing the Eurocentric nature of IR was asked a question by a (female, feminist) member of the audience. The question was why the story of IR’s Eurocentrism did not include a story of its sexism and heterosexism as well. I didn’t listen to the whole answer (see previous very interesting [to me] twitter conversation with Patrick Thaddeus Jackson). The part of the answer that I did here, though, caught my attention, not just then but fully for the next two days and off and on for the coming months.

The part of the answer that caught my attention was that the substance of the answer had previously been given to “an angry feminist” who wasn’t satisfied by it, and the speaker didn’t understand why. The speaker did not seem to be using those words as a parody, or to be poking fun at himself. Instead, the sentence seemed to be meant literally, and a straightforward explanation of the position he saw himself (and the “angry feminist”) in vis-a-vis the field. A few more questions were asked on the point (this exchange happened in the early afternoon if I remember correctly), and didn’t bring about any real resolution. Mine weren’t the only angry tweets, though I missed it if anyone else got as colorful as I did in their descriptions of and reactions to the situation.

In those tweets and in my presentation the next morning, I was the “angry feminist.” I justified anger from years of mistreatment, trivialization, intellectual shortchanging, and personal belittling – not (only) towards me, but towards women and femininity in disciplinary IR and in global politics more generally. I justified that anger because anger at injustice is justified, and trivializing and gendering anger is itself injustice. 

I’ve been accused of reifying the stereotype that gender scholars are humorless by expressing being appalled at the casual nature of gender and sex subordination in the discipline and in the world. I could defend myself by suggesting that I have both a sense of humor and a generally laid back outlook on life – and those who know me will understand that to be the case – but that’s not the freaking point. The point is that you don’t have to find gender subordination funny to be cool (in fact, I think its not cool to find it funny), and you don’t have to remain calm in the face of injustice to merit that injustice being solved (in fact, its perfectly fine for injustice to piss people off. It is, in fact, unjust).

My use of profanity in those tweets (and the next morning in my talk), and my performance of anger, then, was meant to express simultaneously how not ok sex and gender and race subordination are, and how not ok it is to stereotype anger about those subordinations to perpetuate them. Perhaps the speaker in Sussex and/or Scott Jaschik did not mean to link up with a long tradition of subordinating women and trivializing anger/expecting calm, but both did. I could have reacted calmly and explained the problem (in both instances, I did do some explaining), and some would suggest that’s the appropriate reaction – I’ve been instructed more times than I can count in my life not to play into this or that stereotype. This is what I wanted to say that day, and what I’ve wanted to say most days:

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News Report: Angry Women Angry Again, Part 1 of 2

The other day, Wendy Wong posted at the Duck of Minerva about race, gender, and having a career in IR – particularly in response to the American Political Science Association’s choice of a stock image of a random Asian woman as the image to advertise their article on authority in International NGOs. Wendy asked a series of important questions: what did this image have to do with authority? or NGOs? Or politics? What happened to her co-author? What search terms led to this picture? Are we still relying on stereotypes that all Asians look alike? How hard is it to google NGOs?

After initially not apologizing, APSA issued an apology, promising to monitor their social media posting better. Still, many of us were horrified that such a ‘mistake’, and all of the stereotypes that brings with it, was even possible for APSA as an organization, given all of the work our field has done on race and gender stereotypes both in scholarship and in the world. My tweet below is only one example:

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Political scientists’ anger was picked up by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed, in a post titled “Twitter Illustration Angers Women in Political Science.” My immediate reaction was to criticize the gender stereotypes inherent in the article title:

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A 140-character tweet might not have been the best place to explain it. Several other tweeters, and facebook posters, have expressed discomfort with Jaschik’s wording. Steve Saideman noted in a comment on the post:

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Will Moore, on his blog, critiqued the title for suggesting that only women were upset by it, and thereby reifying the normalization and prioritization of white men’s problems over the problems of people who aren’t white men, which are treated as less serious or of lesser import. Wendy Wong and Sarah Stroup suggest a better title for Jaschik’s piece on twitter:

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I think that this is an important correction, and that it is important that Jaschik acknowledge it. But I find Jaschik’s title even more insidious than other critics have explicitly because it plays on and entrenches an embedded (masculine) stereotype of the scary “angry woman.”

Narrativized accounts of the “angry woman” frame her as more scary than, and more dangerous than, any angry men could be. Subtly drawing of gender stereotypes, often descriptions of women’s anger suggest that women (who are understood as emotional) have, deal with, and express anger in more unpalatable ways than men (who are understood as irrational). The “angry woman” is characterized as angry at whatever the offending man might do, however justified and possibly even sympathetically intended. The “angry woman” is a way to characterize feminism as hysteria and not a search for justice and emancipation. The “angry woman” distances women from both agency and normal femininity. The “angry woman” is belittling, sexist, and deeply both intellectually and normatively problematic – even when it is not deployed intentionally. 

I can’t speak for whether Wendy was angry, because I’m not her. I was angry. However unintentional, APSA’s post was sex and race subordinating, and trivialized Wendy and Sarah’s work. But Jaschik didn’t say that. He might have meant to. Instead, he said that women were angry. He didn’t say APSA made them angry. He didn’t say APSA belittled them. He didn’t say APSA’s mistake trivialized their work. He said that the tweet had “angered women.” And watch out for those angry women …

So, I have two take-aways:

  1. I think Jaschik needs to apologize for/change the title of the post on Inside Higher Ed.
  2. “Angry women” don’t come from femininity gone awry –> anger. They come from ridiculous essentialism and subordination –> anger. And a great way to prove the justness of that anger is to stereotype women who stand up for themselves as “angry women.”

In part 2 of this post, I’ll tell you what got me thinking about this a couple of months ago, and how I think of analyzing anger in gender analysis in IR.

Never Tell a Soldier the Costs of War…

Jon Lindsay over at PV@G said most of what needs to be said about Eye in the Sky. I will only make a few points but mostly reiterate the need for any IR scholar to see this movie. It is frankly incredible but it is also a “hard watch.” It wasn’t exactly the best movie choice for my last day in Los Angeles, but it is something that needs to be seen by those in our community.  EITS_Ex_Original

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I don’t have anything new to say about the Planned Parenthood shootings

A little more than a week ago, someone walked into a Planned Parenthood and started shooting – killing people for being less “pro-life” than he was. He was an  evangelical with a history of violence against women. The particular clinic, the people who died, the details of the event – those are new, and unique. But people killing people over some lose affiliation with abortion? I  have memories of that happening consistently over the course of my life, damn near in my back yard. There were the summer and Christmas clinic bombings in 1984, the doctor shot in the back in 1993, and another shot in the head in 1994 – all in my small hometown.

In the 1994 Washington Post story, then-President Bill Clinton called the act of shooting a  physician because s/he provides or supports the provision of abortions “domestic terrorism” and condemned it. While I’ve recently suggested that the risk of ‘everyday terrorism’ discourses is a license for ‘counterterrorism’ in intimate spaces, and have always worried about the Orientalist implications of terrorism language – this one is easy – killings that target abortion clinics are terrorism. They are a part of a larger system of violence against women and girls, and a culture that combines sexism and violence. That’s not something new to say. Someone probably said it before I was born. I don’t have anything new to say. Because nothing different is happening. Same script, different century. Its not about saying something new. Its about someone finally fucking hearing it – abortion clinics aren’t places to kill people, women’s bodies aren’t crazy and unrelated men’s business, and so long as it is easier to buy an arsenal than it is to enroll in school there’s a risk that people buy and use arsenals.

Some of my conservative friends look to make a counterpoint out of San Bernardino shootings – those were acts of terrorism, after all, by Islamic extremists inspired by Daesh. But there’s no counterpoint there. Its not scarier for people to kill people out of a terrible misinterpretation of the Islamic god than out of a terrible misinterpretation of the Christian god. Both are made possible by a culture of violence and the availability of weapons. Both are unconscionable. And both have been going on way too long.

I’m tired of responding to either. And I’m tired of sexist, racist, politically polarizing responses to something that should be not about sex, race, or politics: militarized culture, not ok; killing people in the name of life, not ok; killing people who aren’t trying toil you, not ok.  I don’t have anything new to say, because I’ve said the same damn thing every time violence like that happens, and, however loudly it is said, … it seems to drown in the combination of religious and nationalist rhetoric with which both of these events, and many others like and unlike them, are normalized.

“I know there’s stuff I don’t talk about” and other annoying responses to feminist analysis

Ok, maybe not other annoying responses, for this post. Just this one.

Recently, I was asked to write a response to Mike Desch’s argument that high-tech methodology hurts the policy relevance of Security Studies for Perspectives on Politics. The policy relevance that Desch is interested in is relevance to the Washington establishment in the US.

There’s nothing ground-breaking about my response – it repeats things feminists have been saying for decades. It suggests that seeing the US government as the location of relevance may be not only wrong but morally insidious, then makes the argument that the notion of objective knowledge and scientific process that Desch shares with the quantitative work he criticizes might be the root of a differently understood ‘relevance problem’ for Security Studies – hierarchy and exclusion.

Even though this response is, in my view, strikingly unoriginal – it seems to be getting the same reaction it got 20 years ago. Desch was able to write a response to the response – well, a response to other people’s responses anyway. All of the other pieces (including the other two in the sentence below) are addressed substantively. My piece is mentioned in one sentence. Brace yourself.

“Finally, Tutton, Voeten, and Laura Sjoberg all make an important point about policy-relevance involving much more than government policy-makers.”

Yep. That’s it. I say: gender analysis shows your conception of Security Studies is normatively harmful and intellectually counterproductive. He says: oh, nice of you to tell me that we need to pay attention to policy-making outside of government. I meant that, I just didn’t say it. But my catch-all point applies to that.

In other words, I know there’s stuff I didn’t talk about, and that’s enough to dispense with the gender critique.

My colleagues from outside of the United States often wonder why I engage with the American mainstream of IR, and, when I first read Desch’s response to the response, I’ll admit, I got on the skeptical bandwagon.

But then I thought – that response is exactly why it has to keep getting said. There, and then here, and then anyplace else that it can be. Gender analysis is not just something you mean but don’t say, and then can get away with saying “I know there’s stuff I didn’t talk about.” It affects how you think about a project, ontologically, epistemology, and methodologically. It affects it whether or not you think so – your work is as impacted by implicit masculinized gender assumptions as mine is by explicit feminist assumptions. And I’m talking about it even if you won’t.

Sex and Death … revisited?

I won’t tell you how old I was when Carol Cohn published “Sex and Death in the World of Rational Defense Intellectuals” – but I will tell you that I’ve read it dozens of times over my years as an IR scholar, and that it has been foundational to my thinking about security issues in the international political arena, as well as the links between gender, violence, and security. So I was surprised, and interested, to see an article in the FirstView of International Organization which plays off of the title of Cohn’s original Signs article – Rose McDermott‘s “Sex and Death: Gender Differences in Aggression and Motivations for Violence.” Then I read it.

Almost thirty years ago, Cohn described that  “it was hard not to notice the ubiquitous weight of gender, both in social relations and in the language itself” of “white men in ties discussing missile size” (p.688, 692). This discussion about sexualized imagery does not serve to compare (favorably or unfavorably) men and women – in fact, Cohn notes the ease of getting drawn into it even with an explicitly feminist predisposition. Instead, Cohn’s discussion serves to show that militarism itself relies on gendered significations – of men and women, of states, and of strategies and tactics. The lasting richness of Cohn’s work is about voice, signification, reification, and hybridity in gender/security matrices. And that’s what’s lost in McDermott’s reuse of Cohn’s title.

McDermott naturalizes sex and gender, throwing Butler’s caution about the performative co-constitution of sex and gender to the wind. The consequences are a step backwards, rather than a step forward, for analyzing gender and international security.

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Rape Culture this Week

With all the news this week about gender relations in Silicon Valley, an airplane crash, and various levels of unrest around the world, I almost missed the story of Teresa Fedor. Maybe you did too.

Teresa is a state representative in the state of Ohio. She stood in front of the Ohio legislature. She told them that she was raped while she was a member of the US military. She told them that she went through a pregnancy produced by that rape. She told them that she chose to have an abortion to end her nightmare.

Teresa”s audience did not hear that the military (among other places in the US and around the world) is saturated with rape culture. They did not hear the victim of a terrible violation of human rights and bodily integrity. They did not hear someone who went through unimaginable physical and emotional pain as a result of that violation. In fact, it does not appear that they heard anything.


The reaction was to laugh online casino at her. Audibly. On the floor of the Ohio legislature.

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Stopping Wartime Sexual Violence?

This post is cross-posted at the Polity Blog, in promotion of my recently published Gender, War, and Conflict (Polity Press, 2014).

It was a coincidence that Gender, War, and Conflict was formally published on the eve of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence, held in London. The Global Summit, as its webpage described, was meant to shatter the culture of impunity towards wartime rape, take practical steps toward decreasing it, provide support to survivors, and change attitudes of apathy.

This ambitious summit was attended by public figures like Hilary Rodham Clinton and Angelina Jolie, as well as by scholars of wartime sexual violence like my colleagues Amelia Hoover Green and Marsha Henry, among others. While I sat this one out at home in Florida, I followed its progress on Twitter and read news coverage as the summit looked to “write the last chapter in the history of wartime rape.”

Scholars writing from the Summit expressed a combination of hope – given the amount of high-profile political capital being devoted to the cause – and despair – given the long, complicated, and important history of social science research into wartime sexual violence that was largely ignored at the Summit. The biggest complaint I have seen and read is that the Summit’s policy-world and advocate speakers have a commitment to the social cause of ending wartime rape without a matching commitment to knowing and understanding the history of wartime rape, the conditions of possibility of the crime, the significations of rape in conflict, and the gendered contexts in which wartime rape is committed.

In other words, the advocates at the Summit understood that war rape is a terrible crime in which women are disproportionately victimized. But there is more to it, and scholars have been trying to communicate that in order to improve policy analysis, and, hopefully, policy solutions. While the summit is over and the media has moved on to its next target, I think that this point is still a very important one. Continue reading