Handout – Gender
What is feminist IR? How does gender matter in our explanations in IR?
How have women’s rights been understood in global governance?
How does feminism help to illuminate divides between public & private, domestic & international in
Sex: a biological attribute (male vs. female)
Gender: a social construction (masculine vs. feminine). “a system of symbolic meaning that creates
social /material hierarchies based on perceived associations with masculinity/ies and femininity/ies
(most often assigned by the shorthand of perceived biological sex). It is expectations, assumptions,
and outcomes assigned to people, things, concepts, and ideas based on their association with one of
those categories (and often assumed membership in sex categories). People, things, concepts and
ideas that are associated with masculinity (including but not limited to most ‘men’) are usually valued
differently than and often above people, things, concepts, and ideas associated with femininity
(including but not limited to most ‘women’).” Laura Sjoberg, “Feminist IR 101 #1”. Blog Post at
Duck of Minerva www.duckofminerva.blogspot.com , 24 November 2010. Accessed 25 January
2011. Gender is a performance.
IR and Feminism
1. Asks where are the women?
2. Looks at gender as a power relation. Gender is hierarchy. Men and women do not act outside of
this hierarchy, so we cannot fully understand the things that men and women do without taking this
hierarchy into account.
3. Feminism in IR has a normative bias and has a political agenda of change.
Women’s Rights as Human Rights: quest