Friday, February 8, 2013

Women and International Relations

Have You Heard?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before Congress about the Benghazi attacks. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the military ban on women serving in combat. Refugees fleeing from violence in Syria are mostly women and children. What roles do women play in global politics? Some of my favorite discussions of this question are really accessible and fascinating:

Joshua Goldstein’s 2001 book, War & Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa. Goldstein asks why, across so many different countries and so much time, warfighting has almost always been exclusively done by men. He examines all sorts of evidence about gender differences as they relate to war-fighting: biological, physical, historical, and cultural. Now in paperback:
Carol Cohn’s classic participant-observer analysis of the US defense analyst culture. Cohn’s 1987 paper, “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals” (Signs 12(4): 687-718) is filled with jaw-dropping passages. Cohn describes her experience at a summer workshop on nuclear defense, and highlights the highly sexualized language defense analysts typically use. Cohn provocatively titles one section of her feminist interpretation “White Men in Ties Discussing Missile Size.”
PBS’s 5-part series on Women, War, and Peace. It offers perspectives from around the world and examines a variety of topics such as women in combat, rape, war crimes, and post-war peacebuilding. The first part in the series, War Redefined, is a great overview.

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