International Development, Community, and Environment



Document Type

Book Chapter


Feminism is a multidimensional yet coherent worldview. It is an approach to investigating the world. It also generates prescriptions derived from those findings. Feminism is an achieved mosaic of understandings, yet it is still unfolding. Feminism puts women – their experiences, their ideas, their actions, thoughts about them, efforts to convince and manipulate them – on center stage, while feminism also makes ‘men-as-men’ visible and masculinity problematic. Feminism takes ‘women-as-women’ seriously, yet it acknowledges and explicitly explores women’s own myriad, often unequal, locations. In short, feminism is a complex set of understandings about how power operates, how power is legitimized and how power is perpetuated. Feminists investigate forms of power that are constructed and wielded in what are conventionally imagined as ‘private’ spaces (inside homes, within families, among friends), as well as forms of power wielded in what are presumed to be ‘public’ spaces (elections, courts, schools, television companies, banks, garment factories and military bases). What distinguishes a feminist curiosity is its concern with the causal links between power in private spaces and power in public spaces. The idea that public and private spaces’ power dynamics can causally influence each

other is one of the reasons that feminist studies are interdisciplinary. Feminism employs research skills drawn, yet recrafted, from political science, history, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, biology, film and literary criticism, geography, economics and psychology to create a genuinely feminist investigation of, say, nuclear weapons policy making or global trade bargaining. This realization that feminist investigations call for multiple skills has nurtured the interdisciplinary character of many feminist International Relations (IR) scholarly projects: organizing conferences, designing research, publishing journals, developing curriculum, advising graduate students and drafting academic job descriptions. These are the activities that launch and sustain any academic research and teaching field. Feminist scholars have not found narrower disciplinary ‘gatekeeping’ in any of these activities to be fruitful.

Publication Title

International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction

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international relations, feminism, philosophy