Coker's article (published in a very conservative magazine in England) "reflected unease among some of his colleagues" about that new course at LSEP. Moreover, Coker disputes that fact that there is a female alternative to male behavior and Coker insists that "Whether they love or hate humanity, feminists seem unable to look it in the face" (Smith quoting Coker, p. 58).
If feminists are right about the female nature being more peaceful and "less aggressive" than men, then women pose a "far greater danger than men…" to the world and to international relations Coker continued. It was a less aggressive attitude toward international relations that "prevented us from deterring Hitler," Coker went on, referencing (without naming) Neville Chamberlain, England's Prime Minister who reportedly appeased Hitler rather than take a strong stand against the Third Reich.
On page 58 Steve Smith explains that in cases where feminine concerns are being expressed on the public state, people like Coker either feel "rather humble and embarrassed or feel attacked personally." if, like professor Coker, they feel that their patriarchal position has been threatened, they "react aggressively" (Smith, p. 58). The other problem relating to adverse male responses vis-a-vis women entering the international relations milieu is that "Feminist work simply does not relate to the professional agenda of IR," Smith asserts (p. 58). It must be understood that international relations is "so tightly determined," according to Smith, from the "tyranny" of first year texts to the locked-in formats of the leading journals, that any innovating by feminists is "difficult and threatening" (p. 58). On page 59 Smith posits that many of the concerns feminists have are "simply irrelevant" to many scholars in international relations. Those scholars may well accept that women are exploited -- it would be hard not to accept that fact unless one is living in a cave -- but they can't figure out what "most feminist work has to do with 'the real world of international relations'" (p. 59). And in this case, the "real world" is the world that has been given over to the male gender and issues relating to the state.
Not every international relations scholar is as hard-headedly anti-feminism as Coker, but breaking into the field has been a struggle for certain in Australia. Writing in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Katrina Lee-Koo restates what others have emphasized: busting through the hitherto locked door of the international relations field has been anything but smooth for feminists. Globally the relationship between mainstream international relations actors and feminists has been "uneasy," she understates.
In Australia the relationship was not even established until well after American and European feminists began making noise in the field. The problem is not radical or otherwise pushy feminists; the problem has been the resistance of mainstream international relations scholars, according to Lee-Koo (p. 424).
The result of this recalcitrance on the part of the field's establishment has resulted in a kind of "subfield" -- a level of scholarship beneath the mainstream in the field, Lee-Koo writes. A kind of a second string, in a sports context. This isn't a terrible or scathing rejection of feminist contributions to the field and yet the feminist impact thus far has been at best "limited" and at worst "non-existent" Lee-Koo explains (p. 424). Lee-Koo quotes Terrell Carver, professor of political theory at Bristol University, who asks a highly pertinent question: are scholarly feminists and mainstream scholars in international relations "even in the same world?" (p. 424). Lee-Koo goes on to suggest that because feminist interventions into international relations is seen as threatening the male establishment, there have been "deeply discriminatory" responses, even misogynist in tone, of the women who have offered scholarship. This is truly troubling.
Radical feminism and International Relations
Meantime, Charlotte Hooper (2001, p. 48) describes the more assertive path taken by radical feminists as they propose ways to "overthrow" the "masculinist privilege" vis-a-vis international relations.
The radical feminists "accept all the qualities associated with the feminine as women's natural domain" and they "privilege these qualities over the masculine" (Hooper, p. 48). However edgy and contentious this position is, Hooper goes on, it nonetheless has been "significant" in significant and has been "successful" in bringing many women's health and sexuality issues "to the forefront of mainstream politics" (Hooper, p. 48).
That having been pointed out, Hooper goes on to state that despite the fact that radical feminist campaigns have succeeded in bringing attention to women's international issues, and in the process have improved some women's lives, radical feminism has "done nothing to dismantle dichotomous thinking" (p. 48). Hooper obviously feels that dichotomy is in the way of real reform vis-a-vis women and international relations.
She also believes that the radical feminist model for change should have built an effort to transcend (she uses "dismantle dichotomous thinking") the old juxtaposition of masculine / feminine. Instead, radical feminists used an essentialist approach. That is, they attempted to replace the rule of "violent and 'masculine' men with the rule of peace-loving 'feminine' women" (Hooper, p. 48). In fact what they did was to "reinstate masculinist dichotomies in reverse" (Hooper, p. 48). On page 50 Hooper references the research by Spike Peterson and Anne Sisson Runyan (1993) who believe that women are either accused of "propping up the status quo by supporting masculine agendas" or if they don't join the status quo and appear to be acting "like women" they then are accused of "reinforcing the traditional feminine stereotype" (Hooper. P. 50). Peterson and Runyan (1993, p. 71) (quoted by Hooper) offer this viewpoint:
"As long as female political actors are perceived either as traditional women or 'invisible women' (because they are acting like men), gender expectations are not really disrupted. Paradoxically, even when women wield the highest state power, by continuing to behave in gender-stereotypical ways, they reinforce rather than challenge the politics of gender…There is no simple, one-to-one relationship between the presence of women in power and the extend of feminist politics…"
Hooper believes that if there was a substantial increase in the number of females fully participating in the public side of international relations and international politics that would still not assure a change in the way politics is practiced (dichotomous masculine / feminine dynamics) (p. 50). And even if somehow feminine characteristics could be imported into the international relations milieu, that would also not redress the imbalance in gender representation, Hooper goes on, especially if women remained underrepresented in positions of power (Hooper, p. 50).
An forceful discussion of feminism and the state
Catharine a. MacKinnon's book, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, asks some extremely pointed questions that are germane to this paper. To wit: What is state power? Where, socially does it come from? How do women encounter it? What is the law for women? How does law work to legitimate the state, male power, itself? Can law do anything for women? (MacKinnon, 1991, p. 159).
No sooner does she ask those questions than she adds, "In the absence of answers, feminist practice has oscillated between a liberal theory of state on the one hand and a left theory of the state on the other" (p. 159). In other words, as of 1991, there were no answers and no solutions, to women's lack of clout in the international relations milieu. As regards the two theories MacKinnon references, they treat the law as "the mind of society: disembodied reason in liberal theory, reflection of material interest in the left theory" (p. 159).
She follows questions with more questions, such as, "Is the state constructed upon the subordination of women?" And "Can such a state be made to serve the interests of those upon whose powerlessness its power is erected?" (p. 161). Again, she has no answers specific to those queries, but posits that "…feminism has been caught between giving more power to the state in each attempt to claim if for women" and "leaving unchecked power in the society to men" (p. 161).
MacKinnon is adept at injecting familiar feministic barbs referencing sexuality and gender into her narrative about women and international relations; this strategy awakens any reader who may be close to napping through her narrative and serves to define MacKinnon as an assertive writer with anger just a couple taps on her keyboard away. To wit: "Undisturbed, meanwhile, like the assumption that women generally consent to sex, is the assumption that women consent to this government" (p. 161). And on page 167, after explaining the unfairness of -- and the results of -- state actions (e.g., war, belligerence, and aggression), she writes: "Women as a whole are kept poor, hence socially dependent on men, available for sexual or reproductive use" (p. 167). Leaving no…