Gendered Discourses

Emasculating America’s Linguistic Deterrent


Cohn, Carol. 2019. “Emasculating America’s Linguistic Deterrent.” In Rocking the Ship of State: Toward a Feminist Peace Politics, edited by Adrienne Harris and Ynestra King, 153–70. New York: Routledge.

Author: Carol Cohn



“I have three primary objectives in this project. The first is to describe, analyze, and explore the effects of technostrategic discourse – the language and ways of thinking that defense intellectuals have developed to speak about nuclear weapons, strategy, and warfare” (Cohn 2019, 154).

“My second objective goes beyond describing and understanding this discourse. Stated in the strongest possible terms, I wish to render this discourse 'impotent and obsolete' (to borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan). I wish to expose its limits and distortions, its underlying assumptions and values, and the vast gaps between what it claims to do and what it actually does, so as to break its stranglehold on our scholarship, our policy decisions, our national political processes, and our imaginations” (Cohn 2019, 155).

“My third objective is to foster the development of more truly realistic, effective, and humane ways of thinking about international security and cooperation” (Cohn 2019, 155).

Topics: Gender, Gender Analysis, Gendered Discourses, Masculinity/ies, Peace and Security, Political Participation, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: United States of America

Year: 2019

‘Cocked and Loaded’: Trump and the Gendered Discourse of National Security


Cohn, Carol. 2020. “‘Cocked and Loaded’: Trump and the Gendered Discourse of National Security.” In Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies, edited by Janet McIntosh and Norma Mendoza-Denton, 179–90. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Author: Carol Cohn

Keywords: military language, North Korea, nuclear weapons, metaphor, euphemism, gender, masculinity, gender and language, national security, language and thought



On Jan 2, 2018, President Trump tweeted a taunt to Kim Jong-un of North Korea: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” This chapter connects Trump’s nuclear saber-rattling to broader patterns of militaristic language use among nuclear weapons scientists and strategists, as well as among past presidents. Professional and political discourse about nuclear weapons tends to be far removed from the human realities behind the weapons. Such dispassionate language is characterized by stunningly abstract and euphemistic language – and in part by a set of lively and misogynistic sexual metaphors. This linguistic framework seems to shape what can be said, or even thought, within the confines of these male-dominated discussions of war. Those who urge restraint in responding to a provocation or attack, for instance, are quickly impugned as sissies, and expressions of empathy denigrated as feminine. In this respect, Mr. Trump is not an exception. His fear of being perceived as unmanly may be closer to the surface, but gendered language that constrains our understanding of reality has long distorted the ways we think about international politics and national security. (Summary from publisher)

Topics: Gender, Femininity/ies, Gender Analysis, Gendered Discourses, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: North Korea, United States of America

Year: 2020

The United States–India Nuclear Relations after 9/11: Alternative Discourses


Das, Runa. 2012. “The United States–India Nuclear Relations after 9/11: Alternative Discourses.” Asian Journal of Political Science 20 (1): 86–107.

Author: Runa Das


In this article, I go beyond the conventional realist arguments of anarchy, national interest, and nuclear security to offer alternative discourses of the same as applied in the context of US–India nuclear relations after 9/11. To this extent, I draw from feminist International Relations, that security is a gendered phenomenon, to explore how the post-9/11 climate of globalization has served as the context within which are articulated masculinist forms of nuclear discourses between India and the United States. Furthermore, considering issues of international hierarchy and power relations between India and United States, I also draw from Edward Said's Orientalism to explore how assumptions of Orientalism are also sustained in these masculinist nuclear discourses. My contribution in this article lies in offering an alternative feminist and post-colonial perspective to comprehend that nuclear security discourses are not only about objective realist/neoliberal issues of insecurity and strategic interdependence but also contain subjective implications that sustain masculinist and orientalist forms of identity-making in international politics.

Keywords: United States, India, nuclear security, masculinity, orientalism, discourse

Topics: Gender, Gender Analysis, Gendered Discourses, Masculinity/ies, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: India, United States of America

Year: 2012

A Feminist Perspective on the Nuclear Weapon Discourse and its Gendered Consequences


Butale, Cheludo Tinaye. 2019. “A Feminist Perspective on the Nuclear Weapon Discourse and Its Gendered Consequences.” PhD diss., Cyprus International University.

Author: Cheludo Tinaye Butale


Nuclear weapons continue to be seen as a crucial aspect of international security. However, the international security discourse tends to overlook the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons which has led to various feminists questioning the importance and effectiveness of the nuclear weapon discourse. This paper explores the nuclear weapons discourse and the gendered consequences of the discourse. It examines the way in which the nuclear weapons discourse and practices favour ideas of masculinity over femininity which has created barriers towards ending nuclear weapons and bringing about effective disarmament. I argue that the gendered language used within nuclear discourses has resulted in a gendered masculine-coded language and values based on rationality or state interests that exclude feminist’s values of including a humanitarian perspective within the nuclear discourse. A feminist theory, mainly post-structural feminism shall be used to show how international security is a gendered phenomenon which articulates masculinity forms of nuclear discourses. Few if any studies use the post-structural feminism theory to critique the nuclear discourse. The paper concludes by suggesting ways the nuclear discourse can be improved and made effective.

Keywords: femininity, masculinity, nuclear discourse, nuclear weapons

Topics: Gender, Femininity/ies, Gendered Discourses, Masculinity/ies, Peace and Security, Security, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Year: 2019

Gender Perspective on Nuclear Weapons and Human Rights


Venturini, Gabriella. 2018. “Gender Perspective on Nuclear Weapons and Human Rights.” Edited by Jonathan L. Black-Branch and Dieter Fleck. In Nuclear Non-Proliferation in International Law IV: 99–115. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press.

Author: Gabriella Venturini


Gender perspective is currently being mainstreamed in the context of security, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. Since gender is not just about women and girls but also relates to men and boys, gender perspective must be balanced and take into account the broad socio-cultural context as a whole. The adverse effects of nuclear detonations may impinge on the right to life and encroach upon a number of other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights among which the right to family life, health, education, property and housing. It has become apparent that the use and testing of nuclear weapons affect differently men and boys, women and girls, both physically and in the context of society, hindering their ability to fully exercise their basic human rights. Gender-aware assistance is needed to contribute reducing the adverse consequences of nuclear detonations for the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. Gender perspective may help redirect debates concerning nuclear weapons towards a greater consideration of human factors, and ultimately reshape the strategies for security, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. Women’s engagement in the struggle for peace and disarmament is extremely relevant and should gain more influence, while involving more women in nuclear issues, at both national and international level, could enhance the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda. However, only if women and men are able to work together within governments, international organisations and civil society with full awareness of, and respect for, their respective roles, diversities and needs, effective and sustainable solutions on issues of nuclear disarmament can be achieved.

Keywords: gender, women, human rights, nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament, nuclear tests

Topics: Gender, Gender Analysis, Gendered Discourses, Gender Balance, Gender Mainstreaming, Peace and Security, Political Participation, Rights, Human Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Year: 2018

Beyond Greenham Woman?: Gender Identities and Anti-Nuclear Activism in Peace Camps


Eschle, Catherine. 2017. “Beyond Greenham Woman?: Gender Identities and Anti-Nuclear Activism in Peace Camps.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 19 (4): 471–90.

Author: Catherine Eschle


This article investigates the discursive construction of gendered identities in anti-nuclear activism and particularly in peace camps. My starting point is the now substantial academic literature on Cold War women-only peace camps, such as that at Greenham Common. I extend the analysis that emerges from this literature in my research on the mixed-gender, long-standing camp at Faslane naval base in Scotland. I argue that the 1980s saw the articulation in the camp of the figure of the Gender-Equal Peace Activist, displaced in the mid-1990s by Peace Warrior/Earth Goddess identities shaped by radical environmentalism and reinstating hierarchical gender norms. I conclude that gendered identities constructed in and through anti-nuclear activism are even more variable than previously considered; that they shift over time as well as place and are influenced by diverse movements, not solely feminism; and that they gain their political effect not only through the transgression of social norms, but also through discursive linkage with, or disconnection from, political subjectivities in wider society. With such claims, the article aims to re-contextualise Greenham Woman in her particular place and time, and to contribute to a more expansive understanding of the gendering of anti-nuclear activism.

Keywords: Anti-nuclear, peace camps, gender identities, discourse analysis, Faslane peace camps

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Gendered Discourses, Women, Peace and Security, Peacebuilding, Rights, Women's Rights, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2017

Officialising Strategies: Participatory Processes and Gender in Thailand's Water Resources Sector


Resurrección, Bernadette P., Mary Jane Real, and Panadda Pantana. 2004. “Officialising Strategies: Participatory Processes and Gender in Thailand’s Water Resources Sector.” Development in Practice 14 (4): 521–33.

Authors: Bernadette P. Resurrección, Mary Jane Real, Panadda Pantana


This paper examines participatory processes in an Asian Development Bank (ADB) technical assistance package in Thailand's water resource sector. The authors analyse various levels of social interaction in the local community, in meso-level stakeholder consultations, and in opposition to ADB's environment programmes expressed by civil society organisations. While participatory approaches are employed to promote more bottom-up management regimes in water resources, the authors find that local power and gender differences have been overlooked. Evolving institutions of resource governance are constituted by gender, reproducing gender inequalities such as regarding water intended for agricultural use as a 'male' resource. Finally, it is argued that understandings and practices of participation legitimise particular agendas in a politically polarised arena.

Topics: Agriculture, Civil Society, Gender, Gendered Discourses, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Hierarchies, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation, International Organizations Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Thailand

Year: 2004

Hashtagging Girlhood: #IAmMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and Gendering Representations of Global Politics


Berents, Helen. 2016. “Hashtagging Girlhood: #IAmMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and Gendering Representations of Global Politics.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (4): 513–27.

Author: Helen Berents


This article explores how gendered, racial and youth-ed concepts of girlhood shape the way conflict, violence and the lived experiences of girls in conflict-affected environments are understood globally. In particular, it examines the broader context and effect of social media campaigns that specifically invoke a concept of “girlhood” in their responses to crisis or tragedy. It focuses on two hashtags and their associated social media campaigns: #IAmMalala, started in response to the attempted killing of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012 by Taliban gunmen, and #BringBackOurGirls, started by Nigerians and adopted globally in response to the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by terrorist group Boko Haram. In both instances, understandings of the broader political context are shaped by the focus on girls. Both hashtags also appropriate an experience: claiming to be Malala and claiming the Nigerian girls as ours. Through this exploration, I argue that particular ideals of girlhood are coded within these campaigns, and that these girls’ experiences are appropriated. I critique the limited representations of girlhood that circulate in these discussions, and how these limited representations demonstrate the problematic narrowness of dominant conceptions of girlhood.

Keywords: Girlhood, activism, social media, Malala Yousafzai, Chibok girls

Topics: Age, Youth, Education, Gender, Gendered Discourses, Media, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Race, Terrorism, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa, Asia, South Asia Countries: Nigeria, Pakistan

Year: 2016

Absent Voices: Women and Youth in Communal Land Governance. Reflections on Methods and Process from Exploratory Research in West and East Africa


Lemke, Stefanie and Priscilla Claeys. 2020. "Absent Voices: Women and Youth in Communal Land Governance. Reflections on Methods and Process from Exploratory Research in West and East Africa." Land 9 (8): 266- 66. 

Authors: Stefanie Lemke , Priscilla Claeys


An increasing number of African States are recognizing customary land tenure. Yet, there is a lack of research on how community rights are recognized in legal and policy frameworks, how they are implemented in practice, and how to include marginalized groups. In 2018–2019, we engaged in collaborative exploratory research on governing natural resources for food sovereignty with social movement networks, human rights lawyers and academics in West and East Africa. In this article, we reflect on the process and methods applied to identify research gaps and partners (i.e., two field visits and regional participatory workshops in Mali and Uganda), with a view to share lessons learned. In current debates on the recognition and protection of collective rights to land and resources, we found there is a need for more clarity and documentation, with customary land being privatized and norms rapidly changing. Further, the voices of women and youth are lacking in communal land governance. This process led to collaborative research with peasant and pastoralist organizations in Kenya, Tanzania, Mali and Guinea, with the aim to achieve greater self-determination and participation of women and youth in communal land governance, through capacity building, participatory research, horizontal dialogues and action for social change.

Keywords: gender, women and youth, communal land governance, right to land, collective rights, Participatory Action Research, transdisciplinary approach, COVID-19, West and East Africa, constituencies

Topics: Age, Youth, Gender, Gendered Discourses, Women, Governance, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa, West Africa Countries: Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda

Year: 2020

In Search of Feminist Foreign Policy: Gender, Development, and Danish State Identity


Richey, Lisa Ann. 2001. “In Search of Feminist Foreign Policy: Gender, Development, and Danish State Identity.” Cooperation and Conflict 36 (2): 177-212.

Author: Lisa Ann Richey


This article investigates the extent to which the Danish state's identification with gender issues is transferred into Danish development policy. Is Denmark pursuing a gender and development policy that is radically different from most other Western donor states and, if not, why might we see a less progressive policy in Denmark than we might expect from a domestically `feminist' state? In this article, it is suggested that the very nature of development aid and the policies in place to promote it are gendered. Gender and development aid could provide an arena for international constitution of domestically `feminist' policies. However, it is argued that `development' itself poses important challenges for implementing the goals of Denmark's gender and development policies. Conversely, implementing the critical strategy of agenda-setting within gender and development would reconstitute both `development' and the identity of the Danish state as donor.

Topics: Development, Feminisms, Feminist Foreign Policy, Gender, Gendered Discourses Regions: Europe, Nordic states, Northern Europe Countries: Denmark

Year: 2001


© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at

Subscribe to RSS - Gendered Discourses