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Feminist IR and the Case of the "Black Widows": Reproducing Gendered Divisions


West, Jessica. 2005. “Feminist IR and the Case of the ‘Black Widows’: Reproducing Gendered Divisions.” Innovations: Journal of Politics (5): 1–16.

Author: Jessica West


Feminism has been a marginal approach to International Relations (IR) since its inception following the Cold War, however in an effort to reinvigorate its analytical power, Charlotte Hooper demonstrated how the practice of IR actively reproduces as well as reflects gender identities in the form of hegemonic masculinity. The purpose of the following study is to challenge and extend Hooper’s argument by investigating whether or not the practice of international relations also produces a hegemonic femininity. By examining the popular portrayal of Chechen women terrorists commonly referred to as the ‘Black Widows,’ [West] argue[s] that our interpretations of international events do indeed produce a hegemonic femininity that places women in the familial world of emotion and victimhood. In effect, a feminine niche is created for women who partake in traditionally masculine activities. This analysis speaks to two additional controversies in feminist literature: the effect of adding women to andocentric categories and whether or not women’s violence should be represented in feminist theories. The difficulties that feminist encounter with each of these issues is demonstrative of the need to eschew rather than clamour for a position within the strictures of mainstream IR. Instead, feminists should embrace their position on the margins of IR and the opportunity that it provides to destabilizing the hierarchies, exclusions and violence upon which it is based.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-state Armed Groups, Terrorism Regions: Asia, Europe Countries: Russian Federation

Year: 2005

Discursive and Political Deployments by/of the 2002 Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers/Martyrs


Hasso, Frances S. 2005. “Discursive and Political Deployments by/of the 2002 Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers/Martyrs.” Feminist Review 81 (1): 23–51.

Author: Frances S. Hasso


This paper focuses on representations by and deployments of the four Palestinian women who during the first four months of 2002 killed themselves in organized attacks against Israeli military personnel or civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or Israel. The paper addresses the manner in which these militant women produced and situated themselves as gendered-political subjects, and argues that their self-representations and acts were deployed by individuals and groups in the region to reflect and articulate other gendered-political subjectivities that at times undermined or rearticulated patriarchal religio-nationalist understandings of gender and women in relation to corporeality, authenticity, and community. The data analysed include photographs, narrative representations in television and newspaper media, the messages the women left behind, and secondary sources.

Keywords: women, masculinity, suicide bombers

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-state Armed Groups Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Israel, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2005

Masculinities, IR and the 'Gender Variable': A Cost-Benefit Analysis for (Sympathetic) Gender Sceptics


Hooper, Charlotte. 1999. “Masculinities, IR and the 'Gender Variable': A Cost-Benefit Analysis for (Sympathetic) Gender Sceptics.” Review of International Studies 25 (3): 475-91.

Author: Charlotte Hooper


While it is commonplace to argue that international relations reflects a 'masculinist' world of men, this article reverses the arguement and asks whether international relations might also discipline men and help produce masculinities. In thinking through this question, the article provides an alternative route to understanding the feminist argument that the 'gender variable' cannot simply be added to mainstream analysis. By drawing attention to the epistemological and methodiological problems which would arise even with empirically oriented research on the subject, the limitations of mainstream approaches to this hitherto largely neglected area of research are highlighted, and alternatives suggested.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gender Mainstreaming

Year: 1999

Rape in Kosovo: Masculinity and Serbian Nationalism


Bracewell, Wendy. 2000. “Rape in Kosovo: Masculinity and Serbian Nationalism.” Nations and Nationalism 6 (4): 563–90.

Author: Wendy Bracewell


Accusations of Albanian rape of Serbs in Kosovo became a highly charged political factor in the development of Serbian nationalism in the 1980s. Discussions of rape were used to link perceptions of national victimisation and a crisis of masculinity and to legitimate a militant Serbian nationalism, ultimately contributing to the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. The article argues for attention to the ways that nationalist projects have been structured with reference to ideals of masculinity, the specific political and cultural contexts that have influenced these processes, and the consequent implications for gender relations as well as for nationalist politics. Such an approach helps explain the appeal of Milošević’s nationalism; at the same time it highlights the divisions and conflicts that lie behind hegemonic gender and national identities constructed around difference.

Topics: Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Nationalism, Sexual Violence, Rape Regions: Europe, Baltic states, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 2000

Finding the Man in the Soldier-Rapist: Some Reflections on Comprehension and Accountability


Price, Lisa S. 2001. “Finding the Man in the Soldier-Rapist: Some Reflections on Comprehension and Accountability.” Women’s Studies International Forum 24 (2): 211–27.

Author: Lisa S. Price


Drawing on research into war rape in the former Yugoslavia, this article considers a means of comprehending the motives of perpetrators. It argues that they are neither mad nor bad but ordinary men acting out of comprehensible motives. It further argues that to the extent that perpetrators act out of choice, they can and should be held accountable for their acts of sexual violence.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, SV against women Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 2001

The Scandal of Manhood: ‘Baby Rape’ and the Politicization of Sexual Violence in Post‐apartheid South Africa


Posel, Deborah. 2005. “The Scandal of Manhood: ‘Baby Rape’ and the Politicization of Sexual Violence in Post‐apartheid South Africa.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 7 (3): 239–52. doi: 10.1080/13691050412331293467.

Author: Deborah Posel


This paper traces the genealogy of sexual violence as a public and political issue in South Africa, from its initial marginalization and minimization during the apartheid era, through to the explosion of anguish and anger which marked the post-apartheid moment, and most dramatically the years 2001 and 2002. Of particular interest is the question of how and why the problem of sexual violence came to be seen as a scandal of manhood, putting male sexuality under critical public scrutiny. The paper argues that the sudden, intense eruption of public anxiety and argument about sexual violence which marked the post-apartheid period had relatively little to do with feminist analysis and politics (influential though this has been in some other respects). Rather, the key to understanding this politicization of sexual violence lies with its resonances with wider political and ideological anxieties about the manner of the national subject and the moral community of the country's fledgling democracy.

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Masculinism, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, SV against women, Sexuality Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2005

Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC)


Baaz, Maria Eriksson, and Maria Stern. 2009. “Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC).” International Studies Quarterly 53 (2): 495–518.

Authors: Maria Eriksson Baaz, Maria Stern


This article explores the ways soldiers in the Congo speak about the massive amount of rape committed by the armed forces in the recent war in the DRC. It focuses on the reasons that the soldiers give to why rape occurs. It discusses how the soldiers distinguish between ‘‘lust rapes’’ and ‘‘evil rapes’’ and argues that their explanations of rape must be understood in relation to notions of different (impossible) masculinities. Ultimately, through reading the soldiers’ words, we can glimpse the logics—arguably informed by the increasingly globalized context of soldiering—through which rape becomes possible, and even ‘‘normalized’’ in particular warscapes.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Globalization, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexuality Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2009

The Intractability of Militarised Masculinity: A Case Study of Former Self-Defence Unit Members in the Kathorus Area, South Africa


Langa, Malose, and Gillian Eagle. 2008. “The Intractability of Militarised Masculinity: A Case Study of Former Self-Defence Unit Members in the Kathorus Area, South Africa.” South African Journal of Psychology 38 (1): 152–75.

Authors: Malose Langa, Gillian Eagle


The study explores the struggle to maintain and transform a 'masculine' identity acquired primarily as a consequence of serving as part of a township-based paramilitary force in the pre-democratic South Africa. Based on accounts of former Self-Defence Unit (SDU) members from the Kathorus region (a group of townships on the perimeter of Johannesburg), the article explores some of the forces that influenced young men to become involved in political violence, the status this bestowed upon them, and how aspects of their 'militarised identity have come into conflict with new constructs of masculinity in a post-apartheid South Africa'. Although the experiences of South African ex-combatants have been documented in a number of reports and articles (Gear, 2002; Marks, 2001; Mashike & Mokalobe, 2003; Xaba, 2001), this article seeks to highlight the intractability of a particular form of masculine identity attained during the pivotal stage of early and late adolescent development. The negative consequences of this weddedness to a militarised masculinity for both the men themselves and the broader society are explored, together with some of the dimensions that appear to make this identity so compelling and so difficult to transform. The article draws upon theoretical understandings that suggest that gender and masculinity are socially constructed, and is based on data collected by means of individual interviews and focus groups conducted, with former combatants. The interviews reveal that images of militarised masculinity were popularised and dominant during the liberation struggle against apartheid, particularly amongst urban youth who were recruited into resistance activities. Young combatants were expected to be strong, brave, tough, fearless, aggressive, and violent. In many urban townships, young boys who were not part of the liberation struggle and youth politics were constructed as lacking in masculinity. Post 1994, virtually overnight, young combatants were expected to relinquish their militarised roles and to adopt new forms of masculinity without the facilitation of any demilitarisation programme to address the complexities of this transformation in their social and personal identity. The interviews reveal that many of these former combatants feel betrayed, forgotten, and alienated in post-apartheid South Africa. Some have carried their militarised masculinities into the new democracy, continuing to be involved in violent activities and risk-taking behaviours. Although many of them appear to be suffering from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other aspects of war trauma, attending counselling is seen as a sign of weakness and as an insult to militarised masculinity. The article argues that interventions to assist with identity transformation and greater social integration of such marginalised young men need to take account of these dynamics.

Topics: Combatants, Gender, Men, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Health, PTSD, Trauma, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2008

Masculinity As Foreign Policy Issue


Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Masculinity as a Foreign Policy Issue. Washington DC: Foreign Policy in Focus

Author: Cynthia Enloe

Topics: Gender, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2000

The ‘Unsaying’ of Indigenous Homosexualities in Zimbabwe: Mapping a Blindspot in an African Masculinity


Epprecht, Marc. 1998. “The ‘Unsaying’ of Indigenous Homosexualities in Zimbabwe: Mapping a Blindspot in an African Masculinity.” Journal of Southern African Studies 24 (4): 631–51.

Author: Marc Epprecht


Many black Zimbabweans believe that homosexuality was introduced to the country by white settlers and is now mainly propagated by 'the West'. The denial of indigenous homosexual behaviours and identities is often so strong that critics have been quick with accusations of homophobia. Yet those critics unfairly impose a rather crude and ultimately unhelpful analysis. Without denying that violent forms of homophobia do exist in Zimbabwe, the invisibility of indigenous homosexualities has more complex origins. This article examines the many, overlapping discourses that are constructed into the dominant ideology of masculinity and that contrive to 'unsay' indigenous male-to-male sexualities. It seeks in that way to gain insight into the overdetermination of assertively masculinist behaviour among Zimbabwean men today. It also draws lessons for researchers on the importance of interrogating the silences around masculinity.

Topics: Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Masculinism, LGBTQ, Sexuality Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Zimbabwe

Year: 1998


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