Taking Feminist Theology as an IR major
We argued a little about independent variables and positive verses normative analysis. My non-feminist friends told me that feminism couldn’t be a discipline because it is a form of activism and, furthermore, there was no independent variable other than feminism itself. I suggested gender/equality was the independent variable, but here is an example of a foreign policy issue in which both gender and sex are independent variables.
The Pope is making headlines for requesting a document to be written about the feasibility of using condoms during marital sex in one partner has AIDS. (if you don’t think this has anything to do with IR, read this from the Council on ForeignRelations.) Something to consider is The Catholic Church, is one of the largest organizations that does work in Africa related to AIDS, and condoms--the only way to prevent transmission of HIV during sex—are forbidden.
How is feminist analysis helpful in this issue?
Firstly, we can take a look at why the Pope hates condoms. The anti-sexual attitude of the Judeo-Christian traditions is arguably tied to geopolitical issues. According to Merlin Stone, in the book “The Sacred Sexual Customs,” sexual regulation associated with knowledge of paternity were “propagated for purely political motives, aiming at goals that would allow the invading patrilineal Hebrews greater access to land and governmental control by destroying the ancient matrilineal system.” Essentially, penalties against raped women, infidelity and loss of virginity was a way to suppress the society that existed when the conquers came, a society that worshiped goddesses.
Secondly, feminists can also shed light on why preaching abstinence in Africa doesn’t work based on the gender inequalities and sexual practices there. Furthermore, Rape is used a tool of war, and AIDS becomes a security threat.
Finally, we can also look to a gendered analysis of the Pope’s choices to understand the interests of the Catholic Church, just as we can with state actors. Feminist analysis would try to understand the significance of the Church’s exclusion of women to their foreign policy.
This is just one example in the news today. We can study causal relationships between the ways states treat gender and sex and their policy decisions. Look at how often inequality of women in the Middle East is invoked as a reason for intervention. Gendered analysis may actually help us to understand that those are actually NOT the reasons that motivated US intervention, but rather other political concerns.
The point is, the variables of gender and sex are useful for understanding international politics and I can study it without burning any bras.