Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • This chapter is unavailable for purchase
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Feminism

from 1 - Theories of International Relations



This chapter examines different feminist approaches to the study and practice of international relations. It highlights the similarities between these approaches, but also the differences. It does this first by tracing the interventions made by feminists into international relations and the creation of a distinctly feminist agenda. Second, it uses the ‘gender lens’ to demonstrate and analyse how experiences and understandings in international relations can be ‘gendered’. Finally, it explains and criticises the different feminist approaches to international relations.

International relations meets feminism

With evidence of continued inequality between women and men in key areas of international politics, the goal of feminist IR is to highlight, understand and address this inequality, and to encourage the discipline to recognise the importance of gender politics. Consequently, like international relations generally, feminist IR is a broad and diverse field of study. It is a field rich with debate, controversy, cutting-edge research and challenging new methodological approaches. Feminist IR scholars are often necessarily interdisciplinary, synthesising international relations with gender, cultural, post-colonial, environmental and other studies while also drawing heavily from more traditional disciplines. Feminist scholars have made important contributions to international relations theory, security studies, international political economy, development studies, international law and questions of global governance, among other fields.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Further reading
Enloe, Cynthia 1990 Bananas, beaches and bases: making feminist sense of international politicsBerkeleyUniversity of California Press
Pettman, Jan Jindy 1996 Worlding women: a feminist international politicsSydneyAllen & Unwin
Shepherd, Laura 2010 Gender matters in global politics: a feminist introduction to international relationsLondonRoutledge
Steans, Jill 2006 Gender and international relations: issues, debates and future directionsCambridgePolity Press