Tag: sex and gender

The Other Dimensions of Inclusion (and Exclusion) in Political Science

Dan’s post on his self-experiment in raising citations to female scholars has drawn a critical comment from someone who wonders about whether similar patterns exist with reference to minority scholars and scholars from outside North America. The issues of gender, race, and national (regional) origin are distinct, but if we’re going to have a wide-ranging discussion about inclusion and exclusion in the field then we ought to address these issues squarely.

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The Citation Gap: Results of a Self-Experiment

Both because of the unexpected direction yesterday took, and because I haven’t worked through my thoughts about any number of pressing current events, I thought I’d write about an experiment that I’ve been engaging in with my recent academic papers. You might recall the Maliniak, Powers, and Walter paper (soon to be out with International Organization) on citations and the gender gap. As Walter reported at Political Violence @ a Glance:

…. articles written by women in international relations are cited significantly less than articles written by men. This is true even if you control for institutional affiliation, productivity, publication venue, tenure, topic, methodology and anything else you can think of. Our hunch was that this gender citation gap was due to two things: (1) women citing themselves less than men, and (2) men tending to cite other men more than women in a field dominated by men.

After the wide-ranging discussion prompted by the piece, I decided to try to increase the number of women that I cited. Continue reading


Let’s talk about sex

Disclaimer: This is not an official response from the Duck collective, but my reaction. 

For those of you who have spent any time with me at conferences over the last year, I feel like I have been a little bit of a broken record with this as an academic message – let’s talk about sex. By that I mean sex as an act and sexuality as context for that act, and sexualized power. I’ve seen so many discussions of things that cannot possibly be understood without sex (the act) being taken account of nonetheless explained without it. Want to know who controlled what territory when in early modern Europe? Often, it depended on who was having sex with (/marrying) who. The story of the Reformation? Cannot be told without a story of the meeting of sexual desire and power. Military deployments have often relied on (or believed they relied on) the provision of sexual services in “the war zone.” G. H. W. Bush “penetrated Saddam Hussein’s inner sanctum,” and “it was dirty in there” – perhaps (and hopefully) only metaphorically. It is not unreasonable to posit a link between Bill Clinton getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky and the United States’ bombings in Kenya and Sudan (or at least the timing of them). Who you have sex with (and their sex/gender) can lead to a long laundry list of categorizations, inclusions, and exclusions, socially and legally, in global politics. There is an international politics of fucking, and fucking in international politics that is substantively meaningful. While some queer and feminist work has touched on some of this, often the act of sex remains taboo in studying the politics of global politics.

“Out there” in IR is not the only place that there is a sexual politics. I have argued before that there is a gender politics to the field – by “gender politics” I mean a power politics of masculinities and femininities, masculinization and feminization. Here, I argue that there is a sexual politics to the field, which, while always, cannot be reduced to or held equivalent to gender politics. Sex (the act) substantively impacts the structure, content, and function of the field.
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*SEX*! *VIOLENCE!* and *NUDITY!* in Game of Thrones

I was shocked, shocked to learn that Bloggingheads.tv advertised my discussion with Rob Farley over gender and race in Foreign Policy / Game of Thrones by promoting only the clip where I discussed “nudity”:

Since that clip was not much more than a throwaway comment in a wide-ranging discussion, yet in fact touched on one of the most, er, much-trumpeted aspects of the show so far, I thought I’d take the time to expound a little bit since after all, many commentators disagree with me and find the nudity and sex scenes in the both gratuitous and somewhat exploitative. For example, Emily Nussbaum this week writes in the New Yorker:

From the start, the show has featured copious helpings of pay-cable nudity, much of it in scenes that don’t strictly require a woman to display her impressive butt dimples as the backdrop for a monologue about kings. (The most common fan idiom for these sequences is “sexposition,” but I’ve also seen them referred to as “data humps.”) These scenes are at once a turn-on and a turn-off. At times, I found myself marvelling at the way that HBO has solved the riddle of its own economic existence, merging “Hookers at the Point” with quasi-Shakespearean narrative. In the most egregious instance so far, Littlefinger tutored two prostitutes in how to moan in fake lesbianism for their customers, even as they moaned in fake lesbianism for us—a real Uroboros of titillation.

Although Nussbaum goes on to acknowledge that to some extent “Viewed in another light, however, these sex scenes aren’t always so gratuitous… “Game of Thrones” is elementally concerned with the way that meaningful consent dissolves when female bodies are treated as currency,” she concludes by pointing out that this message can be lost when it includes “the creamy nudity we’ve come to expect as visual dessert.” Here’s what troubles me about this whole discussion: the equation of nudity with sexuality (especially women’s sexuality) and more importantly with “nakedness,” that element of vulnerability and expoitativeness that we associate with gendered images of women (but not of men) on television. And the reason I’d like to see more nudity on Game of Thrones rather than less is precisely because the show is already using it to unravel some of these puritanical assumptions.

 [Warning: mild book spoilers follow below the fold.]

To be sure, the sex scenes on GoT are sometimes over the top and they don’t always move the story forward. But they do something else: depicting sex so matter-of-factly is part of George R. R. Martin’s rather successful effort to unravel the gendered script of conventional fantasy. Adam Serwer writes:

While the genre of fantasy often veers between extremes of puritan chastity and clumsily written pseudo-pornography, Martin’s novels are blunt and unsentimental about sex and contain harrowing examples of rape and incest, particularly the widespread indifference to the former as a weapon of war.

More importantly, at least some of the nudity on the show is not actually sexual and definitely not about the subjection of women: quite the opposite. Consider Danaerys Stormborn in the denouement to Season One, rising nude from the ashes of her husband’s funeral pyre with dragon hatchlings crawling and groping her. While we might associate women’s naked bodies with the very absence of political power (and forced nakedness can be and is used later in the books at time to produce precisely this effect), in this context Dany’s nudity has the opposite effect of cementing her claim to command: standing before her followers with nothing but her will-power, superhuman fire resistance and game-changing technology, her nude female body is rendered irrelevant.

So when I say nudity per se doesn’t strike me as entirely problematic on the show, this is what I mean. Variations in portrayals of nude and/or naked bodies are not gratuitous but instead encourage a consideration of the relationship between bodies and power which is central to the show. Yet as I and pointed out, HBO could be doing even more of this and better, in at least three ways:

1) Delink nudity from sex. The books do this better than the series. In the first chapter, we see Catelyn walking nude across the bedroom in front of Master Luwin to burn her sister’s letter, reminding him that he’d delivered her babies and there was no need to avert his eyes. Similarly, there are various images in the books of random male and female nudity – like Ser Dontos running around drunk naked or Hodor forgetting to dress. If we must see graphic nudity on the show, let more of it be about random states of undress and less about sex.

2) Be as open about sexual violence as about ‘sex’ and ‘violence.’ It’s notable that in Season One particularly, the sex scenes were graphic but the rape scenes were sugar-coated. Feminists would argue this is problematic for two reasons. One, the contrast allows insufficient attention to how much of the ‘consensual sex’ is actually on the continuum to exploitation or violence. So while the “Joffrey’s birthday present” scene was disturbing, it was meant to be. And it was a useful counter-point to the happier depictions of of whoredom since it reminded the viewer of the ever-present threat of violence implicit in the sex industry.  But second, to the extent that blunt depictions of violence are integral to the show, sexual violence shouldn’t be any different.  Any show that can justifiably portray people burned alive or eaten by rats can surely provide a non-sugar-coated, non-pornographic depiction of sexual violence or its aftermath. This can be very progressive: a big step forward in the acknowledgement of sexual violence in international law was the shift in international judges’ willingness to hear war rape victims actually describe what happened to them, rather than soft-pedal it because it’s “too disturbing.” The trick is to manage these portrayals in a way that is horrific rather than lurid. But that’s true of all the violence in the show. And if Game of Thrones is to succeed at keeping its critical edge about sex and power, it needs to do more of this not less.

3) A little gender balance, please. It’s a fair critique that the wildest sex scenes involve women (and very pretty women at that) so the accusations of “soft porn” are to be pardoned. If we’re going to see constant and regular full frontal nudity of young, attractive women let’s see the same for older women and for men of all ages/body types. Let’s see male gay sex scenes as well as female-only scenes. Not only will this balance out the representations, but it would address Nussbaum’s argument about the political economy of the entertainment industry:

It’s unsettling to recall that these are not merely pretty women; they are unknown actresses who must strip, front and back, then mimic graphic sex and sexual torture, a skill increasingly key to attaining employment on cable dramas. Of course, not everyone strips: there are no truly explicit scenes of gay male sex, fewer lingering shots of male bodies, and the leading actresses stay mostly buttoned up.

She has a point.


FP Issue is More Teenage Pop Mag than ‘Sex’ Issue

After reading the FP special ‘sex’ issue this week I had the strangest feeling. It was like I woke up and it was 1991 and I was 13 again reading teen magazines. After reading Charli’s excellent post on the issue I couldn’t help but chime in. You see, I know that one of the obvious retorts to some of the criticism that has been waged about the issue will be ‘Hey, it was meant to raise a few issues and have some fun while we’re at it. We’re riffing off the Cosmo style ‘sex’ issue and just mixing it up. Lighten up.” Ok, fair play FP. But keeping with that theme let me start by saying that most of the issue was more like a teeny bopper mag rather than a sex issue (with some excellent exceptions). You’ve missed the target audience FP, and you are behind about 20 years in research. Parts of the issue was sort of like having an article on “a girl’s first period’ in a magazine aimed at adult women and men (oh yeah, I went there). Here are a four pointers on how to write a real sex issue.

1. When you read a Teen Mag you expect banal questions like “who is the sexiest teacher/leader/football player,” but even a low grade pop magazine wouldn’t publish the idiotic list of answers you got re: world leaders (which included Vladmir Putin and “those in South Africa and Muslim countries”). You might as well have just published “brown men” as one of the answers. When adults respond to surveys in ‘sex’ issues you’d hope they can at least remember the names of the brown bodies they fetishize. Why not just have a bunch of photos of politicians and have us rate them ‘hot’ or ‘not’?

2. When you asked why there should be more women in politics you collected answers that covered almost every single cliche: they are more peaceful, they think more about children, they are multitaskers…I guess for the full effect you could have asked someone to mention puppies, gardening, and aprons too…but not exactly sexy right?

3. The article, ‘The Most Powerful Women you’ve never Heard‘ of, must have also been aimed at teens. If your readers have never heard of any of these women then they haven’t been reading the news, preparing for lectures, watching TV, or generally participating in public life. So, like, duh. We know they are powerful- now how about some analysis? This list was like a “60 Sex Tips” article that wouldn’t help the reader undo a bra. Talk about a “most embarrassing moment” FP!!

4. The cover images? That Miley Cyrus-esque Vogue-naked-hunched-pose combined with elements of Muslim/war porn-fetishism is interesting but really below you, don’t you think? Also, paint the woman blue and you’ve got the playbill for Blueman group too, so there may be copyright issues with that.
FP, maybe its time to take the survey: “Are you totally out of the loop?” when it comes to gender and sex. Next time you want to write a sex issue, call in (more) of the experts.


“Seriously, Guys!”: How (Not) to Write About Gender and Foreign Affairs

Photo courtesy of Conflict Cupcake

To be fair, despite all the criticism, Foreign Policy‘s “Sex Issue” got a few things right. For an all-too rare moment, it put gender – er, sex – er, sexuality* – on the foreign policy agenda. Somehow (could it be the nude photo on the cover?!) the editors managed to get people excited – gripped even  – by “women’s issues.” (What were the chances?)

But enough snark. FP did well by including commentators from the Arab world like Mona El-Tahawy (OK one such commentator who is now based in New York) and both practitioners and scholars with expertise on global women’s issues like Melanie Verveer and Valerie Hudson (OK, they included one expert in each category), in addition to some pieces by the staff, one of which wasn’t even that stereotypical or demeaning.  But perhaps more important than the analyses was the symbolism: here was a mainstream foreign affairs publication making the case that sex/gender/women/men/femininity/
masculinity/sexuality/ [presumably sexual orientation]/what-have-you is actually important to what happens in the world and how we understand it:

Sex — in all the various meanings of the word — matters in shaping the world’s politics. Why? In Foreign Policy, the magazine and the subject, sex is too often the missing part of the equation — the part that the policymakers and journalists talk about with each other, but not with their audiences. And what’s the result? Women missing from peace talks and parliaments, sexual abuse and exploitation institutionalized and legalized in too many places on the planet, and a U.S. policy that, whether intentionally or not, all too frequently works to shore up the abusers and perpetuate the marginalization of half of humanity.

Hey, sounds almost like boilerplate from a feminist IR syllabus, actually. So why has the issue has been criticized and called “simplistic,” “offensive and disrespectful” or “disgusting and disappointing?” Don’t women (and feminist men) know a good gender analysis of world politics when they see it? Well, “guys,” yes and no. Below are three big do’s and don’ts for foreign policy magazines aiming to “take women’s issues seriously.”

Let’s start with the DON’TS, shall we?

1) Don’t Use Women’s Naked Bodies To Sell Articles About How Godawful It Is To Use Women’s Naked Bodies. Seriously, guys? No wonder tweets reacting to the issue included the following:

To be fair, there was lots of praise for the issue as well, and to their credit, FP responded to the outrage by posting a round-table 24 hours later as a forum for critique, featuring female Muslim voices from around the world. I am with those who thought the article was important yet the picture was a mistake, among them Naheed Mustafa:

“The image works against [Mona Eltawahy’s] essay. It belies the nuance and breadth of the writing by reducing a subject to one easily consumable image… an image that doesn’t even speak to the kind of women Eltahawy is writing about. If anything, the imagine does exactly what Eltahawy accuses Islamists of doing: reducing women to one-dimesnional caricatures with little or no autonomy… and it’s not just about Muslim women. The illustration is insulting to women in general. It takes the profoudn probelm of gender-based violence and reduces it to sexual imagery: ‘Hey, we might be talking about the endemic hatred of one gender for another, but here’s a naked painted lady to keep you company!'”

Yep, that about says it.

2) Don’t Pit Women Against One Other. I don’t know what Mona El-Tahawny originally titled her piece, but the subtitle Foreign Policy‘s editors chose (“the real war on women is in the Middle East“) was a needless slap in the face to women fighting in the US for pay equity, reproductive health and to safety in our homes, streets and workplaces. The “real” war on women – and other gender minorities – is everywhere. It just takes different forms. What is a constant in world affairs is the use of finger-pointing about “other cultures’ women” to create a sense of our own cultural superiority. Make no mistake: elites in the Middle East are doing the exact same thing, pointing to Western rape prevalence rates, the objectification of women in the media, and our lack of socio-economic protections for women – to justify their own cultural superiority. Instead of buying into and replicating this dynamic by focusing only on women of the global south, serious journalism on gender and world politics would examine how this “gender-ideology stereotyping” works to structure foreign policy – drawing perhaps on years of feminist IR scholarship documenting precisely how this process works. And it would ask how human rights-minded actors in the West can support indigenous women’s movements in the Arab world without feeding this viscious cycle or denying the struggles of women everywhere.

3) Don’t Pretend To Take Gender Seriously While Proclaiming that Next Week, It Will All Be Business as Usual. And I quote:

Women’s bodies are the world’s battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out. We can keep ignoring it. For this one issue, we decided not to.

[Italics added by obviously hormonal author.] In the words of Melanie Verveer, SERIOUSLY GUYS! You can’t just tease us like that… you can’t just assert that “sex is the missing part of the equation” and that this works “to shore up the abusers and perpetuate the marginalization of half of humanity” and then tell us that besides “this one issue” (which by the way mostly focuses on sexuality, not on women’s issues or gender relations broadly) you’ve done your due diligence and let’s get back to writing about “real” issues: as if gender, sex and sexuality aren’t relevant to many of the stories you routinely cover: peace negotiations, missile defense, intelligence gathering, cyber-security, population shifts, pandemic disease, transnational crime, the financial crisis.

What to DO instead:

1) Acknowledge The Impact of The Foreign Policy Media’s Own Gendered* Biases And How You’re Planning to Fix Them. Hey Blake Hounshell, why exactly do you suppose it is that your readers have “never heard” of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala?? It’s as if you’re pointing out the problem you’ve been complicit in creating and then slapping yourself on the back for it, with no critical analysis whatsoever of the foreign policy media’s own role in marginalizing women and gender as a serious topic of inquiry about world affairs. The funny thing is, Foreign Policy actually does do gender: check out the front page of the site Tuesday at 1:19 a.m. and we’ve got stories about whether India is “compensating” for something with its nuclear program (answer: probably but it’s not that simple); Tom Ricks is writing about the draft, a gendered institution if we ever saw one; and President Obama’s new genocide prevention architecture is discussed, an issue affecting countless civilians but also devalued by a foreign policy elite that privileges “hard” over “soft” security. Each of these articles represents an opportunity to think about how assumptions of sex and gender suffuse world politics. The question is whether FP will step this up in a more serious way as its competitors already have. And whether for that matter, it will finally recruit and hire some smart female writers like Megan MacKenzie or Courtney Messerschmidt or Irshad Manji  who think about and deploy gender and sex in different intriguing ways as they comment broadly on global affairs; or hey, just some female writers period (no pun intended, hey it’s the sex issue right?) [“But there are so few qualified women!” Seriously guys?: Megan McArdleMichelle FlournoySusan SchwabHeather HurlburtLorelei Kelly. Sarah Holewinksi. Mary Ellen O’Connell. Sarah Kenyon Lischer. Kate McNamara. Debbi Avant. Martha Finnemore. Kathryn Sikkinkand/or male writers with genuine expertise in gender issues and a willingness to mainstream it into the writing they do. Which leads me to…

2) Remember That Gender – and Sex – is About Men Too. Yes, yes, I read Josh Keating’s piece on Ayatollah Gilani, which is beyond fabulous if you’re into soft porn… or if you’re logged in to cracked.com. But then, why offer serious articles on the political economy of prostitution around military bases or the politics of our own sex scandals or how the emerging international norms of gender and gay integration are impacting security architectures in militaries and peacekeeping missions or spend more than a couple of paragraphs on the life or death issue of sexual orientation rights or when instead you can write three whole frakking articles on the same tired, simplistic, offensively orientalist issue of how brown Muslim men lecherously view “their” women’s bodies?…  What if we really took masculinity seriously as a cultural norm that regulates not just men’s attitudes toward women but also their attitudes toward other men, that is embedded in the entire way we think about nations, states and markets, and that impacts foreign and economic policies around the globe, even those that have on the surface nothing to do with women’s rights? (Keating’s round-up of state policies on population control, pandemic disease and tourism comes the closest to this, but like the rest of the issue focuses only on sexuality not gender, and on the global south, not the “global”: this tells us much more about gender assumptions made by US foreign policy commentators than it does about the actual world.) To really take the power of those assumptions seriously in foreign policy analysis (and face it, “guys,” it’s all about power),  you’d probably need to…

3) Invite Participation From Analysts Who Study Sex, Gender and Foreign Policy. Great that FP included the excellent and provocative pieces on women’s rights by Melanie Verveer (an experienced practitioner) and Mona El-Tahawy (a brilliant and gutsy commentator/activist). But too bad that they included only one article (and that belatedly) by an analyst with expertise and data on the gender dimensions of foreign policy. In the first ever “sex and global politics” issue I’d have expected to see a range of different views by various experts on the general topic: people like Cynthia Enloe, who pioneered the field of global sexual politics; or like Laura Sjoberg, who has written extensively on female terrorism, gender and security; or like Dyan Mazurana, who straddles both the academy and the UN community and put girl soldiers on the international agenda when no one else knew they existed, or like Joshua Goldstein who wrote an exhaustive book on the topic of gender and war. Instead, the remainder of the commentary comes from folks at FP with opinions or anecdotes or, in Josh Keating’s case, the ability to pull together interesting news stories… but little analytical expertise in asking the right questions about gender and security policy. (No offense to  Christina Larson but her expertise is in Asia and the environment, not in gender issues – otherwise her analysis of marital trends in China might have been less about why it’s too bad women have such high expectations and more about why the Chinese state, faced with this obvious social problem threatening its interests and stability, is not throwing resources into training its surplus men to be the kind of husbands these women want. Similarly, Karim Sadjapour knows something about Iran but not much about gender analysis.) Tip for beltway editors: If you want to at least appear to be taking gender seriously, first reach out to the community of experts who have done so for the past two decades. Gain some insight, then try to apply it.

Readers: What else can we add to each of these lists?
*Sex: biological maleness or femaleness. Sexuality: pertaining to sexual relations. Gender: socially constructed notions about masculinity and femininity. Gender Analysis: analyzing the relationship between gender (see above), power hierarchies and sociopolitical outcomes. “Gendered” Analysis: basing an analysis of sociopolitical outcomes on gender myths and stereotypes. EG: “We can’t hire women writers because there aren’t enough qualified women” or “If the issue has women in it, it must be all about SEX!!!” See also this.


How Dare the Federal Government Set Minimal Standards for a Consumer Product!

When elements of the Republican noise machine decided to call Sandra Fluke a slutty naughty sex fiend for suggesting–in public, no less–that all health-insurance plans ought to cover hormonal birth control… so that women wouldn’t suffer from ovarian cysts, here’s what I thought: “this is such a bunch of obviously crazystupidinsanemisogynistselfimmolating craziness that it has got to go away soon.”

But left-ish groups smell a fundraising winner. And we can always count on some members of the American right to double down on the stupid. Which means that we’re stuck with this for a while. So then I thinks to myself all “‘I’m a Georgetown University employee. dangnabbit. Heck, I’m like a professor and stuff. Maybe that means I should comment!”

(Did I mention the crazy crazy, crazy stupidness? Seriously, take a look at this. But don’t say that I didn’t warn you that it makes this look tame. And the second “this” is a big heaping plate of offensive.)

So, while I probably shouldn’t comment, I guess I will.

1. The President’s office at Georgetown is all kinds of awesome for producing such a magisterial letter in defense of one of our own. Yeah, I know everyone has already seen it. But its just way cool.

2. This controversy is all kind of weird for me, because I am pretty darn sure that at least one of Georgetown’s employee health-insurance plans covers hormonal birth control; our bill for it looks an awful like a copayment rather than a full-blown out-of-pocket expense. Of course, Georgetown also has domestic-partner coverage provisions for faculty and staff. This sort of stuff makes us, if I understand contemporary Church doctrine, very bad Catholics. Apparently at Notre Dame they point to us as examples of what happens when you let Jesuits build a top-ranked school. Of course, I have it on good authority that Catholic University looks at Notre Dame as a bunch of apostates, so perchance Notre Dame should lay off with the holier-than-thou stuff. And that’s holier-than-thou in the literal, not figurative, sense. Which is kind of neat.

3. I’ve been reading comment threads that involve both conservatives and liberals, and I’m starting to notice a pattern. A lot of the comments I see are all about the evil hypocrisy of the American left for being upset with Limbaugh but putting up with nasty personal attacks from the likes of Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, etc. etc. Most of the liberal commentators–myself included–don’t even know what attacks our right-wing brethren are talking about (Maher apparently has said some disgusting things about Palin, but who knew?). I must say that this makes it pretty hard to feel hypocritical.

Anyway, as I was getting to, I’ve started to figure something out (I think). I used to believe that conservative handwaving about MSNBC commentators and similar types amounted to a cynical attempt at false equivalency. After all, Maddow gets about half the viewers that O’Reilly does in their respective peak slots, and the rest of Fox’s conservatainment lineup basically trounces MSNBC.

Yes, this wasn’t very charitable of me, but I couldn’t think of another explanation.

Now, however, I realize that many conservatives aren’t being at all cynical and misleading: they just assume that politically engaged liberals relate to their commentariat the same way that politically engaged conservatives do. But many of us simply find our blowhards irritating. I just don’t think we have the kind of close tribal affiliation with our self-appointed spokespeople that many conservatives have with their own (recall that Air America failed). It simply wouldn’t occur to me to aggressively defend idiocy from any of “my side’s” media personalities the way that the aforementioned commentators range far and wide to support Limbaugh–albeit largely by attacking left-wing hypocrisy.

The closest thing for liberals, I believe, is the relationship many of us have with Jon Stewart. But Stewart’s sort of odd to compare to O’Reilly or Hannity insofar as the core of his show involves making fun of “news” media. Really, most of the liberals I hang with smugly listen to NPR. We congratulate ourselves on our “intellectualness,” still act like “This American Life” is pretty fresh, and think we’re staying hip because we occasionally buy music reviewed on “All Things Considered” or promoted on “All Songs Considered.”

(Keep in mind that I’m talking about liberals, not the American left, those who still spend lots of time on DailyKos, and/or people who call themselves “progressives” because they don’t realize Teddy Roosevelt irreparably tarnished that label back in the nineteen-teens. I don’t really understand most of these people either.)

Well, I hope I’ve made my case that I probably shouldn’t comment. So I’ll stop.


What ‘Hot’ Guys Can Tell us About Masculinities and Social Norms

My second option for a title was: ‘How to teach masculinities by looking at pictures of handsome men.’ (Note: this photo was sent to me as a humor-gift from one of my students…I didn’t do it myself!)

Feminist Ryan Gosling, a website featuring photos of actor Ryan Gosling posed next to intelligent quips about feminist politics is a perfect tool to use in a lecture on gender- no really. Why has this website gone viral (it was even re-posted on the Duck last week)? We know from movies and interviews that Gosling is buff (he sports a mean six pack in Crazy Stupid Love) and tough (he recently broke up a fight on the street in NYC)- classic ‘manly’ stuff. Bim Adewumni at the Guardian goes further in her answer to the question ‘Why do Feminists love Gosling?’ claiming “It goes beyond looks. He was raised by a single mother to whom he’s close, and he waxes lyrical about his female co-stars and ex-girlfriends. Guys love him too- he kissed Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn on the Cannes red carpet…Basically, he’s perfect.” Putting him next to feminist engagement is so unexpected that viewers seem to find it titillating and super-sexy (or so I’ve heard). Discussions of these types of gender contrasts, as well as broader debates of who is considered a male icon (sexy, ‘hot’) at particular moments in time can actually be very useful when trying to talk about different forms of masculinity and the social expectations placed on men and women in class.
Every year when I give my first lecture on gender I struggle to find new ways to make it resonate with students. Most men in the class assume that gender is ‘not about them’ or that they can’t say anything in a gender lecture without getting lashed from me or the female students. The female students- on the other hand- appear equally isolated in lectures on gender: they seem to feel like they are supposed to have an opinion or respond a certain way about gender.
Each year I start this lecture with a brainstorming session- getting students to list the qualities associated with both masculinity and femininity. Then we have a chat about what characteristics are valued in different roles or different elements of society. I often put a box around the set of characteristics- to illustrate gender stereotypes and social expectations- and have them talk about how individual men or women that have characteristics that are outside their sex-specific box are often seen as different- or even problematic. For example, a guy who is otherwise quite ‘manly’ but spends too much time on his hair and clothing choices is meterosexual (students still think this categorization is hilarious). If this same guy was less ‘manly’ (too sensitive, too weak etc) people would probably assume he was gay- he would be too far outside his gender box. We think Ryan Gosling with feminist quotes is sexy because it is just slightly outside of the box- the contrast is interesting and exciting. He seems even more manly because he can pose next to quotations about Enloe or Mohanty but still flex his arms and seem pensive.
While working in and out of these boxes can be a boon for your hotness factor, the problem is that these boxes cause all kinds of problems for individuals who don’t fit in them. Take gay male military service members. Somehow people can’t quite get their heads around a physically dominating man serving his country in one of the most hyper-masculine institutions in the world. The public- and policy makers- have often assumed that gay servicemen must be somehow weaker and less able to bond with their platoons- that they are a threat to the military somehow. Surely they can’t embody hypermasculinity AND want to have sex with men? It is a real head trip for people with strict gender boxes.
So next time you see something like the Feminist Ryan Gosling, or semi-pornographic photos of women in bikinis with AK47s, websites like Hot Navy Chicks (for real) that feature female service members that are also apparently sexy- remember that the reason why these are sexy and exciting is that they challenge the gender stereotypes we have engraved in our minds. Unfortunately, while Feminist Ryan Gosling and other gender contrasts may have elements of ‘inside/outside’ the box, they don’t exactly do much to erase our gender boundaries. That said, I think its safe to say that these photos will keep my students awake and engaged through my first gender lecture of the year next year…we can slowly work on getting rid of the boxes.


Post-revolution Walk of Shame in Libya: women asked to ‘go home’ in the afterglow of the revolution

The exciting and tumultuous eve of the revolution in Libya has achieved many of its objectives: the power balance has swung in the rebel’s favor, many national governments around the world now recognize the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate leadership, and most (though not all) of the country is under their control.

In many ways, this week can be described as ‘the morning after’ the revolution in Libya. Rebels drunk on gun battles are now waking up with adrenaline hang-overs to the realities of post-revolution Libya. There’s mortar rounds everywhere, hundreds of displaced Libyans are crashing indefinitely in Tripoli, and- perhaps worst of all- Cameron and Zarkosy showed up way too early, keen to help get the revolutionary council on its feet/ensure their financial interests.

In keeping with classic ‘morning after’ politics, men are waking up with only hazy memories of which women were at the party and what they did to contribute to the revolution. The TNC are trying to get their house in order for Cameron and Zarkosy as well as for the international media and for some reason these women just keep hanging around asking about what kind of future there is for them together, wanting some kind of commitment. The TNC’s responses so far reminds me of the scene in the movie Bridesmaids when Jon Hamm’s character turns to Kristen Wiig after a one night stand and says “I really want you to leave, but I don’t want to sound like a dick.”

Women supported the revolution in Libya in countless ways- from hiding and feeding rebel fighters to taking up arms themselves– yet now that the post-revolution glow has worn off, the TNC seems to be asking women to take their walk of shame. The party is over, and this morning, the Transitional National Council has just one woman. Will the rest of the women who sacrificed for the movement- taking up new roles, and fighting for political change- be asked to get out of the political bedroom? Can the TNC really expect to rebuild Libya and move forward without acknowledging the significance of women’s role in the movement?

Unfortunately, women’s walk of shame post-conflict or post-revolution is all too familiar. Women have struggled to maintain a significant voice in the new Egypt; similarly, women who fought as soldiers within rebel forces in countries like Sierra Leone and Angola often found themselves left out of post-conflict political agenda setting. For these women, as is likely for many Libyan women, the last thing desirable post-conflict/revolution is a ‘return to normal.’ For women, this means giving up any power gained and fitting themselves back into traditional patriarchal gender hierarchies. The TNC and the international community must stop the pattern of revolutionary one-night stands and work not only to acknowledge women’s role in the political movement, but also to secure political space for women as Libya faces a new day.


Are You Ready for Some Football…..Analogies?

Recently I offered an “argument” about what conservative males find attractive about Sarah Palin — her attractiveness — and I provided some “evidence” by reference to the parallels between pretty female candidates and women sideline reporters with two XXs (Chromosomes, you creeps! Get your mind out of the gutter!). I made the claim that Bachmann’s support rested more on her craziness than her beauty, but then I found this. I am recalibrating my argument…..

But I want to push the analogy further, and ask — who gives a f*#k about the Iowa Straw Poll? Why, when Michele Bachmann wins, do they drop confetti? Don’t they usually wait to the convention for that? Winning the votes of 4,000 Iowans now gets you what American GIs had to fight the Battle of the Bulge for? Is ticker tape that much cheaper these days, that we can just use it wily-nilly?

I realized that a similar thing is happening on the NFL football field. It used to be that before a game the announcer would simply introduce the visiting team, it would run out, and everyone would boo. Then the announcer would raise his voice and cheer for “YOUR [insert city and mascot].” Everyone would cheer. And then they would play a football game. At the Super Bowl, though, they would bring giant inflatable helmets and place them in front of the tunnel to the locker rooms. They would shoot off fireworks when the teams came out. This added to the pageantry (wc?), the significance (wc?) of the ultimate game, the fight for the championship.

Now everyone has got an inflatable helmet for every regular season game. For all I know they use it in the preseason. It’s exactly like dropping confetti at the Iowa Straw Poll, a game that doesn’t mean a thing (unless you are Tim Pawlenty). Why is everything So Very Important Now so that we are all spent, jaded and unimpressed by the final contest? Seriously, unless someone’s nipple slips out, I just don’t care. (Don’t get any ideas, Romney. That was metaphorical.)

The same thing is going on at kids’ birthday parties. (Stay with me.) When I was a kid, the only place you found a bouncy house was at the State Fair. These were not available on an everyday basis, in your Personal Home. Maybe this is just Southern California, but there is a guy down the street with three kids who has a bouncy house three times a year in his backyard for every birthday. At my house, we put out some folding chairs in the backyard for the parents and turn on the sprinkler. The kids love it, but they are young. I know I am about two years away from a total meltdown when my son begins to demand a temporary rollercoaster be set up to mark the anniversary of his passing through my wife’s cervix. It’s just a birthday (straw pool, regular season game, etc)! I just want to understand this phenomenon.


Pornography and National Security: The ever expanding threat

In today’s ‘horrors of bad social science’, we have a piece by Jennifer S. Bryson, director of the Witherspoon Institute’s Islam and Civil Society Project, (which seems to be a conservative think-tank) who has written a piece for the Institute’s blog on the threat of pornography for national security. (No really.)

Bryson asks the question that no serious scholar has ever, ever addressed and comes up with an argument to be considered. In fact, she is getting right on top of this hard and pressing issue.She reaches around the boundaries of conventional thinking about terrorism and slowly but steadily penetrates the burning question as to whether pornography drives a serious challenge to National Security:

With the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks staring us in the face, we already know that our failure to have an approach to security that is robust and accurate has dire consequences. Pornography has long circulated nearly unbounded due to calls for “freedom,” but what if we are actually making ourselves less free by allowing pornography itself to be more freely accessible?
Are there security costs to the free-flow of pornography? If so, what are they? Are we as a society putting ourselves at risk by turning a blind eye to pornography proliferation?
I wonder further: Could it be that pornography drives some users to a desperate search for some sort of radical “purification” from the pornographic decay in their soul? Could it be that the greater the wedge pornography use drives between an individual’s religious aspirations and the individual’s actions, the more the desperation escalates, culminating in increasingly horrific public violence, even terrorism?

Let me tell you, now that we’ve been stirred to this threat – of young men somehow being converted to wicked, wicked ways – we need to act now, right here and now, damn it! Clearly the perpetrators of this filth have been very, very bad and need to be punished.

I believe that we all need to come together, scholars, government workers, NGOs, and throw caution to the wind. We need to straddle the division between us, fuse ourselves together and come up with an inspired solution. Let’s use each other to the very best of our abilities, and respond quickly to this vitally important need.

It’s Friday night so I’m just going to be at home thinking really long and hard about a solution to this problem. I’m just going to lie back right here by my lonesome self, thinking about nothing but pornography… for the sake of National Security.


Did it take you (or your assistant) five minutes to Google that?

Anyone think Kathryn Lopez (of the National Review) actually reads the social-scientific articles she links to? This is from a screed attacking college co-ed housing:

And, if you want to get even more practical, W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, points out: “Needless to say, binge drinking and casual sex tend to distract students from their studies. For instance, young women who engage in such activities are more likely to be depressed, and tend to do poorly when they get distracted by drinking and sex.”

The first article she links to, independent of its merits and some of its other purported findings, studies a cohort from Grades 7-12. That’s right: it doesn’t even deal with sexual activity among college students.

The second article requires some significant stretching to lead the conclusions that having sex in college negatively impacts educational outcomes. It looks at the relationship between lifetime sex partners for women age 22-24 and different levels of educational attainment. The authors find that the average college attendee had 5.73 partners and respondents who did not had, on average, 6.35 sex partners. Put differently, it does not measure the impact of sex in college on anything at all.

And people wonder why “it has lots of footnotes” doesn’t carry much weight with academics when we evaluate popular nonfiction…..

Update: James Joyner, a week ago, no less, on the source of the whole thing.


Reporting in the Middle East: Are Female Journalists a Liability?

Do the responses to the plight of Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist for Al Jazeera English who was detained in Syria and Iran for nearly 3 weeks, show continued resistance to female journalists pursuing particular types of stories?

Parvaz flew to Syria to gather information that could add to what little is known about local protests and government violence. She was arrested at the airport in Damascus and taken to a detention center- Parvaz likened it to a mini version of Guantanamo Bay. Three days after her arrival in Syria she was extradited to Iran as a suspected spy before being released without charge.

In addition to providing an important and rare glimpse into Syria’s detention centers and the apparent random brutality of the regime, Parvaz’s story seems to have re-raised questions about female journalists. These questions echo those posed after Lara Logan was sexually assaulted during the revolution in Egypt (ie. Should the media pull women journalists from war zones?, should she have stayed home because she is a mommy?). Several media outlets chose to use Logan’s story as an opportunity to undermine the capabilities of female journalists and to question what types of assignments might be appropriate for them.

Similarly, in an interview by CBC Parvaz was asked whether she regretted her decision to go to Syria and was pushed on questions related to the risks involved in going. Responses to the interview online were scathing and included accusations that Parvaz was naïve (‘what was she trying to do?’), overly ambitious (‘her 15 minutes of fame are up’), took too many risks (‘she brought it on herself and can’t blame anyone’), and was abusing the fact that she has multiple citizenships where does her loyalty lie? Canada, US, Iran?’).

So why focus on the haters and not the supporters?

Hard line questions and critical comments shift the focus from the real story- torture and unjust detentions in Syria. Furthermore, Parvaz’s history as a competent and successful journalist and her brave efforts to cover important international events has been downplayed.

Finally, the caddy and critical comments raise some important questions, including: Is the underlying message in both Logan and Parvaz’s case a racist one- that the Middle East is inherently a hazardous place for non-Western women (forgetting that Parvaz holds Canadian, Iranian, and US citizenship)?; or a sexist one- that male journalists can prove their dedication and bravery through difficult or dangerous journalism while excellent female reporters continue to have to prove they are not a liability?


Feminist IR 101, Post #4: Common Myths about Feminist IR (and the ‘truth’)

Here are some common misperceptions of feminist IR; the “truth” is below the “fold” …

1. Feminist IR is a paradigmatic alternative to other IR paradigms – there’s realism, liberalism, constructivism, poststructuralism, and then … feminism. It is its own “ism,” and therefore should be a chapter in each textbook proposed as a dialogue with and/or critique of International Relations.
2. Feminists are whiners – either the field of IR see, e.g., this debate nor global politics (see, e.g., Barbara Ehrenreich’s discussion of Abu Ghraib) are sites of rampant gender subordination.
3. Women are feminists, and feminists have to be women; feminist research in IR is about women (see, e.g., some of the conceptual errors in Adam Jones’ most recent book).
4. Adding gender as a variable to existing analysis satisfies feminist research concerns. Feminism can fit comfortably within the traditional boundaries of IR (see, e.g., Ann Tickner’s discussion of this issue).
5. Adding a “gender week” on the syllabus of classes on IR theory, IPE, security, and the like does pedagogical and theoretical justice to feminist concerns (see discussion in International Studies Perspectives special section “Mainstreaming Gender into the IR Curriculum,” edited by fellow Duck blogger Charli Carpenter).
6. Hiring more women addresses feminist critiques of IR as a discipline. Feminists think there should be hiring discrimination against men.
7. There is one “IR feminism” to which all IR feminists subscribe.
8. Feminism in IR is particularly relevant to things that “concern” women (like wartime rape), and things that women are (perceived to be) good at (like peace, and negotiation).
9. Feminism in IR assumes that women are/should be equal to men, and treated that way, but valorizes women and femininity, picturing women as without men’s flaws and femininity as by definition better than masculinity.
10. Feminism is irrelevant to the traditional concerns of IR (like nuclear war, trade imbalances, levels of analysis, and the like), but can have its niche studying the things it is relevant to.
11. Feminists are humorless (see blog discussion with Dan Drezner)

All of these are misguided. I will discuss each in turn.

At the outset, it is important to note – my views are not others; and this is a blog post and not a journal article, so it hasn’t been vetted and peer reviewed. Since it is being written late at night on an airplane, there may be some errors. If you have questions, I’m glad to answer them.

Now, onto the myth-busting …

1. Feminist IR is not a paradigmatic alternative to other approaches, nor is it a critique of (all) other approaches. Instead, it is a way of looking at IR’s many concerns “through gendered lenses” (in the words of Spike Peterson and Anne Runyan). Therefore, you’re not an “IR scholar” or a “feminist critic,” or a “feminist,” instead of a “realist,” or a “liberal,” or a “constructivist.” Likewise, though feminist theorists outside of IR sometimes divide feminist theorizing into “standpoint,” “liberal,” “empiricist,” and “postmodern,” IR feminism doesn’t map neatly onto those divides. Instead, there are “feminists” of all IR stripes – liberal IR feminists (interested in women’s formal/legal equality and rights), constructivist IR feminists (understanding gender as a social construct and its impact on/being impacted by global politics), critical IR feminists (interested in the ways that gender hierarchies could be reversed in emancipatory ways), poststructuralist feminists (interested in the discursive/performative aspects of gender subordination in global politics), postcolonial IR feminists (interested in the intersections between gender/race/ethnicity/colonialism and gender subordination in global politics), and (I argue) realist IR feminists (interested in gender as a global structure/power relation). There are also feminists in IR whose works traverses (and transforms) IR’s boxes. Either way, it cannot be seen as a paradigmatic alternative (because it by definition interacts with the other paradigms) or just a critique of IR’s paradigms (because it works to not only critique but revision and reconstruct.

2. The field of IR and global politics are both sites of rampant gender subordination. In IR (see discussion between the TRIP survey administrators and Brooke Ackerly, Jacqui True, Mary Ann Tetrault, and myself in Politics and Gender), women remain underrepresented at almost every level of the field, even proportional to the Ph.D.s they receive and the subject matters they choose to study. This underrepresentation gets worse, not better, at the senior levels of the field – that is, women leave the profession at greater rates than men; women lose out on tenure more than men; women get less jobs out of grad school than men; and women are less likely to finish Ph.D. programs than men. Women are less likely to publish in major journals and rank lower than men on a number of indicators of professional success. This is more exacerbated in IR than in other subfields in political science. In global politics, women remain 70% of those below poverty levels globally; they remain the primary civilian victims of war and conflict; sexual violence and domestic violence remain rampant throughout the world; many countries still have incredibly high rates of denied access to birth control, maternal mortality, and adolescent birth; and characteristics and people associated with femininity remain undervalued compared to characteristics and people associated with masculinity almost everywhere in the world.

3. Not all women are feminists. Not all people who study gender are feminists. Some people study “gender” without recognizing gender hierarchy. Not only is this bad research, it is by most definitions not feminist. Some people study how to suppress women more. They are not feminists. Feminists are not only interested in women. IR feminists are interested in gender(s), including masculinity (see the great IR feminist work on masculinities by people like Charlotte Hooper, Marysia Zalewski, Jane Parpart, and Terrell Carver). There are some men who do great IR feminist work. They don’t get bit or scowled at when they come to meetings. In fact, there are male officers of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section of ISA. Feminist researchers in IR recognize that gender tropes do not just hurt “women,” but also “men,” as well as people who do not fit comfortably into either category.

4. Let’s say we’re trying to figure out what causes war. We’ve got regime type, economic status, ethnic differences, past wars, and all sorts of other variables that people who are interested in figuring out what causes war count in their regressions. Some people would just add “level of gender inequality” to their regression and see if it is a significant variable. This may be interesting to some (putting aside briefly issues of countability, and if gender inequality is linear), but it isn’t the point. First, “level of gender inequality” in a state is not an indicator of “gendered relations among states” – that is, states don’t assume their relative position on the international gender hierarchy from the relative level of gender subordination within each state. Second, gender relations among states have many dimensions – material, performative, perceptual, etc.; which can’t be captured on one axis. Third, gender relations within and among states influences all those other variables people who are interested in what causes war count in their regressions. Fourth, the traditional places that we look at for the causes of war are themselves subject to feminist critiques and reformulations about where global politics takes place. Fifth, “level of gender inequality” usually measures what happens to women as compared to what happens to men – how unequal women are on some axis. This is an incomplete (and one-directional) understanding of sex subordination; and it accounts for sex but cannot account for gender … I could go on, but this question will doubtless be the subject of a full post.

5. Adding “gender week” to an IR, IPE, or security syllabus perpetuates a number of myths about the place of feminisms in the discipline of IR. It perpetuates the myth that gender is a paradigmatic alternative (see #1), that it is irrelevant to the traditional concerns of IR (see #10), and that it doesn’t fundamentally transform how IR does what it does. Most “gender weeks” treat feminism(s) as critique(s) of IR, or afterthoughts – like, after you learned about the “real” IR, here’s some extra stuff you might want to know. My syllabi try to integrate gender concerns each week – feminist engagements with each substantive topic (in security class) or paradigmatic approach (in IR theory class).

6. Hiring more women doesn’t address feminist critiques of IR. First (see #4), not all women are feminists. In fact, some women kind of stink at feminism, and some women are anti-feminist. Hiring women is a good thing, because the profession should be sex-equal regardless of its gender content.  But  epistemological and ontological openness to feminist work, and methodological acceptance of it, is necessary as well – hiring feminists, engaging feminisms, and rethinking IR’s masculinism is as important as (if not more important than) hiring women, engaging sex, and adding “gender” as a variable.

7. There are many IR feminisms (see #1) that engage feminist theory and IR differently – in addition to falling within or across different paradigmatic “boxes,” feminisms are interested in different sectors of global politics – international/global security, international/global political economy, international/global migration, international/global law, international/global human rights, and the like. In the International Studies Compendium, there are 54 different essays on different areas within and approaches to feminist IR in the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies section alone, and several more in other sections’ collections.

8. Certainly, it is easy to see gender in things which “concern” women, like wartime rape. Feminists are (intensely) interested in these things – in the example of wartime rape, the way that gendered nationalism(s) play(s) into motivations for mass rapes, the gendered assumptions that are necessary to make rape an (accepted) part of the making and fighting of wars, the gendered stereotypes in the prosecution of wartime rapists, the difficult road for women victims of forced impregnation (and the resulting war babies), the way that men inscribe dominance on other men through women’s bodies, and the like. That said, feminist scholarship is as interested in and as relevant to the choice of weapons or artillery (which initially appears gender neutral) as it is in wartime rape (see #10). This interest, though, is not about women’s special abilities in particular areas. For example, Robert Keohane, in 1989, suggested that feminisms should pair up with neoliberal institutionalist approaches to IR basically because women are better at negotiation and compromise, and therefore could teach us to be better institutionalists. As Ann Tickner and Cynthia Weber noted, this is so not the point (see also #9). Feminisms in IR are not about capitalizing on gender subordination for policy efficiency.

9.  I won’t argue that no feminisms in IR assume that women are/should be equal to men, and treated that way, while picturing women as without men’s flaws and femininity as by definition better than masculinity – some of it does, blaming “masculine violence” on “men,” and not thinking/talking about feminizing violence, or about women who behave as masculinists, or the like. That said, feminisms in IR are at their best, I believe, when they recognize that “women” are not “beautiful souls” (in Elshtain’s words originally) always innocent of and victims of the terrible things in the world. At the same time, women’s flaws, their complicity in gender subordination, their reproduction of gender-subordinating tropes and ideas, do not mean that women are not subordinated on the basis of gender, or that masculinities do not generally trump femininities along gender hierarchies. Women can subordinate women on the basis of gender (I am, in fact, writing a book about this very phenomena in wartime sexual violence). That doesn’t make it not gender subordination. Men can also subordinate men on the basis of gender. Again, still gender subordination. For me, the “problem” with gender hierarchies is the consistent valorization of masculinities and devalorization of femininities. Would I like to see what the world would be like if it valorized femininities? Sure. But is that the point? Not so much. The point is to question and reform the naturalness of masculinities and femininities as categories and descriptors, and the naturalness of choosing masculinities when we choose among traits, characteristics, ideas, people, states, or nations.

10. A discipline shaped by men (with and for masculine values) about a global political arena where only men were visible with interest in the subjects that men thought were important at levels of analysis men saw and formulated hasn’t changed much since those formative times. Feminism critiques the process of evolution of the traditional concerns of IR, and argues that those concerns are partial, short-sighted, and masculinist. But it also has something to say about each of those concerns and ideas. While feminists don’t think IR should be (exclusively) about nuclear war, terrorism, trade imbalances, and regime types, they have had something to say about all of those things. Those observations, theoretical reformulations, and case studies are not niches or irrelevant to how others think about those same issues. Instead, they interrogate the ways IR theorists have thought about them, reformulate traditional approaches, and reveal dynamics that were previously unseen. I’d go on, but, again, this is likely to be the subject of another post.

11. Feminists aren’t humorless. I may be proving the point by bringing up a long-dead and initially half-joking assertion that Dan Drezner made, but I’m going to take that risk. Some people can blog about their work, and have their work made fun of, secure in the position that it is taken seriously in the discipline of IR and in global politics more generally. That’s fine, and more power to them. Feminist work, however, is consistently marginalized, trivialized, and not taken seriously. Jokes about feminist IR work are sometimes “funny haha” sort of jokes, but more often they are jokes that betray a belief that feminist IR specifically (and sometimes women and gender studies in IR generally) belongs in IR’s galleys, in its punchlines, and in its innuendoes. While, usually, I have a thick enough skin to deal with that extra layer of crap one gets for doing what I do, sometimes I don’t, and I shouldn’t have to. If feminisms were comfortably “in” IR – joke all you want. Until then … take it seriously first, joke second.

More soon … requested future posts include “feminism in political economy,” “feminism in security studies,” and “the transformative power of feminisms in IR.” More requests are welcome.


Feminist IR 101, Post #3: What is “feminist” about “feminist IR”?

So I’ve been accused elsewhere in the blogosphere (not linked here because of profane language) of just posting a lot of overlong (language cleaned up) definitions in service of a poststructuralist cause which is “irrelevant (insert choice words here).” I could get all defensive or argumentative (insert sarcastic comment about feminists here), but I think that I’ll those comments as proof that perhaps the explaining needs to continue.

I posted all those definitional discussions because it would be easy to misread what came after them without that foundation, which is not obvious or intuitive to most IR scholars. The next series of posts (this one, #4, “common misconceptions about feminist IR,” and #5, “what feminist IR can do for you”) lay out generally what feminisms in IR are and what they do. Posts that follow those will discuss particular theoretical areas or empirical puzzles of interest to feminisms and IR.

So what is “feminist” about “feminist IR”? This is, to me, another way of getting at the question of “what is feminist IR?” There are some colloquial definitions that get us somewhere. In high school, I had a bumper sticker that said “feminism is the radical notion that women are people too.” More helpfully, perhaps, Betty Reardon once described feminism as “the belief that women are of equal social and human value with men.” That’s a start, but not the crux of it.

A caveat before I go into this in more depth: I’m not the foremost authority of, the founder of, a gatekeeper for, or the voice of feminisms in IR – I was in grade school when the people I’m now proud to call my mentors began feminist interventions in IR. These statements, while meant to make feminist work accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t (make the effort to) engage with and understand it, are only my approaches, and not something by which to judge the enterprise of feminisms in IR, which I feel privileged to be a part of, but am only a part of.

With that said, Reardon is right that feminisms (in IR and elsewhere) started with (and maintain) a concern with the subordinating treatment of women in social and political life. Feminists have noted that, on almost every indicator of social, political, and economic well-being, participation, and “development,” “women” remain behind “men;” this is true in the most progressive places in the world and the least progressive places in the world, however measured, and everywhere in between. Many feminists in IR started with the (important) empirical and theoretical question – (in Cynthia Enloe’s words) where are the “women” in global politics? Why do they fare worse than the “men,” almost universally? Why are they largely absent(ed) from histories and contemporary accounts of social and political life?

So, feminist IR has cared about, and does care about “women,” empirically (because showing where they are tells us more about global politics than we knew when we didn’t see them) and normatively (because women’s invisibility and marginality in social, political, and economic life is not incidental, but a product of gender subordination. But this care for “women” is (in most cases) not some unselfconscious interest in promoting women’s rights or interests as if all women are the same, or have the same wants and needs, or as if “women” have “gender issues” and men are “genderless.”

Instead, in Jill Steans’ words (using a concept employed by Spike Peterson and Anne Sisson Runyan and Christine Sylvester before), to look at the world through gender lenses is to focus on gender as a particular kind of power relation, or to trace out the ways in which gender is central to understanding international processes. In other words, feminist IR is not an enterprise of labeling or targeting “men,” of vindicating or idealizing “women,” of idealism, of waxing philosophical about things irrelevant to the “real” IR. It is an enterprise of looking to understand “real” IR differently, and better, through seeing how gender matters in the (causal and constitutive) relationships (mainstream/malestream) IR cares about, and the role it plays in which relationships are deemed outside of the disciplinary purview.

“Feminisms” in IR are normative, but they are (largely) not idealist. They are normative in that they have a political agenda (which all scholarly/epistemological enterprises do) and they admit it (which very few scholarly/epistemological enterprises do). That political agenda is in recognizing and deconstructing gender hierarchies in global politics generally (and the academic discipline of IR specifically). (Most) feminists argue that it is studying (gender in) global politics is done less rigorously without that political agenda, or, at the very least, taking account gender as a dichotomy which is hierarchical rather than “equal.”

What does that mean? “Gender” is not category where each choice in the dichotomy is equally valued. Instead, most everywhere in the world, consciously or unconsciously, we select for (people and values associated with) masculinities (which often include, but do not map one-to-one onto “men”) over (people and values associated with) femininities (which often include, but do not map one-to-one onto “women”). If you treat gender as a variable (asking what “men” do and what “women” do, or what is done to “men” and what is done to “women”) without taking account of that hierarchy, it is impossible to understand what is really going on, because “men” and “women” do not act outside of that gender-hierarchical social structure. For an in-depth discussion of this point, see my engagement with (fellow duck blogger) Charli Carpenter’s work in International Studies Quarterly a couple of years ago.

The implications for “men” and “women” matter empirically and normatively, feminists argue, but gender hierarchy in global politics has implications outside of (the relations between) sex categories. When we prize masculinities over femininities, association with masculinity comes to be a place of power, and association with femininity comes to be a place of weakness – so people, states, social organizations, and the like often have a vested interest in positioning themselves at the higher ends of gender hierarchies (masculinization) and positioning their opponents or enemies at the lower ends of gender hierarchies (feminization). This makes gender both an organizing principle of global politics (since global politics can be understood as gender-hierarchical) and an acting principal of global politics’ agents (since relative position along gender hierarchies is important, and can be altered). Therefore (in Marysia Zalewski’s words), the driving force of feminism is attention to gender and not simply to women …the concept, nature, and practice of gender are key. Scholars looking through gender lenses (in Lauren Wilcox’s words) ask what assumptions about gender (and race, class, nationality, and sexuality) are necessary to make particular statements, policies, and actions meaningful. Therefore, as I have argued before, failure to recognize gender hierarchy makes IR scholarship less descriptively accurate and predictively powerful for its omission of a major force in global politics.

Of course, this is an oversimple summary of decades of careful theoretical work which has certainly left major points out. The punchline, which I hope to expand in future posts, is that seeing gender hierarchy in the world transforms both what we think about in global politics and how we think about it, for a more accurate empirical view of how the world “works” and a different normative understanding of what needs to be changed in it. Feminisms in(/of/critical of) IR (of which there are many, and they are substantially different, a question that will be addressed in the next post) try, through empirical research, theoretical work, critique, and reformulation to encourage(/perform/enact) that(/those) transformation(s).


Feminist IR 101, Post #2….vocabularies for talking about sex/gender hierarchies

In the last post, I discussed gender as a system of symbolic meanings. People understood to be “men” are often expected to be “masculine” and associated with masculinity/ies; while people understood to be “women” are expected to be feminine, and associated with femininity/ies. Traits associated with masculinities and femininities are often also transposed onto ideas, concepts, and things, in everyday life and in global politics. Masculinities and femininities are often salient in political, economic, and social life.

But, like all good political “scientists,” you ask the “so what?” question – what does that matter? What does it tell us about how the world works? Most of the answer to that question will be in another post, but, to get there, you’ll need the punchline of the answer: because global politics (at the individual level, at the state level, and at the systemic level) is gender-hierarchical. To discuss that meaningfully, though, we’ll need to know a few more gender-words, and have a vocabulary for talking about gender hierarchy.

Sex hierarchy: the explicit or implicit valuing of people (or things, concepts, ideas, etc.) differently on the basis of their (perceived) sex difference(s).

Gender hierarchy:  the explicit or implicit valuing of people (or things, concepts, ideas, etc.) differently on the basis of their (perceived) gender difference(s), usually the valuing of masculinity/ies over femininity/ies. Any give gender hierarchy is not absolute or universal, sometimes gendered hierarchies value different gender-related characteristics differently in different times and different places. Still, the existence of gender hierarchy/ies is/are universal. Patriarchal gender hierarchies (or gender hierarchies dominated by (hegemonic) masculinity/ies are often described in terms of “gender oppression,” or “gender subordination,” indicating the devaluing of non-idealized masculinity/ies and femininity/ies as compared to dominant/hegemonic (Weberian) ideal-typical notion of what “a woman” or “the feminine” should be and what “a man” or “the masculine” should be. Different feminism(s) refer to deconstructing gender hierarchy differently, using those words, or “ending gender subordination” or “gender emancipation.” Note that none of these terms are explicitly about or exclusively for “women” (to be discussed in a later post).

Other terms describe important complexities, including …

masculinism (n.) – the social preference for masculinity/ies and/or the social exclusion of femininity/ies.

homosexual (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) of a certain (biological) sex, having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) of the same (biological) sex.

lesbian (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) “women,” having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) “women”

gay (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) “men,” having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) “men”

bisexual (adj.) – describes people who are sexually attracted to “both” (“male” and “female”) sexes, regardless of their own (perceived, biological) sex.

heterosexual (adj.) – describes people (perceived to be) of a certain (biological) sex, having sexual preference for or exclusive sexual attraction to people who are (perceived to be) of the “opposite” (biological) sex

homophobia (n.)/homophobic (adj.) – describes (unreasoned) fear or discrimination against people perceived to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual

heteronormativity (n.) – the assumption of the normalcy of heterosexuality and the abnormality of “homosexuality” or “bisexuality”

heterosexism (n.) – the preference for or bias towards heteronormative personal, social, and political organizations and bias against (people and lifestyles classified with) “homosexuality” or “bisexuality”

transgender (adj.) – an imagined cross-gender community

transgender (n.) – people who do not appear to conform to traditional gender norms by presenting and living genders different than those which are assigned to them at birth and/or presenting and living genders in ways that may not be readily intelligible in terms of traditional gender roles and norms. Sometimes “transgender” is distinguished from “transsexual,” where “transsexual” refers to people who use hormonal and/or surgical technologies to alter their bodies in ways that may be construed as at odds with the sex assignment at birth or which may not be readily intelligible in terms of traditional conceptions of sex bodies (see Talia Mae Bettcher’s work on this). Others object to the reification of biology in separating “transgender” and “transsexual.”

FTM (adj.) and MTF (adj.) – signify directionality of “sex change” or “gender change” in trans- people (“female to male” and “male to female”). Some object to the use of these terms because they legitimate illegitimate biological sex categories.

transphobia (n.)/transphobic (adj.) – negative attitudes (hatred, loathing, rage, or moral indignation) towards (perceived or “actual” trans- people and/or transgressive gender performances.

cisgender (n.)/cissexual (n.) – people who are comfortable with and/or identify with the sex and/or gender one was assigned at birth and who experience their “physical” and “conscious” sexes as being aligned.

cissexism (n.) – the belief that trasngendered or transsexual identifications are inferior to or less authentic than those of cisgender or cissexual persons; including (in Julia Serrano’s words) trans-fascimiliation(viewing or portraying transsexuals as merely imitating, emulating, or impersonating cissexual male or female genders), trans-exclusion (refusing to acknowledge and respect a transsexual’s identified gender, or denying them, access to spaces, organizations, or events designed for that gender), trans-objectification (when people reduce trans people to their body parts, the medical procedures they’ve undertaken, or get hung up on, disturbed by, or obsessed over supposed discrepancies that exist between a transsexual’s physical sex and identified gender), and trans-interrogation (when people bring a transsexual’s identified gender into question by asking them to answer personal questions about their life story, their motives for transitioning, medical procedures they have undertaken, or when they obsess over what causes transsexuality – such questions reduce transsexuals to the status of objects of inquiry.

Sexism, heterosexism, and cissexism are iterations of gender hierarchies seen throughout the world, though they take different forms and play out with different empirical results over time, place, culture, and situation.

Still, only armed with these “vocabulary words,” one might think that the only people who should care about sex/gender hierarchies in global politics are the people on the “bottom” end of them – that is, women, persons of non-heterosexual sexual preference, and persons of non-cissexual sex/gender identification. One would be wrong.

to feminize (infinitive), feminizing (gerund), feminization (n.) – subordinating people, political entities, or ideas by associating them with values perceived as feminine. (In Spike Peterson’s words), not only subjects (women and marginalized men) but also concepts, desires, tastes, styles, “ways of knowing” …can be feminized – with the effect of reducing their legitimacy, status, and value. Importantly, this devalorization is simultaneously ideological (discursive, cultural) and material (structural/economic) … this devalorizaton normalizes – with the effect of “legitimating” the marginalization, subordination, and exploitation of feminized practices and persons.

In Catherine MacKinnon’s words (which I am sure I will get a lot of blog-spam for mentioning, but, whatever), feminization is something that can (and often does) happen to anyone – it is only that we assume that it is natural when it happens to women. Put another way (and key to the forthcoming discussion in post #3), gender hierarchy is operative in social and political relations not just when “men” discriminate against “women,” but in a variety of instantiations where associations with perceived genders/sexualities/gendered characteristics are mapped onto persons, states, and other entities in (global and everyday) interactions.


“Disappearing” Intersex, Trans, and Genderqueer Persons

Though it has been in the works for a while, in recent months the TSA has implemented its “Secure Flight” program, where it assumes responsibility for those on “Don’t Fly” and “Extra Search” lists. The catch? It does so by asking passengers for extra information when they book their tickets.

You might have noticed this on airplane ticket purchases in recent months – you are asked for three pieces of information: your name, your birthday, and your “gender” (by which the TSA actually means sex). You can enter your name and your birthday, but then you have to select your “gender” from a pull-down menu. There are two options: male and female. Apparently, persons who are (or consider themselves) neither or both need not bother to buy plane tickets in the United States, or are a threat to national security on the basis of their refusal to buy into a (false) dichotomous notion of sex?

This problem isn’t unique to flying: its on our census forms, on our tax forms, on our loan application forms, etc. But when I was buying a plane ticket this morning for a conference in DC in the fall, I felt particularly outraged by it. After all, why should I have to identify a “gender” to go give a talk about the falseness of gender? And why do I have that privilege, where someone unwilling to do so does not?


More ISA Redux: Diversity Issues in the International Studies Association

A debate about the mission of the ISA Diversity Committee that started Tuesday at the Governing Council weekend and continued throughout the conference has inspired me to think about diversity issues in the International Studies Association and in a number of our other professional environments.

While I will inevitably mischaracterize the contours of this debate – I’ll try to describe it quickly as a prelude to what I want to say about these issues. The Diversity Committee (the old mission of which is still on its website, linked above), in reaction to the establishment of the Committee on the Status of Women and the (at the time pending) establishment Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Allies (LGBTQA) Caucus, suggested (and was granted) a change to its mission that narrows it to (part of) race and nationality politics within the organization, particularly:

The mission of the committee is (a) to promote the recruitment, integration, and professional development and visibility of underrepresented groups (African-American, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders) including individuals from the Global South (Asia, Africa, Latin America), and (b) to monitor and provide oversight with respect to these goals.

I think this mission is nothing short of a disaster for diversity promotion in ISA for a number of reasons (including that diversity is more than race, and that ISA’s significant European membership is entirely left out of that mission), but also provides an opportunity to think about what it would mean to value diversity in the organization. Here are some thoughts ….

It is a good and productive idea to value sex and race subordination on face. This is the work that we do acceptably now – looking for women, (sometimes) race and national minorities, “foreigners,” sex and gender minorities, religious minorities, etc. in our organization’s membership, its positions of service, its positions of power, and in indicators of opportunity, success, and staying power in the field.

However, there’s more to thinking about the diversity implications of every decision that we make then correcting discriminatory representational practices, and even correcting discriminatory representational practices is more complicated. First, to reiterate, there are more axes of diversity rights, like race, national origin, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Second, it is both a negative (neither ISA nor the profession are “diverse” enough along any of these axes) and a positive (the diversity of our community is a substantive and representational asset for us). Often, talk about diversity is in the negative (to save, take care of, emancipate underrepresented groups) to the neglect of the positive.

Even just talking about diversity in the negative sense, however, there’s a risk in what we call “essentialism” in identifying the people and groups that we want to look out for. What we mean by “essentialism” is the (implicit or explicit) assumption that groups have defined lines and that there are characteristics “essential” to membership in certain groups. In other words, we risk essentialism when we assume that “women” or “African American” or “[insert group here]” have particular personality characteristics and/or points of view because they are (perceived to be) members of those groups. Likewise, it is an oversimplified interpretation of the “diversity” project when we assume that certain underrepresented groups (for example, women) are represented in our governance structures and ideas because there is a member of that group is in a position of power. While representative diversity is an important component of making our organization more diverse and valuing its existing diversity, it is not the only (or even most important) component.

Instead, there’s a substance to diversity concerns as well. Are all our members being taken seriously as colleagues? Do essentialist notions of people underlie formal inclusion? Is there a (raced and gendered) power politics of interpersonal interactions in the organization?

These sorts of questions (which are the ones I hope the diversity committee was established to address, or at least that I hope it ultimately comes to address, or ISA addresses with or without it) require looking at diversity (even in the negative sense) as more than looking at the colors and shapes of faces. Instead, it requires seeing that the parameters, the rules, the electoral structures, the intellectual boundaries of our (and other) social and political organization(s) were established when men (and masculinity) were the majority. If we do not see that, our organization remains exclusionary even as we get better at representational diversity.

I am not advocating some sort of radical deconstruction of ISA as a policy choice or management strategy. Instead, I think that these insights suggest that we take account of both the actual and substantive diversity consequences of our decisions in more complicated ways – not only in choosing committee members or nominating ISA officers, but also in decision-making that appears “neutral” on the axes of diversity discussed above (budgeting, membership rules, etc).

Diversity is then more complicated then the (new) mission of the Committee on several levels. First, diversity about more than race/national origin, and limiting it to that is intellectually and politically both inaccurate and exclusionary. Second, the characterizations of race and national origin in this statement are United States-centric (with emphasis on minorities in the United States when 40% of our membership is from outside of the United States). While the “Global South” is included, our European and Australian members are not.

But perhaps diversity is also more complicated than the (old) mission of the committee as well. Even were this statement a “full” accounting for the axes of diversity in non-essentialist terminology, the statement would still be inappropriate, because it frames (lack of) diversity as a problem to be fixed (by adding underrepresented people to the field and aiding them in it) without acknowledging the positive side of diversity (and therefore, hopefully, the positive mission of a diversity committee) to highlight and emphasize diversity as an asset of our organization which improves its intellectual vibrancy, governance creativity, and sense of community as an organization.

Conscious discrimination (within our organization and in the field more generally) is a decreasing if not disappearing component of gender, race, disability, and other axes of subordination. The question is not now if but how to look out for diversity. In this spirit, it is crucial not to assume that gender, race, and embodied subordination disappears with the decrease in intentional discrimination or to assume that it is only “white American men” oppressing underrepresented groups. Instead, for example, men subordinate men on the basis of gender; women subordinate women on the basis of gender. Though it is not the only reading possible, I would read the current mission of the Diversity Committee as subordinating race/national origin minorities in ISA on the basis of race.

The question that we’re struggling with (hopefully) is to ask – if not this – then how? In the abstract, I think it is about asking questions about the substantive impact on diverse groups within our community of decisions that appear neutral – that is “diversity mainstreaming.” It is my contention that there is a mission for a Diversity Committee (distinct from other groups interested in minority rights in ISA) to have that does not necessarily require retreating to only thinking about race/national origin (even if it were doing so in an unproblematic way). While I don’t think that the language of the previous mission of the Diversity Committee (which privileges “women”) is particularly productive, I do think that it is dangerous to privileges some groups over others in the name of “diversity,” as well as to reify groups. If it is important to represent persons on the basis of race (which ISA doesn’t do) or national origin (which I am guessing is the idea behind the nomination of Non-North American members of the Governing Council), then I think that should be under the auspices of a body with such a mission not called the Diversity Committee (and I hope in a more nuanced way than the current language).

But I think Diversity Committee (and the ISA Diversity Committee) should have a both broader and deeper mission – to address diversity as a whole in a negative sense (how to get underrepresented groups represented both in positions of power and substantively) and (and even mainly) in the positive sense (how to see and advance our organization’s diversity as an asset in it). Can we do that? In ISA or elsewhere? I hope so.


South Asia’s gender gap

Nirmala George of the Associated Press writes:

Lawmakers and women’s rights activists raised an alarm Monday over new evidence indicating about 7,000 fewer girls than expected are born each day in India, where women routinely suffer discrimination and parents often abort female fetuses.

The spread of ultrasound technology allowing parents to find out the gender of their unborn children has resulted in the large-scale “disappearance” of girls here. One study released earlier this year estimated that 10 million fewer girls were born here than expected in the past 20 years.

The government must “rise in revolt against the male child mania,” said lawmaker Gurudas Dasgupta during a parliamentary debate Monday.

The debate was spurred in part by a report last week from UNICEF, which estimated that 7,000 girls go unborn each day in India, where abortions are legal and a ban on finding out the sex of unborn children and aborting female fetuses is widely flouted.

The result is a skewed gender ratio — many districts in the country of more than 1 billion people routinely report only 800 females born for every 1,000 males.

Sex-selection abortions aren’t merely ethically problematic; they very likely have long-term social costs:

UNICEF’s report included dire warnings about the social fallout from the skewed gender ratio — girls getting married at younger ages, dropping out of school and dying earlier after being forced bear children when they are too young. It could also result in more violence against girls and women, UNICEF said.

But our field also saw a debate a few years ago about the possible implications for international security.Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer argued back in a 2002 International Security article, and then in a monograph, that gender imbalances could lead to a whole list of problems: increased risk of civil conflict, terrorism, and interstate conflict. Their claims–which I find plausible in some respects but not in others–touched off a methodological dispute. From the aforelinkedto Chronicle article:

Nothing in the two women’s arguments, however, persuades Joshua S. Goldstein, a professor emeritus of international relations at George Washington University [American University?], who wrote War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa (Cambridge University Press, 2001). “The problem with their design is that they’re basically just picking cases that fit their hypothesis, and so you don’t know whether it’s generalizable or not,” he says. Mr. Goldstein would prefer a much more systematic study, one that would try to identify how sex ratios interact with other variables that are believed to be linked to instability and war: rapid population growth, ethnic tension, poverty, and unstable availability of resources.

Melvin Ember agrees. “Arguing by example is not anywhere near truth or confirmation,” says Mr. Ember, president of the Human Relations Area Files, a repository of anthropological data at Yale University. “A better study would look at a large, randomly selected sample of societies with high, low, and normal sex ratios, he says. “It just requires a little bit of good will and money. The statistical techniques and the databases exist.”

A similar complaint is offered by Manju Parikh, an associate professor of political science at the College of St. Benedict, who has written about offspring sex selection. “This is an example of social-science inductive reasoning, but it’s not a very good example,” she says. “They have to show why other explanations don’t do as well. This is not a unique situation” — that is, she says, many countries with normal sex ratios have also been prone to instability and war.

Those complaints reflect a too-rigid model of explaining the world, responds Ms. Hudson, who teaches courses in social-science methodology. “This critique goes to the heart of how we know anything in the social sciences,” she says, arguing that because skewed sex ratios are a still-emerging variable, it is appropriate to sketch their potential effects more loosely, using what she and Ms. den Boer call “confirmatory process tracing.”

“I encourage others who wish to perform additional analysis using other methods to do so,” Ms. Hudson says. “But until a question is even raised, it cannot be addressed.”

But it wasn’t just the a process-tracing versus statistics dispute.

Mr. Goldstein and Ms. Parikh also worry that the Bare Branches argument leans too heavily on what they regard as crude evolutionary models of male behavior. “The authors seem to completely lack empathy for these low-status rootless men,” says Ms. Parikh. “These guys are the victims of development, and they call them criminals and potential criminals. This is so appalling.” For instance, contrary to the book’s suggestion, she says, most migrant workers in Asia maintain strong kinship ties with their home villages, send money home every month, and are nothing like the untethered marauders pictured in the authors’ warnings.

The term “surplus males,” Mr. Goldstein says, “is offensive, and for lack of a better term, sexist. They’re making a very conservative argument, which is sort of wrapped up in a feminist skin.” It is a mistake, he says, to draw easy lessons from the finding that unmarried men tend to have higher testosterone levels than do their married peers.

Ms. Hudson says she herself is skeptical of sociobiological explanations but finds it impossible to avoid engagement with them. “I don’t know of any social-science findings that are more confirmed than the fact that young men monopolize violent antisocial behavior in every society,” she says. “It may not be PC to say so, but you come up against such a mountain of evidence.”

As for Ms. Parikh’s point about migrant workers’ kinship ties, Ms. Hudson says that “feeling kinship with home and village is not the point. … Even when bare branches stay close to home, when they congregate they form new systems of norms unto themselves.” Those new norms are often aggressive and antisocial, she says. “Families cannot control their ‘stakeless’ sons.”

So what do you all think of the methodological issues? And of the sociobiological ones? I’m not much of a fan of the latter, but it strikes me that large gender imbalances in favor of males probably increase the risks of these kinds of problems… and that we don’t need to know anything about testosterone levels in unmarried males to understand why.

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