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Towards a feminist international ethics



The title of this article brings together two terms, the latter, ‘international ethics’, is instantly recognizable as referring to a distinct aspect of the academic study of international relations with its own canonic tradition and debates. The former term, ‘feminist’, is much less familiar, and for many normative theorists in international relations refers to a political movement and set of ideological positions whose relevance to international ethics is far from clear. It is therefore necessary to engage in some preliminary explanation of the term ‘feminism’ and how it has come to be linked to ‘international ethics’ in recent scholarship in order to set out the argument of this article. It is only in the last fifteen years that theoretical perspectives under the label of feminism have come to be applied to international relations, although they have a rather longer history within other social sciences and, significantly, within ethical theory. Feminism as a political movement comes in a variety of ideological forms and the same is true of feminism within the academy. The common theme which connects diverse theoretical positions under the label of ‘feminism’ is the claim that paying attention to the ways in which social reality is ‘gendered’ has a productive impact on how it is to be understood, judged and may be changed. What counts as ‘productive’ is related not simply to the goal of enriching understanding and judgment as such (by drawing attention to its gendered dimension), but to the explicitly political goal of exposing and addressing the multiple ways in which both women and men are oppressed by gendered relations of power. It is clear, from the first, therefore, that there is a powerfully normative agenda inherent in any perspective labelled as ‘feminist’.


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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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