‘This is not about creating a pink ghetto’

‘This is not about creating a pink ghetto’

Feminist security theory as a supportive approach to solving international issues

On September 21 and 22, Canada hosted the first-ever female foreign ministers summit. Politicians coming from 17 states, including Indonesia, Croatia, South Africa, Sweden and Ghana, gathered to discuss some of the most pressing international issues. 
The summit was an important moment in the history of female involvement in politics, resonating the 1915 Women’s Peace Congress or Bertha von Suttner being the first woman awarded with Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. Female empowerment and gender-based violence were at top of the agenda, as well as more general topics like international security. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, described the summit as ‘‘a historic occasion’’[1]. It comes with little coincidence that the first day of the summit fell on World Peace Day.
One particular idea that the coverage of this event continuously came back to was the feminist security approach. This article aims to shed a light on the basic construct of how international security is viewed from this feministic perspective and also tries to identify its potential within the current geopolitical atmosphere. 


Explaining the feminist security approach
Feminist security theory is one of the less-mainstream, yet still academically popular, lines of thought in critical studies of international relations. One of the central ideas is that “gender is conceptually, empirically, and normatively essential to studying international security.” [2]. While topics such as diminishing gender pay gaps or combating war rape are embedded in this approach, the theory moves beyond these ‘female-only’ issues. In particular, the feminist security approach relies on the notion of communication and cooperation, instead of the classic focus on mutually asserted destruction and conflict that security studies have prioritized in the past [3]. Efforts such as these date back to the 2000 United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1325, which outlined the value of women in conflict resolution and post-conflict processes [4]. 

A recent example of how a non-masculine approach to conflict resolution has indeed its benefits, but remains to be pushed aside, is the Syrian conflict. Syrian war and ISIS’ influence in the region has been ongoing for more than 7 years now. Throughout that time, the United States, Iran, Russia and Turkey have been involved in military actions in the region. Earlier this year, the US Secretary of State suggested a plan to send over 30,000 troops on top of the current US military presence [5]. While it is difficult not to use the military as defence against violent attacks on civilians, it is no secret that 7 years of this military-based approach has led to even more conflict. In the meantime, a 2016 UN Special Convoy for Syria appointed an advisory board of twelve women leaders to participate in the conflict resolution discussions [6]. Even though the female participants in the Syrian peace talks are still drastically outnumbered [7], they have contributed in negotiating local cease-fires or advocating for the release of political prisoners [8]. In the end, the Independent reports that “women have made up just 2 per cent of mediators to major peace processes in the last 30 years.” [9] This example show exactly why these summits are so significant. It signals that women are ready to take on an active role in global decision-making that could be less violent, and quite possibly less costly.

How to act next
While it is true that this was the first meeting of this kind on such an international stage, there are questions about what it could realistically bring to the foreign policy table. How would it even be possible to make use of feministic security theory considering the often negative connotations to the term ‘feminism’? And does a summit like this one means that it is time for women to take control over global decision-making, because male domination clearly failed to keep the world peace? 

Fortunately, if we acknowledge that this approach is no matter of in- or exclusion, such questions do not have to lead to pessimistic answers. The realistic advantage of the feministic approach to international relations is that it challenges outdated gender assumptions. Turmoils in international affairs are no longer an issue of ‘masculine’ versus ‘feminine’. Just as an example, the International Committee of Red Cross reports that civil conflicts have doubled since 2001 [10], while Vision of Humanity suggests that global peacefulness rating is, in fact, deteriorating [11]. In other words, the world today can no longer afford taking sides and choosing one gender or one social group over the other in the process of global decision-making. The overall notion, quite accurately, can be illustrated by Chrystia Freeland’s description of the foreign ministers’ summit: “This is not about creating a pink ghetto. It’s about the ways women in leadership positions can be particularly engaged in championing [human] rights.” [12]

The summit in itself is one of many steps that have been taken to incorporate female perspectives into international problem-solving. Particularly, this meeting is significant because it included female ministers, those who not only have a voice but also political capacity to ignite change. Now, it is time to accept this capacity as an inherent, non-gender discriminating and non-violence led element of international relations.

[1] https://www.france24.com/en/20… 
[2] Jacqui True ‘Securitizing Feminism or Feminist Security Studies?’ International Studies Review, Volume 14, Issue 1, 1 March 2012, Pages 193–195. https://academic.oup.com/isr/a…
[3] Ibid
[4] https://documents-dds-y.un.org… 
[5] https://www.bbc.com/news/world…
[6] https://www.cfr.org/interactiv…
[7] https://www.independent.co.uk/…
[8] https://www.cfr.org/interactiv…
[9] https://www.independent.co.uk/…
[10] https://www.icrc.org/en/docume…
[11] http://visionofhumanity.org/ap…
[12] https://www.france24.com/en/20180923-women-foreign-ministers-summit-canada-freeland-wallstrom