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Karla Alvarado

The importance of the gender perspective in International Relations

- The study of international relations is marked by the pre-eminence of traditional theories that encapsulate the understanding of international reality in the state-centric perspective that favors man.

The importance of the gender perspective in International Relations

How many times did you talk or have you talked about gender during your classes of theory(s) of International Relations (RRII) or introduction to the RRII? I dare say that practically never, or if you have done it, it has been optional, marginal and blurred, why? Although there is no single answer to this question, it is crucial to put it on the table to break with the patriarchal ideological patterns implicit in the teaching and understanding of this discipline that is riddled with macho conceptions. One of the problems that impede change in the study of international reality lies, meanwhile, in the broad academic refusal to expand the horizons of the study of international reality and use new approaches, particularly that of gender. So, internationalists have a responsibility to contribute to the changes that our discipline deserves.

The study of international relations is marked by the pre-eminence of traditional theories, particularly realism and liberalism, which encapsulate the understanding of international reality in the state-centric perspective that privileges man as the rational being par excellence who has the ability to make decisions, make politics and establish the institutional bases of a patriarchal system that guarantees their condition of superiority.

The theoretical basis of the internationalists is based on the premises of said theories that leave women out of the game because they are considered the weaker sex that must be protected and whose primary occupation is at home, since their capacities are limited to take care of children and housework. Likewise, those people who present different characteristics from those of a conventional "man" are outside the spectrum of such privileged masculinity, since they are compared to the weakness of women and therefore cannot be taken into account. Although in the first instance these theories laid the foundations of the discipline, it is time to turn the page and question what has been learned and how we have done it too.

Although progress has been made over time in the incorporation of gender studies in the International Relations, the possibility of equalizing the role of women at the international level is still very distant, since the inclusion of new theories that call into question of judgment male superiority in the discipline have been gradually introduced and given a secondary place, so that systemic power relations continue to mark the study and analysis of global phenomena.

One of the most relevant fields for the International Relations is that of security, which has been reserved for men, since according to patriarchal conceptions, they are the ones in charge of protecting, in the first instance, women, and all inferior beings. them. To date, the study of security privileges "national security, which is closely related to a state-centric vision, continues to be the dominant approach and therefore sets and influences international agendas and public policies" (Marchand, 2013, 73). . Although there has been a change in the understanding of the concept of security and an attempt has been made to broaden it to that of "human security" or "comprehensive security", the limits of the International Relations prevent a truly inclusive and intersectional study.

As Gabriela de Lima Grecco (2020) rightly points out, in recent decades, the specific role of women in international relations has received more attention and feminist theories have gained ground in the intellectual debate on international relations, which has contributed to a general sensitization towards the incorporation of the analysis of the gender category in the discipline. The foregoing represents a significant advance for scholars of international society, since one of the characteristic features of the discipline had been the invisibility of gender structures that impact men and women differently.

Likewise, said author rightly points out that the insertion of gender perspectives has been carried out thanks to the irruption of the so-called "fourth debate" that opened a new opportunity to think about the international from more critical and inclusive perspectives, such as liberal feminism. , constructivist feminism, postmodernist feminism, postcolonial feminism, decolonial feminism (or peripheral feminism), queer theory and the focus on masculinities. Thus, for example, post-colonial and decolonial theorists seek to destabilize hegemonic discourses about a supposed universal experience of women, but what is the importance of this?

Analyzing international relations from a gender perspective allows reducing the limits of international relations and generating a "multidimensional understanding, in the sense of recognizing the differences and common elements regarding the experiences of women, men and sexual dissidents from different latitudes" ( Grecco, 2020, 140). With this, it is possible to make the world visible in its entirety and find true solutions, since global complexity is increasingly exacerbated by technological advances and globalization that without exception affect all people in different ways.

In this understanding, it is crucial to adopt an intersectional approach to make the mechanisms and relationships of domination and subordination visible, and give voice and visibility to subaltern individuals or groups (Marchand, 2013, 64). But the deconstruction of conventional ideas and visions must be accompanied by new precepts that truly allow us to understand the current world, so it is extremely important that all internationalists dare to criticize the patriarchal values and dynamics on which the theoretical-methodological bastions of the discipline that should evolve at the pace of changes in the world.



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Alvarado, Karla. “La importancia de la perspectiva de género en las Relaciones Internacionales.” CEMERI, 25 sept. 2022,