Women and Men in the Iraq War: What Can a Feminist Curiosity Reveal?
Monday, March 24, 2008
7:00 p.m. – Stern Center, Great Room
We are all inundated with news about the Iraq war, but too often the only women shown are mothers and wives weeping – without ever asking them what they think or what they now will do. By asking feminist questions about BOTH American and Iraqi women, about their own thoughts and their complex experiences, we are more likely to get a truly realistic understanding of men’s actions and of the causes and consequences of this war.
Issue in Context
Over the past two decades, feminist critics and practitioners have become an essential part of the discipline of international relations (IR). Feminist IR emerged in the late 1980s. The end of the Cold War brought about a re-evaluation of traditional IR theory which opened up a space for gendering international relations. Cynthia Enloe’s Bananas, Beaches and Bases (Pandora Press 1990) is one of the most influential publications in feminist IR. In this book, Enloe poses a simple question: What happens to our understanding of international politics if we place women’s lives at the centre of our analysis? In attempting to answer this question, Enloe focuses on seven major areas of gendered international politics: tourism, nationalism, the military, diplomacy and the female international labor force in agriculture, textiles, and domestic service.
Women, Enloe argues, play an essential role in the war effort. In Bananas, Beaches and Bases, Enloe states that the creation of stable diplomatic and military communities has been the responsibility of women, as wives, girlfriends, prostitutes and hostesses. She focuses on the role of “diplomatic wives” in stabilizing the lives of military personnel stationed abroad.
The Iraq War has allowed numerous feminist voices to surface as a part of a greater war debate. Is the Iraq War a feminist issue? Under the Taliban’s radical Islamic rule in Afghanistan, women and girls were singled out for especially horrific oppression. In Iraq, however, Hussein’s tyranny was not necessarily gender-specific in its brutality. Iraqi women continue to suffer the detrimental effects of the war, including violence and intimidation. In addition, they lack the security necessary to engage in civic life.
Cynthia Enloe will speak as part of the Morgan Lecture for 2008. The Morgan Lectureship was endowed by the board of trustees in 1929 in grateful appreciation for the distinguished service of James Henry Morgan of the Class of 1878. The lectureship brings to campus a scholar to meet informally with individuals and class groups, and to deliver the Morgan lectures on topics in the social sciences and humanities.
About the Speaker
Cynthia Enloe is a feminist writer and professor who concentrates on women’s politics in the national and international arenas. She has given lectures on feminism, militarization and globalization in Japan, Korea, Turkey, Canada, Britain and numerous colleges around the United States.
Professor Enloe is the author of nine books. Her most famous books include: The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War (1993), Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (1990), Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Womenâ€™s Lives (2000), and The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. (2004).
Professor Enloeâ€™s Bananas, Beaches and Bases examines the role of women in international politics within the context of globalization. Depicting typical scenes of tourism, military and outsourcing of labor, Enloe shows how the global landscape is not exclusively male. Enloe argues that women’s seemingly personal strategies of marriage, housework and beauty are in fact linked to global politics. Enloe gives a radical analysis of globalization, showing how the world system is often more fragile and open to change than we think.
Enloe’s most recent book, Globalization and Militarism: Feminists Make the Link (2007) explains women’s desires to be patriotic yet feminine and men’s fears of being feminized as a strategy to explain the globalization of the military. Enloe depicts the workings of the military by exploring strategies of national security, examining the marginalization of women in post-war reconstruction efforts, and illustrating how feminist ideas were used to humiliate male prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Focusing her lens on both international politics and on the complex everyday lives of women and men, Enloe challenges us to recognize militarism in all its forms.
Professor Enloe completed her undergraduate education at Connecticut College, earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently a research professor in the International Development, Community and Environment Department (IDCE) and director of the Women’s Studies Department at Clark University.
The Morgan Lecture
The Morgan lecture, endowed by the board of trustees in 1929, provides the College with the opportunity to bring to the campus each year a distinguished scholar to be in residence for a few days. Recent Morgan lecturers have been Samantha Power, Jorge Luis Borges, Frederick Jameson, William Jordan, Jonathan Spence, Michael Walzer, Barbara Stoller Miller, Paul Fussel, James Rosenau, G.M. Tamas, Margaret Miles, Patricia Spacks, Christopher Bigsby, and Laurence Kritzman.
Continuing the Conversation – Student-led follow-up discussion
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 – 4:30 p.m.