International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 10: The gendered state in international relations
Feminist research has been intrigued by key paradoxes and dichotomies that the state gives rise to: the public–private dichotomy, the dilemma of in and out of the state, and the relationships that the state has to feminist politics and struggles. In feminist international relations (IR) more specifically, questions about state sovereignty, the state boundaries between the national and the international, and the fiction of the state as a person are at the centre of feminist critiques of mainstream theorizing. General trends in feminist theorizing about the state include a move away from essentialist notions about women and men and the state. Black feminist theorizing about gender, race, ethnicity, and sexism has become more mainstream with the popularity of the notion of intersectionality that highlights how gender intersects with race and ethnicity, sexuality, disability, class, and other inequality categories. Instead of the state being a real essentialized object, feminist theories tend to explore the ways in which states need to be constantly reproduced through discourses, practices, or material circuits. Feminist scholars explore the power relations behind these constructions, the femininities and masculinities that they rely upon and reproduce, and their differentiated gender impacts. State processes, policies, institutions, discourses, practices, and norms are shown to be gendered and gendering and constitutive of gender orders. States and nations are also racialized and sexualized in that they use norms around heterosexuality to reproduce the state and nation.
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