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Archive for the 'Women’s Studies' Category

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Sex and World Peace: What’s Next

“Empower women and you enhance security in all its dimensions. Disempower women, and you undermine that security.”—Valerie Hudson

Sex and World Peace, Valerie Hudson

The following post if from Valerie Hudson, co-author of Sex and World Peace.

My co-authors and I are very grateful that Gloria Steinem found Sex and World Peace to be an important read. How the insecurity of women creates insecurity for the broader collective, whether at the local, national, regional, or international levels, is a vital topic of concern not only to scholars, but to policymakers and policy advocates as well. In a very real way, whether we speak of food security, economic security, demographic security, security and governance, security and health, or any one of a numbers of interlocked aspects of collective security, women are the great pivot. Empower women and you enhance security in all its dimensions. Disempower women, and you undermine that security.

We are often asked what will follow Sex and World Peace and its initial efforts to demonstrate those linkages that are often invisible in our security discourse. To date, we are engaged in two research projects, one nearing completion and one just getting underway.

Scheduled for publication in June 2015 by Columbia University Press is the forthcoming volume, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy. In that book, journalist Patricia Leidl and I examine how attention to the situation of women has become, in the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “a cornerstone of our foreign policy.” Certainly women have not been seen as such until very recently. How as a nation did we come to the point where a Secretary of State could openly claim “the subjugation of women is a direct threat to the security of the United States”? We call this new understanding “The Hillary Doctrine” after its most eloquent exponent.

Furthermore, what then did the United States do, as a nation, to implement that vision through foreign policy? How did the White House, State Department, Defense, USAID, and other elements of the federal government craft policies and programming to attend to the Hillary Doctrine? And what was the result? What can we learn from the track record of successes and failures that would be of use to an incoming presidential administration?

(more…)

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Gloria Steinem on “Sex and World Peace”

Sex and World PeaceAs part of her Reading Our Way to the Revolution, Gloria Steinem has selected Sex and World Peace as the book of the month. In the coming days, Steinem will be featuring the book and you can follow #GloriaReads for more updates. Here’s Gloria Steinem on the book:

Sex & World Peace is a rare book that could and should change everything from our behavior toward each other to our foreign policy. Ever since it was published in 2012, I’ve been carrying it with me to quote wherever I speak, and urging it on anyone working against or worried about violence, whether in our own homes and streets, in our militarism toward other countries, or in the terrorism that’s directed at us.

This well-written, well-documented, and very readable book by Valerie M. Hudson—plus three other scholars, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett—proves that violence in macrocosm happens wherever and whenever violence has been normalized in microcosm.

To cut to the bottom line: The biggest determinant of violence within a nation, or the willingness of one nation to be violent against another nation, is not poverty, not natural resources, not religion, and not even degree of democracy. It’s violence against females.

(more…)

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Interview with Amrita Pande, author of Wombs in Labor

Wombs in LaborThe following is an interview with Amrita Pande, author of Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India:

What made a sociologist choose a topic like surrogacy?
Well, it started with a short newspaper article I read in 2006. Surrogacy was still at its infancy in India and the article – just about 400 words – described it as India’s new form of outsourcing. This newsarticle really unsettled me. Flashes of Canadian feminist Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale passed through my mind, where a class of women is valued merely as breeders of children of the privileged race and class. I was then a doctoral student at UMASS Amherst and I have to confess the idea that my country would now be stereotyped as a land of not just child laborers, and “slumdogs” but also baby farms made me very queasy! After some quick digging around, I realized that there was no research (academic or otherwise) on this rather critical issue. So began my ethnographic journey into the first country in the global south to have a flourishing industry in both national and transnational surrogacy. (more…)

Friday, May 9th, 2014

The Ethics and Ambivalence of Motherhood — Sarah LaChance Adams

“Mothers have opportunity for great crimes and great heroism. Maternal ethics are illustrative precisely because both these options are possible; we are capable of being both better and worse than we typically imagine.”—Sarah LaChance Adams

Mad Mothers, Bad Mothers, and What a Mother’s Day is Sunday and we turn to Mad Mothers, Bad Mothers, and What a “Good” Mother Would Do: The Ethics of Ambivalence, by Sarah LaChance Adams. In the book, Adams explores some of the inherent tensions of motherhood to draw a more nuanced portrait of the mother and child relationship and maternal ambivalence.

In the following excerpt from the conclusion, Adams considers some of the philosophical and ethical issues related to motherhood and the complications of being a mother:

Philosophers can make a unique contribution to clarifying the com­plexities of the maternal situation, but in order to do so they must listen carefully to the experiences of mothers to understand their material and social conditions. Generally speaking, the philosophical canon is guilty of either ignoring or mistreating mothers. If philosophy is to have concrete relevance, then it must go beyond the metaphorical and romanticized per­spective. The metaphors we use are not neutral; they advocate an inter­pretation of the phenomenon in question. Thus it is only right to check these metaphorical understandings against the lives they intend to invoke.When we take seriously the true complexity of motherhood, we find that the mother-child relationship is philosophically rich indeed.

At the beginning of [Mad Mothers, Bad Mothers, and What a "Good" Mother Would Do] I said that I would demonstrate that it is because of, not in spite of, the tensions inherent to mothering that it is an instructive case for ethics. And, indeed, these discoveries extend be­yond the mother-child relationship. We have found that caring for others,though it is something that one sometimes feels compelled to do, does not come naturally. Romanticizing any type of relationship or setting up impossible ideals is counterproductive. Mothers dealing with their ambiv­alence demonstrate how important it is to recognize one’s limitations. The acknowledgment of hostility toward someone in need is central to being able to respond more appropriately to her call. Emotion can be thought provoking, but it is also thoughtful and reflective in itself; it reveals its own understanding of a situation before it is fully reflected upon.

(more…)

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Professor Mom! An Interview with the editors of “Mothers in Academia”

Mothers in AcademiaWith Mother’s Day right around the corner, we thought we would shed some light on those mothers who also toil in academia. The following is an interview with Mari Castañeda and Kirsten Isgro, the editors of Mothers in Academia. The interview was originally published in Inside Higher Ed:

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: The proposal for this book was inspired by the increasing number of discussions we were both having with colleagues at all levels (students, faculty and staff) about the simultaneous presence and invisibility of mothers in academia. Behind closed doors, many of us were discussing the issues, challenges, joys and promise of working/learning in an academic environment while also caring for children. Yet these conversations were existing outside of the traditional structures of power within our various universities and colleges. The collection thus became an attempt to bear witness to the multiple realities of mothers in academic contexts while also providing a theoretical and empirical grounding for the experiences of women in higher education. We felt this was especially important since women are increasingly becoming an important part of the academic work force as well as the student body. While the project does not valorize women who are parents, it does attempt to address how we as women who are scholar-mothers balance these two roles on a personal and institutional level.

Q: How do you see academe, compared to other parts of society, in terms of being “family friendly”?

A: There seems to be an idealized notion of academe that it is more family-friendly than other parts of society because in many institutions, faculty get summers “off.” While many faculty are not always required to be at the office during the winter and summer breaks, that’s not the case for college staff who have 12-month contracts, and in some cases for student mothers, who must work through the summer to support their families or take classes part-time in order to finish their degrees. Additionally, the increased expectations for revenue generation and “prestigious” scholarly output, for instance, have placed undue pressure on all staff and faculty, making it harder to create, maintain or expand a family-friendly environment, or one that promotes a culture of care. We believe a culture of care is family-centered. It does not minimize excellence; on the contrary, such a culture understands that folks work better when care responsibilities are acknowledged and policies are developed that align family and personal life and work. One thing that became very clear through the process of this book is that we always think about faculty and administrators with regard to these issues, but rarely staff or undergraduate or graduate students. Thus, some sectors of academe experience a more family-friendly environment than others; the policies and expectations are uneven based on position in the higher education hierarchy. It is important to note that while headway in creating and implementing family-friendly policies has been accomplished, but much more can and should be done if academe will continue to be a leader with regards to this issue.

(more…)

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Robin Morgan, Gloria Steinem, and Others on “Sex and World Peace”

“The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated.”—from Sex and World Peace

Sex and World Peace, Valerie HudsonIn the past few days a variety of sources have focused their attention on Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett’s much talked-about and increasingly influential work, Sex and World Peace. Commentators, activists, and scholars have recognized the importance of the book for the women’s movement as it offers the first real scholarly understanding of the impact of a nation’s treatment of women on its security and relations with other countries.

Radio host, noted feminist activist, and author Robin Morgan interviewed Valerie Hudson for her show on Women’s Media Center Live. In the interview, Morgan and Hudson discuss a variety of topics central to the book, including the ways in which a patriarchal society is not compatible with a healthy democracy.

Hudson begins the interview by discussing her experiences as doctoral student in security studies and how the existence of women was barely, if at all, mentioned. In large part, as she explains, Sex and World Peace challenges this omission by showing the ways in which the security of women is integral to the security of the state.

Valerie Hudson also points to how the treatment of women both in law and in practice influences a nation’s life expectancy rate (for both men and women), food security, and a host of other indicators. Seen in this light, she suggests that India, often referred to as the world’s largest democracy, fails to live up to the ideals of a democratic society due to its poor treatment of women.

Another proponent and admirer for the book is none other than Gloria Steinem, who in a recent talk on the occasion of Ms. Magazine‘s fortieth anniversary praised Sex and World Peace. (She begins her comments on the book at the forty-minute mark.) In particular, she argues that the findings and arguments of the book should play an important role in US foreign policy.

(more…)

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

From Shameful to Sexy — Kelly Oliver on Changing Representations of Pregnancy

Kelly Oliver, Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down

“Pregnancy and pregnant bodies have gone from shameful and hidden to sexy and spectacular”—Kelly Oliver

In From Shameful to Sexy, the introduction to Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films , Kelly Oliver examines the shifting image of the pregnant woman in popular culture and Hollywood films.

She argues that this phenomenon has taken pregnancy out of the closet, it also creates unrealistic expectations for women to have it all. It also reflects ambivalent attitudes toward women’s roles and traditional family values, and new technologies of reproduction.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

Pregnancy has become an obsession in popular culture where paparazzi are constantly on the lookout for celebrities’ telltale “baby bumps” and heavily pregnant bellies, and reality television shows and tabloid magazines parade teen pregnancies, sexy “momshells,” and celebrity baby woes and triumphs. Pregnancy and pregnant bodies have gone from shameful and hidden to sexy and spectacular….

Certainly, positive and desirable images of pregnant women are a step forward. But if we look closer, we can see how these seemingly new stories repeat traditional ideas about abject maternal bodies, conventional notions of family values, familiar anxieties over women’s role in reproduction, and fears of miscegenation. In addition, current ideals that promote pregnancy and maternity as desirable, especially for career women, bring new expectations that often require heroic efforts and large doses of caffeine, antidepressants, and sleeping pills—not to mention Mama Spanx maternity wear, “mommy-tucks,” diet fads, and taxing workouts at the gym. Today, women are not only responsible for the health and welfare of their babies but also expected to stay beautiful and fit while pregnant and to lose their “baby fat” as soon as possible in order to “get their bodies back” (as one tabloid put it, suggesting that their pregnant bodies are not their real bodies). Pregnancy has become like an accessory worn by the rich and famous, an adornment that can be removed. Pregnant celebrities go from lack to excess and back again, from anorexic to sporting the telltale “baby bump,” so popular in the media. Now, rather than laying in or staying at home, pregnant women are expected to exercise, continue working, and still be beautiful and sexy for their male partners. In the words of Wenda Wardell Morrone, “We can all recognize the successful pregnant working woman: she is the one in the maternity jogging suit running a marathon on her way to chairing a business meeting; she’ll give birth in her lunch hour without even smudging her eye shadow. She is also a fantasy”.

If Hollywood did not create this fantasy, it continues to feed it. Indeed, in recent years Hollywood has helped revive the fantasy of women “having it all”—babies, careers, sexy bodies, and the freedom to enjoy them. Pregnancy has become as desirable as ever, now fueled by images of “knocked-up knockouts,” “momshells,” and pregnant celebrities. Hollywood is giving birth to new images of sexy, cute, and attractive pregnancies offscreen and on….

(more…)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

MomCom as RomCom

Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down

“Today, Hollywood need not bother with marriage. Rather, sex, baby, love—often in that order—are the contemporary triple threat.”—Kelly Oliver

In her book Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films, Kelly Oliver discusses the genre of the “MomCom,” in which pregnancy is the means by which a man and a woman become romantically involved rather than the other way around.

In this excerpt, Oliver discusses such films as Knocked Up, Look Who’s Talking, Fools Rush In, and Juno to explore the ways in which pregnancy is depicted as a way to “soften” the controlling woman and make the man grow up.

Today, Hollywood need not bother with marriage. Rather, sex, baby, love—often in that order—are the contemporary triple threat. While we are used to seeing sex without love in contemporary Hollywood films, we are not used to seeing babies without sex. As we will see, uncoupling sex and reproduction causes so much anxiety that, often in the most contrived ways, these films manage to bring them back together. And the transformations that take place through pregnancy, particularly to the control-freak career woman, not only recouple sex and reproduction but also bring love and romance into the mix.

In Knocked Up, pregnancy is the softening agent that eventually makes the career girl more likable and tolerant and makes the slacker nerd grow up. Of course pregnancy also becomes the reason why our heroine worries about keeping her high-powered television job. Not quite Doris Day’s characters before her (who gives up career for family), Alison (Heigl) wonders how she can balance her high-powered career and a baby. And like Doris Day’s character in Lover Come Back, she is pregnant as a result of a one-night stand. Unlike Doris’s characters, however, Alison is not in love with the father of her child. In fact, she doesn’t even know him. Rather than pregnancy following from courtship, romance, and marriage, we get the reverse trajectory in recent pregnancy romcoms where pregnancy becomes the vehicle for courtship, romance, and heterocoupling, if not also marriage….

(more…)

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Kelly Oliver — Bella’s Baby: Extreme Home Birth

With our featured book this week being Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films we are re-posting Kelly Oliver’s essay originally published for mother’s day.

Kelly Oliver, Knock Me Up, Knock Me DownTwilight: Breaking Dawn continues a long line of horror films featuring women giving birth to otherworldly creatures. Bella, the teenage heroine of the Twilight series, is a modern day Rosemary’s Baby, whose pregnancy with a “demon” leaves her wasting away. While Rosemary drinks vile potions prepared by witches, Bella drinks blood out of kiddie Styrofoam cups complete with straw. She is further infantilized cuddled up on the couch under her childhood quilt, another nod to the childlike Rosemary. Whereas Rosemary’s Baby ends with a close-up of the demon baby’s glowing red eyes, Breaking Dawn ends with a close-up of Bella’s glowing red eyes, signaling her transformation into a vampire.

Another homage to Rosemary’s Baby is Bella’s nightmarish birth scene, shown through flashing images of a screaming Bella being drugged so vampires can remove the baby. Talk about extreme home birth! Edward delivers the baby by chewing through the amniotic sac. Not a very sterile operation, but it does the trick. Still, don’t try this at home! Never fear, the baby looks adorable after Edward’s “sister” cleans her…perhaps by licking off all that blood?

(more…)

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Book Giveaway! “Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down,” by Kelly Oliver

“This is a wonderful book…. It examines new possibilities, not all positive, in an age of techno-pregnancy and the erotic glorification of “baby bumps”, “momshells” and pregnant celebrities. A highly serious yet entertaining account of the relationship between film and the popular imagination and a timely reminder of importance of popular culture in everyday life.” — Barbara Creed, University of Melbourne

Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films

This week our featured book is Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films by Kelly Oliver.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films and we are offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more on the book: read the introduction From Shameful to Sexy or browse the book in Google Preview.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Amy Allen — ‘Mommy Wars’ Redux: A False Conflict

“[T]he history of second wave feminism suggests that the choice that has emerged in the debate over Badinter’s book — that we either view attachment parenting as a backlash against feminism and or embrace attachment parenting as feminism — is a false one.” — Amy Allen

The Politics of Our SelvesOn May 27, the New York Times published “‘Mommy Wars’ Redux: A False Conflict” by Amy Allen in their philosophy blog, The Stone. Allen is the Parents Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities and a professor of philosophy and women’s and gender studies at Dartmouth College, the author of The Politics of Our Selves, and the General Editor of the excellent New Directions in Critical Theory series for Columbia University Press. In “‘Mommy Wars’ Redux,” she looks at the furor caused by Elisabeth Badinter’s book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women and argues that conflict about motherhood among feminists distracts from the “economic policies and social institutions that set up systematic obstacles to women working outside of the home.”

Allen claims that the central argument of The Conflict is that “a certain contemporary style of mothering — a style that requires total devotion of mother to child, starting with natural childbirth and extending through exclusive and on-demand breastfeeding, baby-wearing and co-sleeping — undermines women’s equality.” Allen thinks that this kind of questioning of motherhood is a question that reveals divides in feminism as a movement:

A post in The Times’ Room for Debate forum earlier this month described the conflict staked out in Badinter’s book as one of “motherhood vs. feminism.” But what this discussion failed to capture is something that Badinter actually discusses in her book at some length, namely, that the debate over mothering is not just a conflict between feminists and women in general but rather a conflict internal to feminism itself.

[A] short detour through the history of second wave feminism suggests that the choice that has emerged in the debate over Badinter’s book — that we either view attachment parenting as a backlash against feminism and or embrace attachment parenting as feminism — is a false one. Neither vision of feminism challenges the fundamental conceptual oppositions that serve to rationalize and legitimate women’s subordination.

Even if one accepts the diagnosis that I just sketched — and no doubt there are many feminist theorists who would find it controversial — one might think: this is all well and good as far as theory goes, but what does it mean for practice, specifically for the practice of mothering? A dilemma that theorists delight in deconstructing must nevertheless still be negotiated in practice in the here and now, within our existing social and cultural world. And women who have to negotiate that dilemma by choosing whether to become mothers and, if they do become mothers, whether (if they are so economically secure as to even have such a choice) and (for most women) how to combine mothering and paid employment have a right to expect some practical insights on such questions from feminism.

(more…)

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Julie Stephens — The Contradictions of Mother’s Day

This coming Sunday, May 13, is Mother’s Day. In honor of the occasion, we are featuring two guest posts this week discussing popular conceptions of motherhood. Today’s article is written by Julie Stephens, an associate professor in sociology and politics at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Victoria University, Australia, and author of Confronting Postmaternal Thinking: Feminism, Memory, and Care.

Confronting Postmaternal ThinkingThe gift-exchange that is Mother’s Day can provide insight into cultural meanings around the maternal, particularly at a time when there is so much anxiety around human dependency and care. It is easy to identify the obvious commercialism and sentimentality surrounding the day when public and private attention is supposed to be focused on mothers. Uneasy contradictions nonetheless emerge when the work of nurture, care, preservation and sacrifice is marketized and made visible in ways difficult to reconcile with the actual work of mothering. In this respect, both the giving and receiving of gifts that so clumsily attempt to symbolize a non-market relationship, can feel somewhat tainted.

Sara Ruddick, the feminist philosopher and author of Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace, viewed mothering as ‘a work with ideals’. While depicting it as a strange mix of play, organization, attentiveness, panic, boredom, lack of attentiveness, infatuation and emotion, she also recognized mothering as a social process, involving moral and ethical thinking and decision-making. Accordingly, the practice of maternal care produces a form of moral reasoning and a different way of seeing, knowing and acting in the world. Such conceptions have little to do with the market, and indeed serve to complicate standard political divisions between public and private.

By contrast, Mother’s Day reinforces these divisions by bringing so-called ‘private’ caring relations into public view. The fact that it is celebrated as one ‘special’ day in the year also reproduces the fiction that on the other days, home is somehow separate from and uncontaminated by the ‘unfeeling’ market. This way of imagining home can be traced back to early capitalism. Yet such understandings of home, or of the maternal as situated in a pure and private affective domain, can only be sustained through cultural representations based on nostalgia and longing. Mother’s Day is a perfect vehicle for such representations.
(more…)

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Kelly Oliver — Bella’s Baby: Extreme Home Birth

This coming Sunday, May 13, is Mothers’ Day. In honor of the occasion, we have two articles this week discussing popular conceptions of motherhood. Today, we are featuring an article by Kelly Oliver, the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and author of a number of books including the forthcoming Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films and Women as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex, and the Media.

Kelly OliverTwilight: Breaking Dawn continues a long line of horror films featuring women giving birth to otherworldly creatures. Bella, the teenage heroine of the Twilight series, is a modern day Rosemary’s Baby, whose pregnancy with a “demon” leaves her wasting away. While Rosemary drinks vile potions prepared by witches, Bella drinks blood out of kiddie Styrofoam cups complete with straw. She is further infantilized cuddled up on the couch under her childhood quilt, another nod to the childlike Rosemary. Whereas Rosemary’s Baby ends with a close-up of the demon baby’s glowing red eyes, Breaking Dawn ends with a close-up of Bella’s glowing red eyes, signaling her transformation into a vampire.

Another homage to Rosemary’s Baby is Bella’s nightmarish birth scene, shown through flashing images of a screaming Bella being drugged so vampires can remove the baby. Talk about extreme home birth! Edward delivers the baby by chewing through the amniotic sac. Not a very sterile operation, but it does the trick. Still, don’t try this at home! Never fear, the baby looks adorable after Edward’s “sister” cleans her…perhaps by licking off all that blood?
(more…)

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Sex and World Peace — Mapping the Places Where the War on Women Is Still Being Fought

Valerie Hudson, Sex and World PeaceIn conjunction with her recent article in Foreign Policy, Valerie Hudson, author of Sex and World Peace, posted maps that dramatically depict the difficult conditions suffered by women in certain parts of the world.

The maps focus on discrepancy in education, inequality in family law/practice, governmental participation by women, child marriage for girls, maternal mortality, women’s physical security, polygyny, son preference and sex ratio, and trafficking in females. Much of the data and research that informed these maps come from the Women Stats Project, which includes more data to understanding the linkage between the situation of women and the security of nation-states.

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Valerie M. Hudson — What Sex Means for World Peace

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Valerie M. Hudson, coauthor of Sex and World Peace, argues that

the very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated. What’s more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.

Valerie Hudson offers a litany of statistics pointing to the difficult situation that women throughout the world continue to face in regards to treatment under the law, lack of representation in government, rape, and violence. She argues that the impact of violence against women and the rise of sex-selective abortions, will have an impact on the future security of many societies.

The evidence of violence against women is clear. So what does it mean for world peace? Consider the effects of sex-selective abortion and polygyny: Both help create an underclass of young adult men with no stake in society because they will never become heads of households, the marker for manhood in their cultures. It’s unsurprising that we see a rise in violent crime, theft, and smuggling, whereby these young men seek to become contenders in the marriage market. But the prevalence of these volatile young males may also contribute to greater success in terrorist recruiting, or even state interest in wars of attrition that will attenuate the ranks of these men.

(more…)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

How the State Can Ensure Gender Equality — Sex and World Peace

“It is time, then, for power and responsibility to be married by states. Caregiving must count—really count—in the perspective of national governments.”

Sex and World PeaceIn their book Sex and World Peace, the authors offer some top-down approaches to ensuring the security of women. This recommendation looks at how government can make women more economically secure. (Tomorrow we will look at bottom-up suggestion):

Keep Caregiving Economically Rational

Whether fair or not, most of the reproductive work that takes place on earth is performed by women…. [T]his makes women very economically vulnerable. Abused women may feel they have no choice but to remain in an abusive situation because of the difficulties involved in trying to take care of dependents, whether these be children or the sick or the elderly, and also bringing in an income that will support their family. One of the most important roles government can play in the life of women is to promulgate initiatives that help level the uneven economic playing field faced by women, thus diminishing the irrationalities they experience as caregivers.

As we have seen, one important component of this effort is to ensure that both parties have similar standards of living after divorce, or after the death of a husband. When divorce or widowhood thrusts women and children into poverty, abuse in marriage is perpetuated, a situation that occurs in Western societies just as often as it does in non-Western ones. In some traditional societies, all marital property reverts to the husband’s family after divorce or the death of the husband. Several countries, such as Botswana, have rectified such inequities in recent years, especially in light of the AIDS epidemic.

(more…)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Sex and World Peace — How Inequality of the Sexes Affects International Security

Sex and World Peace“Efforts to establish greater peace and security throughout the world might be made more effective by also addressing the violence and exploitation that occur in personal relationships between the two halves of humanity, men and women.”—authors of Sex and World Peace

In this excerpt from the opening chapter to Sex and World Peace, by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett explain the ambition of their book to examine the importance of gender equality in national and international security:

Sex and World Peace offers three major contributions: two of them analytical and one normative. First, we hold that gender inequality, in all of its many manifestations, is a form of violence—no matter how invisible or normalized that violence may be. This gender-based violence not only destroys homes but, we argue, also significantly affects politics and security at both the national and the international levels. This linkage—empirical as well as theoretical—between gender inequality and national and international security is a new approach that has seldom if ever been considered within the discipline of international relations (and other disciplines as well). In a major shift from the conventional understanding, we suggest that efforts to establish greater peace and security throughout the world might be made more effective by also addressing the violence and exploitation that occur in personal relationships between the two halves of humanity, men and women.

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Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Sex and World Peace — Book Giveaway

This week our featured book is Sex and World Peace, by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Sex and World Peace and we are also offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

Praise for Sex and World Peace:

“An eye-opening contribution to our understanding of the powerful misogynist forces that still contribute to violence and war. This volume should be required reading for all students of international relations and those who make policy.” — Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood

Friday, March 9th, 2012

International Women’s Day

The Global and the IntimateYesterday, March 8, was International Women’s Day, held every year as a celebration of the advances in women’s rights that have already been made and a reminder of the advances in women’s rights that are still to come. In honor of the occasion, we are taking a look at three of our recent and upcoming titles in Women’s Studies that emphasize the historical depth and modern breadth of the Women’s Rights Movement.

Women in Iraq: Past Meets Present, by Noga Erfati, Confronting Postmaternal Thinking: Feminism, Memory, and Care, by Julie Stephens, and The Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time, edited by Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner represent the diversity of Women’s Studies, but also illustrate how very different approaches to feminism often support each others’ conclusions.

Through a detailed discussion of the Iraqi women’s fight for fair treatment over the past century in Women in Iraq, Noga Efrati offers a reminder that the Women’s Rights Movement is not a solely a product of the modern West. Efrati examines the social and political effects of the British occupation and subsequent British-backed Iraqi government in marginalizing the interests of women. However, far from simply being a story of oppression by various governing bodies and acquiescence by Iraqi women, Efrati’s account is one of s constant fight by generations of Iraqi women for political and social rights. While Efrati does not shy away from the fact that there have been setbacks for Iraqi women—in her worrying epilogue, she points out similarities between the British occupation and withdrawal after World War I and the American occupation and withdrawal still in progress today—it is impossible to come away from Women in Iraq without an appreciation of the wide and varied history of the global Women’s Rights Movement.

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Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Happy (Belated) Birthday to Judith Butler

Judith Butler

February 24 was the birthday of famed philosopher Judith Butler. Butler is a prolific scholar of diverse interests. She has published important books on feminist and queer theory, modern French philosophy, literature and literary theory, political ethics, and Jewish philosophy. In honor of her birthday, we wanted to take a brief look at her career as an “oft-cited academic superstar.” Butler’s newest book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, will be released in July.

Judith Butler first rose to prominence with her critique of traditional notions of the essential nature of gender. In Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Butler’s hugely influential bestseller, she claims that, rather than being purely biological and thus set at birth, gender is primarily the result of the performance of culturally dictated acts. These acts are largely responsible for the binary way that gender has been viewed historically. By recognizing the effect that cultural pressure has on our conceptions of what it means to be masculine and feminine, we can gain a more flexible understanding of personal identity, a conception that serves as one of the bases of Queer Theory as an academic discipline.

While Gender Trouble was incredibly popular and influential, rather than be limited by its popularity, Butler moved into other areas of interest, expanding on her ideas about gender performativity. She has written on censorship and power, on the way our limited knowledge affects our ethical responsibilities, and on Kierkegaard and Kafka. She has been able to bring her unique understanding of a wide array of philosophical ideas (particularly those of Hegel) to bear on literary figures, making her an important member of the literary theory scholarly community. In Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death, Butler brings a fresh perspective to the oft-discussed Antigone, claiming that Antigone’s complex family relationships place her in opposition to the binary heterosexual norms of the state.

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