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Bimha, Primrose, Z. J. The Status of African Women in Foreign Policy
2021, Bimha, P, Z.J. (2021). The Status of African Women in Foreign Policy. E-International Relations.
Abstract:
‘The Status of African Women in Foreign Policy’ focuses on the necessity of reducing the underrepresentation of African women in foreign policy, the barriers that hinder this development, and solutions to overcome those. According to Bimha, filling the gender gap, or solving the underrepresentation of women, will constitute the end of discrimination against women. Moreover, she argues, this is necessary to repair the currently male-dominated nature of international relations and will complement to reformation process of gender stereotypes, namely, “men as decision-makers and women as subjects of war-related decisions”. However, Bimha recognizes that certain barriers that this underrepresentation are alive. She notes that, although the number of female representatives is increasing, these women are often assigned to less significant posts. The impact of IR & politics being male-dominated The heads of state often make diplomatic appointments. If a head of state, which is often male, is conservative, he is less likely to appoint female diplomats, as they are often very progressive and transformation-oriented. This is also apparent in party-bias, a phenomenon where party leaders prefer to promote male candidates over female candidates. , even though female candidates have not been proven to attract fewer votes than male candidates. The underrepresentation of women in politics is a vicious cycle, with males in the male-dominated field of IR theory and politics preferring the appointment of men over the appointment of women. This is reinforced by sociocultural standards and expectations, as African women are still mostly associated with the domestic sphere. However, little attention is paid to IR theory and politics being male-dominated, even though it is apparent that this does have a big impact on the underrepresentation of women in the field. The underrepresentation of feminism in the IR curriculum and its consequences In the ‘Introduction Course International Relations’ at Utrecht University, different IR theories have been discussed. While extensive attention has been paid to especially realism and liberalism, which are both male-dominated IR theories, feminism has been discussed for exactly 3 minutes and 48 seconds during the lecture on IR theories and has not been discussed in the seminars to the same extent as the other IR theories. This is a great although a small example of feminism theories being vastly underrepresented in the IR curriculum. Therefore, Bimha argues that the international relations curriculum should be reformed into a more gender-sensitive one with an increased focus on feminism and female contributions in the field. The importance of spreading awareness of IR and politics being male-dominated can be illustrated by a small comparison with another article on women in international relations. The other article reviewed appoints the underrepresentation of women in the IR field to them being a minority group and therefore behaving differently, or them focussing on topics that are not considered important in mainstream IR. These arguments may seem plausible to people who lack the understanding that the field of IR is male-dominated. But students who are aware of this unequal representation may ask the following questions: who steers mainstream IR research? What causes women to be a minority in the field of IR? Who keeps that disbalance intact? Thinking about these questions and critically reviewing the conclusions of reports on women in international relations is a crucial step in academics. However, the ability to perform this critical thinking is subject to one’s understanding of the field. Therefore, awareness of and the spread of knowledge on the IR field being male-dominated, thereby reinforcing the vicious cycle of women being underrepresented, is incredibly important and should be part of the IR curriculum.

Comment: The article is a must-read for international relations students. An eye-opener for students who lack knowledge of, or the understanding of, the importance of feminism in IR theory and politics. Bimha excellently explains the sociocultural discrimination African female academics and politicians disproportionally face in their careers and explains the importance of overcoming these barriers and closing the gender gap. The article outlines the importance of feminism and why feminism should be taught more thoroughly in the IR curriculum.

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