NIAS Europe Studies Brief

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NIAS Europe Studies Brief
The Ground Reality of Feminist Foreign Policy: A Conceptual Analysis of the European Framework

  Debangana Chatterjee

About the Author
Dr Chatterjee is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Education (CeRSSE), Jain (Deemed-to-be University). An ICSSR Doctoral Fellowship recipient, her specialisation is in the field of gender and culture vis-à-vis international politics.

NIAS Area Studies Brief No. 56
NIAS Europe Studies 09 May 2023

The core concept of feminist foreign policy (FFP) is premised on achieving gender equality through diplomatic relations.* Though the diplomatic corps is regarded as male-dominated, FFP calls for infusing the policy arena with feminist ideals. The intersection of feminist IR theories and foreign policy analysis embodies the theory and policy praxis of FFP. Feminist foreign policy is the outcome of twentieth-century movements and developments worldwide in the problem-solving domain of gender rights; however, in IR and foreign policy, its entry was considerably late in the 1980s. It provides a gendered lens in explaining IR and positions women at the centre of analysis. Carol Gilligan, one of the earliest feminist contributors to IR, argues that women think differently primarily as a result of socialization. She also adds that women tend to see reality as a set of interconnected experiences and interrelationships leading towards a holistic worldview.1 It corresponds with the belief that due to existing androcentric social-political structures, men and women experience realities differently. According to Betty A. Reardon, “over the past several years, research into women’s ways of knowing, reasoning and decision-making has demonstrated that, at least in Western countries, women’s thinking is different from that of men…These feminine modes of thinking and problem-solving can be learned and applied by both women and men...”2

Broadly, there are three existing typologies in IR feminism namely, feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, and feminist postmodernism. Sandra Harding first proposed these typologies.3 Whereas feminist empiricism problematises the fundamentally gendered structure of the inter-state system and instead focuses on social attitudes and structures, the feminist standpoint argues in favour of framing world politics by foregrounding the lived experiences of women who are politically marginalized and historically silenced. Feminist postmodernism goes beyond these two typologies and rejects the falsely universalizing ideas of IR and instead argues that there is basically no ‘one true story.’ Epistemologically speaking, gendered experiences in foreign policy become the primary unit of analysis in FFP. Therefore, the demands for gender equality in FP gain salience both normatively and pragmatically with realistic evidence corroborating gender parity with holistic prosperity.
Since FFP is currently collocated in certain foreign policy initiatives, especially from the West, this paper focuses on analysing the European framework surrounding FFP. It begins by challenging the conventional theoretical wisdom in foreign policy analysis, followed by a feminist critique of it. This paper responds to five key questions pertaining to FFP. First, what does the framework entail? Second, why is it historically important? Third, which European countries have currently adopted FFP? Fourth, how is it being implemented in these countries? Fifth, what are the challenges to FFP? The paper concludes by assessing whether FFP is a tenable framework for foreign policy analysis and its future potential as an academic construct. This paper is based on secondary literature and therefore focused more on the conceptual analysis of the theoretical engagement between feminism and foreign policy.

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