How Feminist Scholars Question Mainstream International Relations Theories


Today, the need for a feminist philosopher’s voice is justified by their position in society. This essay explores the realism theory of international relations recognising the positive impact of the scholars studying feminism both as an intellectual commitment and a political force dedicated to achieving gender equality and the abolition of all kinds of discrimination against women. This research, motivated by a desire for social and economic justice, offers diverse societal, historical, socioeconomic, and political viewpoints. Realms theory focuses more on the competitive and conflictual aspects of international relations. Unlike idealism, realism theory focuses more on traditional dominance that seems to be masculine.

Realism, therefore, bends power to governments and institutions of authority, a position that feminist scholars have always contested. Feminists believe is that women play a significant role in establishing functional international relations interventions. Despite multiple common concerns, feminist philosophers disagree on other points, including theoretical orientation on continental and analytic, ontological obligations, such as the category of the woman in realism theory, and the philosophical and ethical solutions to seek. This essay, therefore, explores how feminist scholars question realms theory in international relations, highlighting potential merit for such efforts.


Since its inception, feminist theory has questioned women’s near exclusion from conventional international relations theory and application in real work experience. This omission is shown both in women’s exclusion from a judgment call. Among the realists, there seems to be a belief that the reality of women’s daily lives is unaffected by international affairs (Smith, 2019). Additionally, feminist achievements in international relations may be interpreted in their critique of gender as socially created identities and a robust organising rationale (Robinson, 2018). It requires acknowledging and then questioning preconceptions about male and female roles.

Such decisions are likely to directly impact what women can accomplish in global politics and international affairs discussions. These preconceptions, in turn, determine the global political process and the consequences for men and women all over the world. Rather than implying that conventional international relations were sexual identity – that gender and international relations were two distinct realms with no interaction – feminist theory has shown that classic international relations are gender-blind. As a result, to understand the feminist perspective of realms theory, it is worth noting that feminist studies seem to take both genders seriously as the underlying principles and notions in realism theory.

Feminist Perspective

Feminists studying the major western disciplines of realism as a modern philosophy in international law interpret their work via different paradigms. The scholars have significantly impacted the long-standing fundamental philosophical difficulties but recognise the need for a more idealistic approach (Peterson and True, 2019). By working on conventional philosophical topics in realism, such as ethics to metaphysics, feminist scholars have offered novel notions and views that have revolutionised philosophy fundamentally (Michelsen, 2021). The insights into feminist perceptive of realism help develop the imagination necessary to consider the situation from many viewpoints. In most cases, the experience of realism seems to draw from the real-world experience, which helps establish a better perceptive. Today, realism seems to be defined based on gender.

Gender as a Tool

Feminist perspectives on realism theory influential in international affairs have established gender as a necessary tool for analysing state-state relationships within the global context. From the standpoint of realism theory, it is outstanding that despite attempts to develop a more comprehensive international relations theory, feminist ideology seems to have little influence on global politics (Charlesworth et al., 2019). Moreover, women’s contributions to the formation and maintenance of international politics have been dismissed as natural and unworthy of research (Aggestam et al., 2019). Female analysts suggest that this absence of feminist ideology in world politics may be due to the long-held belief that the global political elite is exclusively male. As a result, only males, not women, are equipped to deal effectively with international political challenges; hence, foreign policy players and judgment call is reserved mainly for male.

In advocating for a more idealistic corporation, feminist approaches to international affairs seem to go deeper than just including women in global systems analysis. Most feminist researchers criticised the discipline’s restrictive, state-centric, and deterministic nature, mostly on a metatheoretical level (Tickner and True, 2018). Numerous feminist initiatives aimed to undermine and deconstruct realism, one of the significant power politics explanations for contemporary international affairs. Studies have observed that these novel theoretical and methodological challenges to a foreign policy created an environment conducive to critical analysis (Weerawardhana, 2018). Such criticism has aided in putting into context the issue of what a feminist viewpoint on international politics would look like in terms of substance and how it would change for optimal effectiveness.

Demand for Leadership

In response to constraints in realism theory, it is noted that several feminist researchers also advocate for radical feminist concepts that include the proposal of women as viable options for international affairs leadership. Such views seem founded on the assumption that the global system is handicapped by male supremacy. These scholars frequently propose the addition of a feminist standpoint to helpfully comprehend a world that is different from the conventional outlook and generates social justice (Murphy, 2019). Such effort proposes to build an appropriate feminist contribution allowing women greater access to the study and application of international relations (Peterson, 2018). Incorporating feminist ideas would allow for the debate on international relations to conquer this partial view by developing a more multifaceted but exhaustive vision. Such measures would reduce prejudice discomfort among female colleagues in legislation.

The question of leadership is also explored from the Marxist perspective. Marxist feminism asserts that the problem of social class is more critical than patriarchy since patriarchy is only a concept born by class exploitation. Women are not considered a sex class since their sole shared characteristic is their gender Den (Boer and Bode, 2018). Socialist feminism is concerned with women and their socioeconomic situation. They are both severely ostracised due to their dual responsibilities (Beattie et al., 2019). This dichotomy manifests itself in their duties as mothers and workers. Employers sometimes take advantage of this condition by paying women lesser rates, allowing males to earn more money for services given at home. The primary reason women have a more inferior status in this area is that they are often economically dependent on males (Prügl and Tickner, 2018). As such, male domination is based on the belief that women are inherently docile and engaged solely in housework and childbirth. Such ideas are also common in principles such as pluralism and realism.

In most discussions, pluralism, realism, and globalism were all functional under positivist principles. Such an approach contributed to a better understanding of apparent universes rather than alternate types of foreign politics (Michelsen, 2018). The effect of positivism in realism tends to alter the world of investigation. Due to the positivist model, people engaged in international relations may dismiss the scientific method. In such a case, two points may be made regarding limitations related to the desired shift from realism to idealism (Mac Ginty, 2019). First, although even detractors acknowledge the positivist model of science is applicable, it is clear that the positivist character underpinning the field is immature. Second, positivism was rejected as a genuinely scientific approach within science.

Harm to Positivism

The harm to positivism might have been addressed if realism delved into social science and then into science. However, this is not to say that all positivist research is invalid. Like other social sciences, International Relations has been split into several times throughout history, such as feminist scholars changing the course (Eun, 2018). Throughout its history, the subject has sparked several arguments. The first happened before and shortly after the Second World War. It was a conflict between idealists and realists. This approach was taken primarily in light of the supposed roles of international organisations during that era and the possibility that the battle was precipitated by superior governmental control (Kunz and Prügl, 2019). The second argument took place in the mid-20th century—the conflict between traditionalists and modernisers. In contrast to modernisers, traditionalists favoured more compassionate techniques, which primarily reflects the theory of idealism in international relations.

Broader Perspective in Policy Formulation

The efforts for change from a realism perspective to an idealistic environment would improve the knowledge-based necessary for effective and practical policy formulation. In such context, feminist scholars have contributed significantly to the broadening of the understanding of the role of women in any society and its relationship with success in international relations (Richter-Montpetit, 2018). Today, feminist researchers are resolving previously unresolved philosophical issues such as the nature of the human body, class and labour, disabilities, family, parenthood, and the concept of self (Ashworth and Swatuk, 2019). The feminist philosophers have also delved into human trafficking and sexuality as essential themes in any society. And they are approaching questions of science, globalisation, human rights, popular culture, and race and racism through a feminist perspective. Such perspectives tend to broaden the area of focus in interpreting theories of international relations and their engagement in society today.

Feminist Involvement in International Relations

Such community-level engagement has been premised on the need to address misguided male dominance common in realism theory. Today, the need for broadening the perspective in international relations policy formulation is pegged on the adverse effects of male chauvinism. In most settings, feminist experts believe that when international relations theories such as realism are deconstructed, the theoretical underpinnings are seen to be built on male oppositions (Montsion, 2018). These opinions seem to designate female roles as inferior and ascribe gender-specific duties that exclude women from the public realm (Persaud and Sajed, 2018). Although often disregarded, feminist researchers believe that these concerns influence and are shaped by international dynamics. Most feminist philosophers have repeatedly broken down the subject into its primarily social science components and then reassembled them through a feminist view of International Relations.

The Need for Change

The impact of the biased judgment on global issues directly related to human experience at the international level is expensive. According to some researchers, change is required for a progressive society to exist. For example, feminist researchers studying the role of women in international relations assert that the arena of international politics has long been stigmatised as a male sphere, necessitating adjustments to global politics (Niva, 2019). Feminist philosophers have also recognised that all knowledge about states’ behaviour in international relations is based on assumptions derived from men’s experiences. Such biased viewpoints overlook a large body of life experiences that has the opportunity to augment the variety of possibilities and foster alternative ways of understanding interstate practices (Aggestam and True, 2020). The need for adjustments becomes apparent due to the skewed viewpoint that clouds judgment. Such imbalances seem to have contributed to the increasing interest in female representation in real-world initiatives.

The Rise of Women in Development Initiative

Today, however, there has been significant progress towards a more inclusive society from international relations decision making. For instance, in the late nineteenth century, an enormous quantity of information about women’s experiences and the place of women in worldwide economic growth was created, mainly in the third world (Bean, 2018). It laid the groundwork for discussions on peace, justice, and development, among other things. Consequently, a new area of research known as Women in Development (WID) evolved to demonstrate how male bias in the development process has resulted in substandard project execution and disappointing policy results (Achilleos-Sarll, 2018). WID works to empower women, primarily through including them in development choices that impact their personal lives. Women are not excluded from development from this perspective; instead, their involvement is critical to progress.

Female Voice on the Environment

Feminist scholars have also established their perspective on the environment as a critical issue in interrelation relations. In the environment, feminist researchers argue that male national and global institutions controlled by instrumental rationality, such as science, the state, and the conservationist establishment, frame the connection to environmental disasters (Stavrianakis and Stern, 2018). In response to perceived slow action, ecofeminism criticisms focus on male gender imbalance and propose sustainable alternatives in leadership that emphasise women’s independence and indigenous self-reliance in connection to the eco-system.

Feminist philosophers have also delved into policy-making with calls for representation. In foreign affairs, feminist studies highlight gender as a determinant by revealing the strong male-gendered of politicians and the sexist presupposition that these bureaucrats are fundamentally rational individuals who make life-or-death choices in the service of an ethereal concept of public interest. According to some scholars, women are seldom insiders of the actual institutions responsible for formulating and implementing international affairs issues (McLeod and O’Reilly, 2019). Feminist foreign policy views have uncovered new substantive areas for administration and analysis on state-state relations (Hooper, 2019). Moreover, feminist pragmatists examine the prolonged gender divide in men’s and women’s international politics perceptions. From such a perspective, women leaders in western states are more likely to oppose force to raise awareness and are generally more supportive of peacekeeping operations.

Feminist on Security

There has also been significant involvement in the security sector. The field of security has been the subject of continuous criticism by feminist researchers due to its relevance to international relations in general and its pronounced male bias. The experts have identified public safety systems and associated modes of thought as the primary causes of gender bias in international relations theory (Standfield, 2020). The experiences showed that the early division of public and private sectors in the state and society structure resulted in an exclusively masculine understanding of citizenship. Men were assigned military duty as state protectors, giving them a privileged and active position in national life (Michelsen, 2018). Women were faceless, lacked access to governmental apparatus, and were excluded from objective evaluation. Domestic issues have a negligible influence on the formation of the national interest.

The journey towards recognition in the security space has not always been straightforward. There have been purposeful attempts to generate attitudes about gender disparities in the security realm. The masculinity of battle and the image of the macho soldier have aided in the perpetuation of the patriarchal system. The historic ban of women from the military war was a safeguard intended to defend male privileges, not women (Berenskötter, 2018). Masculinity and femininity beliefs and myths function autonomously or are actively controlled by authorities in increasing or ending armed conflict.

Given that women are typically the first victims of economic distress, fresh insights into the link between militarism and structural violence are feasible (Henshaw, 2020). Nonetheless, feminist theories would have to question fundamental conceptions of international relations such as power, sovereignty, and security, linked with masculinity. After examining and criticising these notions from a feminist viewpoint, it might be beneficial to reformulate them to find new options for resolving present fears.

Such principle of bias is founded on the rationale of social alienation, which by definition is associated with factors over which foreign people have limited control: ethno-racial origin, attributes such as sexual identity, age, and physical capacity, and geographical region. For example, sexual identity and ethno-racial origin are the two factors that affect the most significant number of socially marginalised people globally. While tremendous progress has been made in recent decades regarding female access and educational achievement, gender is a critical factor in exclusion, particularly political and economic prospects. Household violence disproportionately affects women and children, exacerbated by the aggression may later migrate to the street, transforming from a domestic to a societal phenomenon that reproduces from down the generations.

Economic Participation

In terms of economic participation, while women have increased their participation in the labour market due to educational advancements, their working conditions are frequently less favourable. Women tend to face higher unemployment rates than men, are concentrated in a small number of occupations, are over-represented in the unorganised sector with lower levels of perceived protection, and continue to encounter massive wage disparities with men (Achilleos-Sarll, 2018). In many situations, labour regulations protecting women’s rights to motherhood and access to high-risk industries have had unintended consequences, decreasing their economic options (Michelsen, 2018). Additionally, there has been a rise in the disparities between males and women, with women of indigenous and African origin facing a challenging condition. In such a setting, female representation in international relations becomes essential.

A feminist perspective on the economy seems to prioritise issues such as achieving justice, gendered militarism, human rights, and social protection in the economic context. As such, security from a feminist perspective will be more inclusive as it considers issues such as achieving justice, gender-specific military adventurism, and civil dignity. The activists are also likely to consider social protection. Security from a feminist perspective will become more gender-encompassing as this will consider gendered militancy, individual rights, and social benefits; therefore, protection from a feminist viewpoint will be more comprehensive. This gendered perspective will provide critical options for a more detailed and practical security paradigm. However, despite such attempts, criticisms have been levelled against women meddling with international relations affairs at higher ranks.


There has been debate about how a feminist viewpoint should be applied to international affairs. To understand the perspective, it is necessary to understand the advantages of a feminist point of view, which were discussed in the first section of this essay. However, it is also imperative to highlight the limitations of a feminist perspective on international affairs. One of the most common criticisms is that feminists risk justifying the meaning of women by focusing entirely on the experiences of western women (Achilleos-Sarll, 2018). It is self-evident that global affairs cannot explain the difficulties of non-western nations. Applying a feminist perspective across states or internationally seems complicated since gender relations are not universal. The interaction of the international and local in the creation of gender issues has been underestimated. While feminist researchers of international relations are concerned with international diplomacy, their interpretations of gender seem to be anchored in regional analyses.

The complication in Sex and Gender Terminologies

Another source of contention has been the seeming conflation of sex and gender. Diverse feminist perspectives have divergent ideas on gender relations and how to transform them such that they no longer habitually discriminate against women (Michelsen, 2018). Gender is often used interchangeably with women; some experts in international relations have argued that the introduction of gender is only a code term for women. It is believed that feminist researchers have concentrated exclusively on women in international politics, to the exclusion of males, due to their implicit feminist perspective. According to him, the idea that women are always victims and men are always oppressors has harmed feminist understanding of critical features of the global gendering process.

The primary issue with the academic relationships between different ties and feminist theory has narrowed the debate to a simple binary dividing line between sexuality and gender. The discussion seems to be focused on the progress of feminist achievements to the discipline of international relations through the lens of whether they benefit or harm the profession. There is also an unbalanced emphasis on most cases, demonstrating that these issues affect only a small and concentrated group of women. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the public perception of the problem being reduced to a subject of victimisation or characteristics of human progress for the world’s women sector. Such issues introduce complications in assessing the advancement of women’s involvement in the growth of international relations efficiencies.

In this sense, reclaiming a cross-cutting vision that encompasses the complexity of international affairs is essential. There should be an emphasis on women that transcends treatment of power structures and a gender womanist foresight. Such an approach can result in a reflective interpretation of international actuality, proposing a feminised vision that is not sensationalised from a gender standpoint. Such efforts are necessary to develop a new renewed understanding of the model of global relations. The possibilities for change are numerous, not only in the diverse scientific literature produced by feminist theorists, but also in the systematic suggestions, reference models, and directions of global organisations such as the United Nations, the Monetary Fund, the OIW, and, most notably, the European Union.

With the above, it can be concluded that gender is neither the central concept that can explain all in international relations nor is it the primary feature of the phenomena of international relations that is promoted for understanding. Most scholars point out that it is critical to analyse how, why, and when gender is significant or perhaps the most crucial. In such a setting, gender is merely one component of the complicated jigsaw of international relations. As such, over-emphasis can cause even more bias that may limit the overall good intentions in developing effective interventions in international relations.

Making Women Visible

Despite such criticisms, some efforts have proven to help make women more visible in the international relations arena. Feminism has increased women’s visibility while emphasising women’s absence from judgment calls and institutional structures. The traditional emphasis on jurisdictions and their relationships obscures the fact that men dominate state institutions, wielding dominating power and decision-making opportunities (Beattie et al., 2019). The scenario ignores other aspects that influence and are influenced by international diplomacy. Such is a case of gendered invalidation, as women significantly contribute to global politics. Women seem to be more likely to be resilient in politics, and their daily contribution may be considered necessary.

Such experience can be seen as a case of gendered invalidation, as women significantly contribute to global politics. Gender-blind points of view not only underestimate women’s commitments and the impact of international diplomacy on them but also endlessly justify their exclusion. Women’s experiences and ability to contribute are insignificant if they are excluded from these authority domains. Radical feminists have worked to disprove this critical dichotomy between private and public. They demonstrate that traditionally underrepresented areas are essential to the success of foreign politics but are not acknowledged. Such experience amount to exclusion typical in traditional international relation. As established, such thinking is motivated by gendered conceptions.


Despite bias concerns common in realism theory, feminists have developed a range of perspectives on international relations. These approaches illustrate that there are additional ways to comprehend the framework of international relations than the traditional disciplines of liberalism and realism, the latter of which pays little regard to gender as a category of analysis. Thus, feminist epistemologies might contribute to a deeper understanding of gender in ideology if given a chance to develop their ideas. Beyond these advances against realism that seems to support chauvinism, there is critical to comprehend the complex connection between international relations and feminist or gender theories. The reality is that this struggle is ultimately political and academic, not scientific.

Such a perspective might be argued to the degree that the exclusion of feminist debates from theoretical reflections on international relations is motivated more by practical than theoretical opposition. This refusal corresponds to a traditional view of the educational framework of realism theory. An irreconcilable divide between theory and practice is clear, as are radical stances typical in realism theory. This reflective thinking on connecting realism theoretical views with everyday social practices exposes a significant portion of the advancement of the integration of new perspectives in international relations. As established, a feminist perspective helps inform women’s experiences and adds new parameters to our understanding of the impact of global political systems. As demonstrated, feminist scholars and activists seek to enlighten how international affairs are a sexual identity construction in which men and women play significant roles in reality. Such efforts are critical in establishing proper representation in international relations and the quality of life of women globally.


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