Feminist Dilemmas

Feminist Dilemmas

Feminist politics faces several dilemmas in the area of security and peace: Should the military be abolished or should it be reformed in a gender equitable way? Should feminists participate in decisions concerning war or exercise pacifist abstinence? Thus we find ourselves caught between a fundamental critique and a critique from within the system, between the demand to overhaul the system and the attempt to have it adopt tangible gender-sensitive approaches in the military-strategic domain, too.

Feminists disagree over the extent to which the military is capable of fundamental reform and whether it makes sense to demand equal representation for women at all levels of the military. Those who say it does make sense, argue that large sums of money are being poured into defense budgets and that women, in line with gender budgeting, should therefore participate in deciding how this money is used. Furthermore, they argue that this instrument of power should not be left to men and the exercise of military violence should not, as a matter of principle, be delegated to men alone.

Opposing this view is the strictly peace-oriented position. It assumes that the military is incapable of reform and should thus be abolished. This view advocates that, in order to prevent violence, all available energies and resources should go into conflict management. It does not deny that conflict is a routine part of human existence – whether at the level of states, organizations, or the family. It is not the conflicts themselves that are the problem, but that they are dealt with in a violent way.

This feminist-pacifist position faces a dilemma in situations of crisis and imminent danger. Many feminist pacifists analyze the causes of violent conflicts and pursue long-term civil peacekeeping and crisis prevention, yet they have accepted the deployment of military peacekeeping forces under a UN mandate, if, for example, such a mission may prevent genocide. However, in terms of realpolitik, this implies that as long as women are not an equal part of the military these peacekeeping forces will continue to consist of men only. Prostitution and trafficking in women, therefore, will continue to go along with the deployment of such troops. This is the starting point for feminists who do not advocate a fundamental pacifism.