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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The feminist movement has had three major waves of the course of its existence.  The first wave originated mid-19th century, when activists such as Lucretia Mott campaigned for the right for women to vote, the focal point for first wave feminism was based upon this legal right for women.  This was followed up by second wave feminism, this was calling for the removal of the sexual barriers, for example for doing the same job women could get paid, half the price compared to that of a man. Kate Millet (BBC), stated ‘It is more about changing the recipe of the cake than getting an equal slice.'  However, the biggest challenge to Politics and International Relations comes about in the third and final wave of feminism.  This is because it is the feminist movement that reaches out to all women, whether that be of a heterosexual origin or a non-heterosexual origin.  Third wave feminism challenges the socially constructed roles that society has branded sections of the community. This challenges international relations the most due to the fact that there has been a rapid growth in society and that has constructed different ideas and thoughts on issues like gender and sex.

Critical theory is vital in order to understand the standpoint of feminism. The general concept of feminism is to defeat the patriarchy, the idea of a male domination.  Critical theory is about defeating the issues that are now accepted in society by many, i.e. patriarchy.  The theory is not set out in order to make females appear to be stronger or better than males, it is simply calling for the opportunity to change society in an attempt to make it more gender balanced. Society has moved away from oppressing gender roles, it is no longer reality. “Thus, as reality changes, old concepts have to be adjusted or rejected and new concepts forged in an initial dialogue between the theorist and the particular world he tries to comprehend” (Cox 1981) “Critical theorist do not just want to explain the world but to critique it and contribute to human betterment by encouraging open and equal exchanges about matters of contemporary importance” (Daddow 194).  Although gender equality has come a long way in the past century, it still isn't as equal as it should be.  For example in the sporting world it was not until recently that prize money at Wimbledon was made the same for men and women, for years previous men used to win more prize money for playing the same amount of games and winning the same competition.

There has been and continues to be a stereotypical view in society that males are associated with certain norms and values in society, likewise so are females. However this is all socially constructed, there is no define ruling that because you are a male you must like cars, or if you are female you must like the colour pink.  “Using gender means pointing instead to the ways in which the assumptions that prevail about women and men, and femininity and masculinity, shape the real lived conditions of specific people and institutions they create.”(Whitworth p120).  Modern day society, especially in the western world, has shaped a clear barrier between femininity and masculinity from a very early age.  For example in retail and marketing in toy shops, young boys have action men figures, footballs etc. marketed for them while young girls have dolls and princesses marketed towards them.  Third wave feminism is critical towards the stereotypical view that is marketed towards kids, in the western world, it is like a domino effect, where because on generation played with a certain toy, they pass it onto the next generation, and the cycle then repeats itself.

The feminist view varies across society and the world, this is due to varied social; factors that have implications on sections of the community.  For example in America there has been amendments to the constitution in order to legislate women's rights. However compare it to the issues in Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive, they are under a guardianship law, were they must obtain consent in order to travel or marry. “For Saudi women reaching adulthood brings no rights only responsibilities” (Deif).  The first two waves of feminism focused heavily on women living in western society, thus meaning that the rights for other sections of society were neglected. Thus led to a sense of disconnect between western feminist and the rest. “A revolution inspired by Anglophone feminism, whether it be championed by a Muslim or otherwise is not a sisterhood; it is an exclusionary missionary bordering on neo-colonialism (Al-Sweel).  This shows that previous waves of feminism was disconnected from the issues in the Middle East, which has left third wave feminism to try and resurrect the issues.

Third wave feminism does not have a focal point on a particular group of women. Whether you be women from the west or women from the Middle-East.  These feminists are known as the post-colonialist feminists.  They are critical of other feminist's theories as according to Oliver Daddow, “They (post-colonialist feminists) argue that feminism has tended to be the preserve of Elite- Western women, who have made their concerns stand in for the concerns for women around the globe.”(Daddow 213).  Their claim has been supported with the recent trouble in Nigeria and the Boko Haram, a post- colonialist would argue that because the missing girls were not from the western world that western governments had little concern. You only have to compare it to Madeline McCann, a young white British girl that went missing on holiday in Portugal. This story was breaking news for months after and is still a regular occurring story ten years on.   This is when third wave feminism and Marxism are very similar were the argument is made that it shouldn't matter what society you come from you should be given the opportunity to be equal. This is down to the fact that media and international relations go hand in hand with each other.  Media whether it be through traditional methods or social methods has an influence on the audience's political opinion. Media cannot exactly influence people directly, they can most certainly have a strong influence on what issues people are made aware of or exposed too (Lynch).

Power is dominant to politics and international relations.  The presence of women in political power is very much so limited, for example, in the western society, there are only two female political leaders, Theresa May and Angela Merkel.  Tickner challenges modern day society's view on male power domination.   Male-stream international relations has been conceptualised, the maleness is not based strictly on individual personalities but on hegemonic masculinity (Tickner 180).  With this Tickner is arguing that males dominate control not because they deserve to or that they are the best available, rather than females are viewed as not being a strong enough leader.  In most western societies today, hegemonic masculinity is most associated with whiteness, heterosexuality, marriage, authority and physical toughness (Polity).that is evident in today's society with women occupying only 30% of the most senior professions across business, politics and policing (BBC).   However, it would be of the feminist perspective that regardless of what society you belong to you should not be judged on your gender or sexuality. Instead, all candidates should be treated with the same level of respect and the same opportunity to succeed.

War and peace is heavily critiqued by the feminist movement for giving genders a structured role.  In western civilisation, it has become accepted that males will be on the front line leading the battles, while females will have a ‘background' role, whether that be no involvement or an involvement caring for the injured.  Hence ‘Women's association with the private sphere has authorised their subordinate positions and made them particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty and violence (Stern and Zalewski).  Thus meaning that due to not having the same opportunity as their male counterparts it already places females at somewhat of a disadvantage.  Also due to the fact that women are in the ‘private sphere', meaning that most of the work is either voluntary, low paid or even unpaid.  Thus meaning that they are subject to poverty while trying to care for the wounded and trying to look after a family.  

An issue that is closely linked to the above argument, is that of Lynndie England. Lynndie England was involved in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq.  Lynndie England was the face of the inquest at the time of the scandal first breaking, England was described by an American national news organisation as being the “Poster Child” (CNN).  This opens the argument as to whether or not England was the focal point in the media due to the fact that she was a female.  It was through the media that this image was portrayed, as journalists formed an articulation between gender ideologies and the abuse, and transformed the story into one of individuals, especially that of one women (Harp and Struckman).  One of the reasons as to why England was the face of the inquest was because it was a woman that was abusing the prisoners. It appeared to be that the media forgot that there was more than just Lynndie England abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, however, because she was a female they focused more on her and her actions.  There is no argument for the fact that what Lynndie England done was wrong, however, it can be argued that by using England as the “Poster Child” (CNN, )media outlets were able to gather more hits and views as it was a female that was being the perpetrator rather than a male. However, some feminists argue that by focussing so heavily on England it can distract society from other failings. Journalistic practices reinforce the process of articulation, resulting in individuals being blamed for systemic social problems (Jewkes 2004).  It can be argued why it took for the Lynndie England story to break in order to make it a major issue.  Why couldn't have become major news prior to this incident.  Feminists would argue it was because the perpetrator was female it made the headline all that bit more shocking.  

Feminism over the past thirty years or so has really began to challenge international relations and politics.  The growth of third wave feminism has broaden its appeal across the globe. It is no longer focussed so heavily on western women's rights, it is now branching out to the Middle East and Africa.  However as I pointed out in my response with the media reporting being of such a poor standard of the missing girls in Nigeria. A major issues remains however and that is the percentage of females that hold high roles, whether that be in governments or multinational corporations. There is still a clear male stronghold in this area of society. This is being addressed by third wave feminism, through protests and campaigns. There will never be a direct fifty-fifty split in terms of power, although the current seventy-thirty split in power still shows male dominance is strong.

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