Feminist IR and the Case of the ‘Black Widows’: Reproducing Gendered Divisions

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Feminism has been a marginal approach to International Relations (IR) since its inception following the Cold War, however in an effort to reinvigorate its analytical power, Charlotte Hooper demonstrated how the practice of IR actively reproduces as well as reflects gender identities in the form of hegemonic masculinity. The purpose of the following study is to challenge and extend Hooper’s argument by investigating whether or not the practice of international relations also produces a hegemonic femininity. By examining the popular portrayal of Chechen women terrorists commonly referred to as the ‘Black Widows,’ I argue that our interpretations of international events do indeed produce a hegemonic femininity that places women in the familial world of emotion and victimhood. In effect, a feminine niche is created for women who partake in traditionally masculine activities. This analysis speaks to two additional controversies in feminist literature: the effect of adding women to andocentric categories and whether or not women’s violence should be represented in feminist theories. The difficulties that feminist encounter with each of these issues is demonstrative of the need to eschew rather than clamour for a position within the strictures of mainstream IR. Instead, feminists should embrace their position on the margins of IR and the opportunity that it provides to destabilizing the hierarchies, exclusions and violence upon which it is based.