Feminism, War and the Prospects for Peace

TitleFeminism, War and the Prospects for Peace
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsAshworth, Lucian M.
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics

It is generally accepted in IR that before the 1980s there was little or no feminist theory in IR. Yet, there were feminists in IR prior to the 1940s who had their own particular take on global politics. This article seeks to reassess the ideas and impact of IR's first-wave feminism by concentrating on the works of one particular writer: Helena Swanwick. While not the only feminist writing on international affairs in the period, Swanwick is interesting both because of her earlier involvement in the feminist and suffragette movements, and because she constructed a clear analysis of the problems of security that was based on her suffragette experience. In the 1920s she gave sound reasons for opposing 'League wars' against aggressor states, but in the late 1930s this led her to support appeasement. Despite this, her criticisms of both collective security and the pre-1914 international anarchy are an interesting corrective to both the realist approach that emerged after the 1940s and the supporters of a tighter League system in the 1920s and early 1930s. It is also an indication of the extent to which a feminist agenda had been part of mainstream IR before 1939.

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