Women & Peace

Excerpted from SEX AND WORLD PEACE by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. Copyright © 2012 Columbia University Press. Used by permission of Columbia University Press.


When society requires to be rebuilt, there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan. No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought. —JOHN STUART MILL

OUR ANALYTICAL MINDS rarely tend toward a holistic view of complex systems, such as national and international relations. For example, take a moment and picture a tree. What do you see? Perhaps you envision a tall tree with many leaves and a big straight trunk with long branches. Do you think about the root system that is sometimes larger than the part of the tree above- ground—the roots that keep the tree alive? What alternatives would you have to heal sick trees or to grow new trees if you never considered the roots? We rarely consider the whole picture, and Mill is right that our own modes of thought are the key to effective and positive change. In this book we ask that you consider the whole picture when examining the world of states and inter- national society. Although often overlooked, sex and gender play a big role in world affairs. By overlooking sex and gender, we limit the policy alternatives that we see in the quest to find solutions to world problems.

In this chapter, which is oriented to undergraduates in international relations (IR) classes, we introduce some of the theories you have been taught about national and international relations and then show you the “roots” of them. We also examine some foundational definitions and concepts that may help us begin to see the roots more clearly. The point is to see the entire tree—not just the part aboveground and not just the roots.

You were taught that a sustainable population meant population control, but were you told that empowering women will naturally restore the population balance? Slowing population growth does not necessarily entail population control—the restriction of the number of children women are allowed to bear. The best approach is to support reproductive freedom for women. With reproductive freedom, women tend to have fewer children. Population control rests on a top-down approach that punishes rather than empowers. Reproductive freedom, on the other hand, gives women choice. If you weren’t taking a gendered perspective, you might see population control as the only alternative. Yet when you take into consideration the empowerment of women, policies based on reproductive freedom become viable alternatives that are arguably more effective.

You were taught that the U.S. economic recession that began in 2008 may have altered the landscape of power in the international system, but were you told that this meltdown may have been aggravated by the exclusion of women from important decision-making roles in society? If women were to make up one-third of corporate boards, it is possible that the likelihood of a banking failure would be diminished because women tend to be more risk averse. Women and men working together as equals create a more balanced perspective. In addition, studies have shown that women tend to be less corrupt than men. Without taking a gendered perspective, you might think that the recession precipitated by the banking failure was inevitable, but once you look at gender you realize that the global economy is profoundly affected by the structural power of each gender in society.

You were taught that AIDS is affecting the future of states, but were you told that the roots of the AIDS epidemic are to be found in sexual violence against women, sexual exploitation of women, sex trafficking of women, etc.? HIV/AIDS is devastating parts of Africa and India and is on the rise in China. HIV/AIDS is disproportionately affecting women because the structural in-equality of men and women in traditional cultures ensures that women have little real choice to refuse sexual relations, even when such a refusal would be an act of self-preservation. Myths such as that having sex with a female virgin will cure a man of HIV/AIDS feed into the violence against women and girls and further spread the disease. Limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS, therefore, requires a gendered perspective that includes education and emphasis on gender equality in sexual relations, rather than just treating the symptoms and making condoms available to women who have no power to make men use them.

You were taught that poor states invest little in their people and treat women badly, but were you told that states that treat women badly are more likely to be poor and invest little in their people? Certainly poor states have few resources to invest in their people—they have few social and welfare services available. What is often not seen is that women bear the brunt of the lack of such services in these states, making up for that lack through their un-paid labor. Interestingly, those states that invest in their women—for example, ensuring that girls are educated to an equal level with that of boys — are more likely to be wealthy, to be stable, and to be democratic. So taking a gendered perspective allows us to realize that foreign aid to poor states isn’t enough to change the underlying inequality that leads to poor economic growth, insta- bility, and autocracy. Policies must target societal norms of gendered inequality and violence that prevent the state from achieving the prosperity, stability, and political freedom its citizens crave.

You were taught that the security of the state rests on power (getting it, keeping it, and displaying it), but were you told that norms of equality create a more sure security for the state? What makes a state safer—power or gender equality? The answer may surprise you: both make a state more secure. Those states that foster gender equality through laws and enforce those laws are less likely to go to war. They are less likely to use force first when in conflict. They are less likely to get involved in violent crises. Once again, a gender-neutral perspective leads you to focus on military might, whereas a gendered perspec- tive highlights the importance of gender equality to facilitate state security.

You were taught that states go to war over oil and scarce resources, but were you told that the roots of violence are even more micro-level than that? States do go to war over oil and scarce resources, among other things, but they are more likely to do so if the society has norms of violence rooted in gender inequality. Violence becomes an acceptable option when women are not considered equals. Here, too, you will find that a gendered perspective leads to different conclusions about international affairs. Oil and scarce resources are a source of conflict, but they do not necessarily lead to war. Those societies that have gender equality are less likely to resort to warfare to meet their resource needs.

You were taught that the clash of civilizations is based on ethnopolitical differences, but did you know that the real clash of civilizations may instead be based on gender beliefs? Samuel Huntington argues that people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in our world; in his view, the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future. It would appear, however, that the battle lines of the future are more likely to be found between those states that treat women equally and those states that are fraught with gender inequality. The important cultural distinction is actually between societies that have greater gender equality and those that foster an environment of gender inequality and gender violence. As stated above, societies that are more gender-equal are less likely to go to war, to use force first during conflicts, or to be involved in violent international crises.

You were taught the democratic peace theory—that democratic states are much less likely to go to war with other democratic states—but were you told that democracy was rooted in the character of gender relations? As we will explore in a subsequent chapter, the historian Mary Hartman argues that the unique experience of Europe—one that included the greatest equality for women—gave rise to sustainable democracy in that continent. Democracy in this sense stands on the shoulders of gender equality. As stated above, states with greater gender equality are more likely to be democratic, stable, and prosperous.

You were taught that youth bulges would be an important demographic factor affecting the destiny of states, but were you told that the existence of such bulges depends on whether women have choices in their sexual life and choices in their reproductive life? And were you told that sex ratios are a major force that will also affect the future of the world? Youth bulges and an excess of males from skewed sex ratios lead to migration, crime, revolution, and even war. It is women’s lack of reproductive freedom that is at the root of both youth bulges and the phenomenon called “bare branches,” in which young adult males find themselves vastly outnumbering women in their age cohort. Whether we speak of husbands or of states that manipulate women’s bodies for their own reproductive aims, these population imbalances have at their root unequal gender relations.

You were taught that loss of life in war, civil war, and genocide is a major source of suffering and a major focus of international relations (IR) theory, but were you told that most lives are lost not because of these kinds of conflict but rather as a result of societal devaluation of female life? Interestingly, more lives are lost through violence against women from sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, suicide, egregious maternal mortality, and other sex-linked causes than were lost during all the wars and civil strife of the twentieth century. From this perspective, the greatest security dilemma is, then, the systemic insecurity of women—half of the world’s population. Indeed, if we want to be technical about it, the systemic insecurity of women has resulted in a situation in which women are now no longer half of humanity, with a world sex ratio of 101.3 men per 100 women on the planet.

The treatment of women is an “unseen foundation” for many of the phenomena we see as important in international affairs. What you were taught was simply the visible branches of the tree. We ask that you look beyond the obvious to see the roots that give rise to the phenomena discussed. Policymakers trying to find solutions to problems are quick to dismiss women as important actors—or do not think about women at all. Yet, as we have shown, it is imperative to take a gendered perspective to understand international issues.

In this book we take a micro-level approach to understanding international relations. We argue that gender inequality is a form of violence that creates a generalized context of violence and exploitation at the societal level. These norms of violence have an impact on everything from population growth to economics and regime type. In IR theory, we assume that our theoretical assumptions, such as the democratic peace thesis, are gender neutral. These assumptions, however, clearly take a male-centric view. We want you to see the whole picture—the tree and the roots—and to experience an approach to understanding that does not exclude but rather embraces a female perspective. It is this gendered approach that is often ignored and might be compared with the roots of the tree. In this book we will make the case that the treatment of women is an unseen foundation for many of the phenomena we see as important in international affairs.

Sex and World Peace offers three major contributions: two of them analytical and one normative. First, we hold that gender in quality, in all of its many manifestations, is a form of violence—no matter how invisible or normalized that violence may be. This gender-based violence not only destroys homes but, we argue, also significantly affects politics and security at both the national and the international levels. This linkage—empirical as well as theoretical—between gender inequality and national and international security is a new approach that has seldom if ever been considered within the discipline of international relations (and other disciplines as well). In a major shift from the conventional understanding, we suggest that efforts to establish greater peace and security throughout the world might be made more effective by also addressing the violence and exploitation that occur in personal relationships between the two halves of humanity, men and women.

A second contribution of this book is to suggest that security studies must include an account of women’s security in order to fully address phenomena at the state and system levels. We hope a consideration of the situation of women will become as central to the discussion of world security as power, democracy, religion, culture, resources, and economic growth currently are. We hope that by the time you finish reading this volume, you will consider it quite odd that something so basic and so essential to peace and security is only now beginning to be recognized as such.

Our final hope is this book will be not simply an academic exercise but also a call to action. Through an examination of possible strategies to effect change in both top-down and bottom-up directions, we hope to provide information about skills and best practices that can be put to use immediately on behalf of women. In particular, our focus is on three major areas of concern: to improve the bodily integrity and physical security of women in their homes and communities, to render family and personal status law equitable between men and women, and to increase women’s participation in the councils of human decision making at all levels.

Before we begin, we need to set out a few foundational definitions and concepts.


Sex refers to the biological differences between men and women. For example, women can have babies; men cannot.1

Gender refers to the socially defined differences between men and women. For example, women are socialized to be what the society onsiders feminine— submissive, sentimental, nurturing, etc.— whereas men are socialized to be what the society considers to be masculine—strong, stoic, protective, etc.

Gender as an Adjective: One of the complicated aspects of the English language is that the adjective for “sex”—“sexual”—has connotations both about sexual intercourse/sexual practices and about sex as the biological difference between men and women. Thus the term “sexual beliefs” could refer to beliefs about sexual intercourse/practices or beliefs about the relationship between the sexes. Because of this inherent linguistic difficulty, when an adjective is required we will use the word “gender” in this volume to refer to both gender and sex. Thus the term “gender beliefs” refers to beliefs held within the society about the relationship between the genders as well as the relationship between the sexes. A “gendered perspective” refers to a perspec- tive that takes into account issues of both gender and sex. “Gender equality” refers to equality between the genders and between the sexes.

Inequality is understood as an aspect of violence based on the relative power or standing a person has in society. For example, the inequality of women in some states effectively allows men to rape their wives, or it may allow employers to pay female employees less than they pay male employees. When we contrast equality with inequality, we do not define “equality” as sameness or identity. Men and women do not have to be the same to be equal. One can have equality in the context of difference. Therefore, our definition of “inequality” does not denote difference per se; rather it refers to the subordination of one who is different.



Jan Jindy Pettman, extending the work of Nira Yuval-Davis, has called women the boundaries of their nations.2. What she means by this phrase is that women physically and culturally reproduce their group. While women who are not of the group may physically reproduce it, they will be inadequate cultural reproducers. Only in-group women can play both roles for the group and effectively ensure its survival.

As a result, the capture through force or seduction of women from one group by men of another is not simply a personal issue; it is a group issue. This may be codified in law. For example, take the case of a Lebanese Christian man who married a Muslim woman of the United Arab Emirates and did not convert to Islam: the government of the UAE convicted him of violating Islamic marriage laws and sentenced him to one year in jail and thirty-nine lashes for this offense against the group.3 Similarly, women in many societies still possess only conditional citizenship, which they may not be able to confer upon their children. A woman’s citizenship will be inferred from her father before she is married, and inferred from her husband after she is married. If he is from another country, she may lose her home country citizenship altogether, and her children will be considered citizens of the father’s country. In cases where a woman has children out of wedlock with a man from another country, her children may actually end up entirely stateless (see WomanStats variables CLCW and CLCC).4

Because of the unique position of in-group women in the group’s survival, the group will aim to protect the women from capture by other groups. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the symbol of a nation is often personified as a woman, in order to elicit these deep feelings of protection. A woman becomes a “protectee” of the men of the group, especially those in her own family. However, as V. Spike Peterson has noted, over time this “protection” begins to elide into “control” and “possession.”5 “Protecting” a woman may involve practices such as purdah and infibulation,6which in effect lower the cost to men of protecting their female kin. Indeed, one story of how female infanticide came first to northwest India involved local patriarchs who wished to prevent the capture of their daughters by invading Aryans, who would use them as wives and concubines to cement their rule over the country. To “protect” their daughters from such capture, their fathers killed them.7 To understand that logic more fully, we must introduce a second concept.


Because of the unique role that in-group women play as boundaries of the group, with the resulting need of the group to protect them, the value of a woman in many cultures soon becomes associated with the state of her sexual relations. If she is chaste before marriage, and perfectly sexually faithful after marriage, her sexual relations build the group. If her sexual relations and attendant behavior, such as manner of dress, do not conform to this model, her activities are viewed as bringing chaos and instability to the group. Thus the need to protect a woman becomes more and more associated with the need to protect her chastity—not her life, not her freedom. Indeed, her life and her freedom are both subordinate to the goal of ensuring her chastity—and may even be at odds with that goal.

In this way, the honor of her family and her group becomes associated with her sexual behavior in an almost one-to-one correspondence. This is especially true for the men of her family: the chastity of their female kin is their honor.8 As one of our Ecuadorean students related to us, a common saying in her country is, “The honor of a man lies between the legs of a woman.” Serap Cileli, author of the book We Are Your Daughters, Not Your Honor, recounts,

In many families, boys grow up as first class citizens and girls are second class citizens. Boys see their fathers hitting their mothers and learn to abuse their wives. Daughters are seen as a burden and as a possible source of social shame. The Quran says that men and women should be virgins at the time of marriage, but most men are no longer virgins by 18. Most of these young men have sex with non-Muslim girls but then want to marry a Muslim and a virgin. . . . The concept of honor is attached to the physical purity of the woman, and that’s why only her blood can cleanse the shame her actions bring on a family.9

This emphasis on physical purity, where even the suggestion of impurity can ruin a girl, or even destroy a girl, has many far-reaching consequences for women. A girl may be withdrawn from school as soon as she hits puberty, for her sexuality cannot be assured in a context where she may have to walk long distances to school or have a male teacher. A girl may even be married well before puberty—sometimes at seven or eight years of age—to avoid any possibility that her reputation may be destroyed first. Or worse may occur, as in one horrific 2005 case in Pakistan:

Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family’s “honor”—a crime that shocked Pakistan. . . . Ahmed’s actions—witnessed by his wife Rehmat Bibi as she cradled their 3 month- old baby son—happened Friday night at their home in the cotton-growing village of Gago Mandi in eastern Punjab province. . . . Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helpessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls— Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4—pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to in intervene or raise alarm. . . . The next morning, Ahmed was arrested. Speaking to AP in the back of police pickup truck late Tuesday as he was shifted to a prison in the city of Multan, Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn’t want them to do the same when they grew up.

“I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated,” he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven. “We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor.” Despite Ahmed’s contention that Muqadas had committed adultery—a claim made by her husband—the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.10

From Ahmed’s perspective, his own little daughters were an intolerable burden to him, requiring superhuman vigilance. With his honor destroyed by something he could not control—though probably something that had never even occurred—he could not imagine continuing as the father of any daughters at all. In honor/shame societies, honor is worth more than a woman’s human rights, worth more than her freedom, and certainly worth more than her life. Honor killings, and the new strategy of honor suicides (forcing a girl to commit suicide so family members can evade prosecution for honor killing), become a culturally acceptable way for families to mitigate the disaster that may reside in the body of their daughter.

The concept of honor/shame societies also helps us to understand rape as a crime of power, not a crime of sexual desire. Rape’s target in such societies is not women; rape’s target is men and families. Rape shows that the men could not protect the chastity of their women, hence emasculating them. And rape strips honor from a family. It is in this way that we must understand that the women who are raped are viewed not as victims to be supported but as stains to be erased. In such societies, rape victims may simply be killed, or exiled to towns that often spring up in the aftermath of war, populated solely by rape victims who must make their living through prostitution to survive.

A vivid example of this logic was recounted by Elisabeth Bumiller, who interviewed survivors of Kosovo’s ethnic cleansing:

The 22-year-old woman, married four onths ago, said she was taken from this small southern village by Serbian forces, held for a day in the local police station, beaten, then threatened with death. But she was not, she said, raped.

Her husband, Behan Thaqi, thinks differently. “I am 100 percent certain that they raped her,” said Mr. Thaqi, 34, a farmer imprisoned by the Serbs for supplying weapons to the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Albanian guerrillas who fought Serbian forces. “I know that when women get in their hands, there is no chance to escape.”

Mr. Thaqi says his wife, who did not want her name published, denies the rape because “she doesn’t dare tell that kind of story.” If she admitted it to him, he said, “I would ask for a divorce—even if I had 20 children.” As his wife listened, silent and shamefaced, in a corner of their empty home, looted of all furniture and possessions by the Serbs, Mr. Thaqi added: “I don’t hate her, but the story is before my eyes. I feel very cold toward her.”

“Kissing her,” he said, “is like kissing a dead body.”11

It is important to recognize, as Cileli mentions, that men themselves have no honor in the same sense as women. Chastity before marriage and sexual fidelity after marriage are not expected of men in these cultures. On the contrary, men may be rewarded by their culture for promiscuous behavior. In the age of AIDS, encouraging males to be promiscuous may have deadly consequences not only for men but for women as well, as we will discuss in a later section.


Another important concept that we must understand in order to see the world through gendered lenses is that of patrilocality. Virtually all traditional cultures remain patrilocal, which simply means that brides relocate to the home of the groom’s family upon marriage. Western societies, too, until very recently, were almost always patrilocal. Patrilocality ensures patrilineal inheritance, and patriline claim on all children produced by sons. It also ensures that all men of the clan are kin, mitigating in-group conflict. However, the family psychology produced by patrilocality may have a devastating effect on women and girls. Given concerns over the genetic consequences of inbreeding,12 girls may find themselves married to grooms who live a substantial distance away from their natal family. Furthermore, as noted above, girls may be married off quite young, for reasons of honor. In such a context, natal families may live with their daughters for only ten to fifteen years and may possibly rarely or never see them again after marriage. In addition, the daughter’s children are members of the groom’s family, not her natal family.

For all of these reasons, a girl may be viewed as a “houseguest” in her own family. Proverbs testifying to the fact that daughters are not truly members of their natal family abound: “A daughter is a thief.” “Raising a daughter is like watering a plant in another man’s garden.” A girl may come to feel profoundly alienated from her birth family, a feeling that may be reinforced by differential feeding practices and differential access to health care, education, and other resources. Her brothers may eat more, may be taken to doctors, may be encouraged to continue with schooling, and may be excused from chores to do homework. She may notice that she, as a daughter, apparently does not merit this investment from the family, and may draw some natural conclusions from that fact. Boys will draw natural conclusions as well, and will reproduce the same behaviors in their own families.

However, when a girl is married and moves to her husband’s family’s abode, she will find, in similar fashion, that his family does not consider her a member either. She is an outsider who will never be listed in her husband’s genealogy (and will most likely not be listed in her natal family’s genealogy).

Her children will belong to her husband’s family, and if she were to leave her husband, he would have sole control over the children. Before she has a son, she may be considered as being at the very bottom of the household hierarchy, forced to work harder and longer than anyone else.

Where is this girl’s family? Does she have one? In a sense, her true family consists of her sons, and that may be the strongest—perhaps only—love relationship in the woman’s life. Son preference is thus expressed not only by fathers but also, intensely, by mothers in such cultures. No wonder that when her sons marry she will view her daughters-in-law with suspicion and alarm. As Xu Rong, of the Beijing Rural Women’s Organization, put it, “In joining the new world of their husband’s family, they’ve got their father-in-law to deal with, their mother-in-law, various uncles, sisters-in-law etc. She’s got to gain everyone’s acceptance. When there are conflicts, she’s the weakest. So this custom of moving in with the husband’s family has made many women feel helpless when they have problems. They feel very helpless.”13 Before a woman gains her family of sons, in a sense her life to that point has been lived as a commodity of men and families. It is to that concept that we now turn.


In the context of patrilocality, it will be difficult not to view marriage as an exchange of a commodity—a woman—between two men, her father and her future husband (and their families). The woman’s productive and reproductive capabilities are changing hands, and almost always this is accompanied by an exchange of a price in goods and/or money. The woman will provide labor and children and will serve as a means to the ends of the family of the groom. A Ugandan saying states, “The poorest man is he who does not have a wife to work for him and make his children.” A wife may be seen almost as a piece of land, or as livestock, to be owned and worked by the man. As Xie Lihua of Rural Women magazine in China put it, “There’s a saying among men: ‘Marrying a woman is like buying a horse: I can ride you and beat you whenever I like.’ Men feel that ‘I’ve spent money on bringing you into my family, so I have the right to order you around.’ And a man will beat a woman if she has a mind of her own.”14

According to Brinton’s Law, even the opposite of a cultural practice harming women may harm women.15 So just as bride-price may be used as a sign of ownership over a wife justifying coercive treatment, so may the opposite of bride-price: dowry. In societies where dowry is the accepted practice, it is a sign that a woman is considered a burden and that a groom and his family must be compensated for accepting this burden from the bride’s family. This intensifies son preference, for the birth of a daughter may consign a family to bankruptcy when the time comes to pay her dowry. Indeed, signs in India pro- claiming, “Better 500 Rupees Now Than 50,000 Rupees Later” are posted to point out in clear economic terms why sex-selective abortion of female fetuses is desirable.16 If women are commodities akin to livestock, then one can cull them, if necessary, to achieve one’s economic ends, such as the avoidance of dowry, or to seek the birth of a son to provide social security in old age. (More on that in a later section.)

In addition, the family of the groom may pressure the bride’s family for additional dowry even after the wedding. Girls may be beaten or mutilated to get her family to pay more; if none is forthcoming, the girl may be burned to death in a suspicious “kitchen fire.” This frees the groom’s family to keep the first dowry (since the husband was widowed, not divorced, and so is not expected to return the dowry) and then to seek a second dowry from the family of another girl. While such practices are by no means attendant in the majority of Indian marriages, they are widespread enough that the Indian government now holds the groom and his immediate family guilty until proven innocent if a young bride dies by household fire.17

Of course, we do not see only the wife-as-commodity situation in our world; we also see the female-body-as-commodity. The selling of women’s bodies through prostitution, sex trafficking, sex tourism, mail-order brides, militarized prostitution, and even open chattel markets for women and girls in some nations demonstrates that a woman may be bought, sold, and en- slaved simply as a set of orifices, with no other meaning or value to her very existence. Indeed, in keeping with a myth prevalent in several countries, that sex with a virgin cures AIDS, women’s bodies are “used” in a horrifying way: according to Betty Makoni of the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe, “The youngest girl I ever came across was a day-old baby who was raped.”18 Trafficked girls who grow too ill due to the AIDS contracted from their users are simply thrown out on the streets to die.

Also left to die are millions of women who are injured or die in pregnancy and childbirth, simply because the meager resources that would be necessary to save their lives are not allocated. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn tell the heartbreaking stories of Mahabouba and Prudence. Mahabouba, of Ethi- opia, was sold to a sixty-year-old man when she was a young teenager and had her first stillbirth at fourteen because of obstructed labor resulting in a major fistula. She was left to be eaten by the hyenas in a hut outside her village—and relatives took off the door to make it easier for the hyenas. Though paralyzed from the waist down because of her childbirth injuries, she fended them off with a stick that night and then crawled with her arms, dragging her legs, to a nearby village, where a missionary helped her. And Prudence, of Cameroon, a twenty-four-year-old mother of three, died in childbirth after three days of obstructed labor in a hospital because no one would pay for the supplies for the C-section that she needed to live.19 Even in reproduction, a woman’s life is expendable.


Barber Conable of the World Bank once opined that women do two-thirds of the world’s work, and that opinion is still supported by evidence forty years later. Of course, what counts as work is an issue at play in this statistic. Marilyn Waring shows convincingly that in the 1930s, economists planning for war defined work as only that labor that produced something sold in the marketplace—which could be reassigned to produce for the war effort.20 Unfortunately for women, who were not consulted on this system of national accounts, this definition excludes most of the labor that women do, whether in the fields, in the informal marketplace, or in the home. All social benefits—health insurance, unemployment insurance, pensions, Social Security—were then defined around this male model of what constituted useful societal labor.

This model prevails today, despite the fact that in 1997, UNIFEM estimated—in its very first estimate of the kind—that the unpaid labor of women, if valued monetarily, would translate into about 40 percent of the world’s gross product.21 Furthermore, salary analysts in the United States consistently value the unpaid work a wife and mother does at between $120,000 and $280,000 per year, and some even offer a figure of more than $700,000.22

But this “reproductive” labor of making a habitat for the family, which includes gathering fuel, water, doing the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child care, not to mention the burdens of pregnancy and childbirth, is not the entire picture. In many parts of the world, women are the primary growers of food, especially subsistence crops; according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) women produce about 80 percent of Africa’s food and about 50 percent of food worldwide.23 In addition, women are the providers of nearly all caring services, such as elder care, child care, and care for the ill, which are inevitably priced very low in the marketplace.

Feminist economists have rightly pointed out that capitalism could not even exist if women did not perform these labors with little or no remuneration.24 Apparently, in the thinking of most economists, women are like air and water, to be used for free. And economists label women who perform these labors as “non-productive,” even though the societies and economies of the world would grind to a halt if all of those “unproductive” women ceased their labors tomorrow.

Capitalism is, in a sense, parasitical upon the free labor, productive and reproductive, that women perform to keep humanity alive through time. Yet the ones on whom our very lives depend are the same ones forced to work without a safety net. Because women are “economically inactive,” their car- ing work means they are largely excluded from social benefits such as health insurance, pensions, and Social Security—except as a woman is joined to an “economically productive” spouse. In the United States, the largest risk factor for poverty in old age is to have ever given birth to a child—that is, to be a mother.25


With these foundational concepts in place, we are prepared to move forward. Chapter 2 lifts the veil on the invisibility of women’s reality in our discussion of national and international relations. We argue that the treatment of women—what is happening in intimate interpersonal relationships between men and women—creates a context in which violence and exploitation seem natural. We show how women are disadvantaged by these norms, what wounds are thereby created, and how prevalent such practices are. More fundamentally, we look at why this inequality is invisible, what harm results, and how inequality is maintained through cultural acceptance.

In chapter 3, we provide evidence of the prevalence of inequality and describe the conditions of women. We describe in detail the situation of women across the nations of the world today. We then offer theoretical explanations and empirical evidence concerning the origins of the prevalent social structures favoring men. We explore the impact of those structures on the treat- ment of women, as well as the diffusion of norms of violence and exploitation throughout society.

Chapter 4 links the micro-level explanations discussed in chapters 2 and 3 to the macro or state level. We empirically demonstrate the linkage be- tween sex and world peace and discuss the need to alter definitions of peace, democracy, and security. We examine the impact of gender civilizations on patterns of regional and international conflict and instability. We highlight the general lack of data and research in this area, and note the deleterious effects that this paucity creates for both the academic and the policymaking communities.

In chapter 5, we describe and discuss the challenges of a top-down approach to realizing greater gender equality within human societies. We note that the state is a double-edged sword, and that while it is capable of tangibly improving the situation and security of women, it is also capable of profoundly harming women with misguided policies. Nevertheless, to ad- dress the wounds inflicted upon the women of the world, the state must, at a minimum, commit to eradicating violence against women, ensuring greater equity in family law, and including women’s voices in the councils of human decision making.

Chapter 6 offers a discussion of the challenges of a bottom-up approach to realizing gender equality. We focus on how alternative scripts for gender relations provide new ways of thinking and acting in families and communities — and on how these alternative scripts of gender equality may prove a more sure basis for personal happ ness, ecurity, equity, and voice. When male/female relations are changed, new social structures emerge that do not support the same level of violence as male-dominated social structures do, and that may create the roots of a more stable, prosperous, and peaceful international system, a vision that we explore further in the concluding chapter.


Excerpted from SEX AND WORLD PEACE by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. Copyright © 2012 Columbia University Press. Used by permission of Columbia University Press. ____________

The Authors:

Valerie M. Hudson is professor and George H.W. Bush Chair at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Her research concerns foreign policy analysis, security studies, gender and international relations, and methodology, and her articles have appeared in such journals as International Security, Journal of Peace Research, Political Psychology, and Foreign Policy Analysis. She is the author or editor of several books, including, with Andrea Den Boer, Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population, which won the American Association of Publishers Award for Best Book in Political Science and the Otis Dudley Duncan Award for Best Book in Social Demography. She was named one of Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009.

Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill is professor emeritus of psychology at Brigham Young University and the last director of its Women's Research Institute. She is a fellow in both the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. Her research focuses on interpersonal violence and peace. She is a coauthor of Peaceabilities: Compelling Stories and Activities That Develop Abilities of Children to Live Peacefully with Others and coeditor of A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of Poetry by Women.

Mary Caprioli is associate professor, Head of the Department of Political Science, and Director of International Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She pioneered a new line of scholarly inquiry between the security of women and the national and international behavior of states and confirmed the link using quantitative methodology. She is an associate editor for Foreign Policy Analysis, an editorial board member for the Peace and Conflict Report, and an advisory board member for the Minorities at Risk Project. She is also a member of the International Group of Experts for the UNSCR 1325 Research Group of the government of Sweden.

Chad F. Emmett is an associate professor of geography at Brigham Young University focused on researching the peaceful sharing of space between Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, men and women, and other supposedly opposing groups. He is the author of Beyond the Basilica: Christians and Muslims in Nazareth.

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