Wheels Keep On Rolling: Women And Foreign Policy

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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Over the last three months we have searched and explored, absorbed and digested, and journeyed to what, at times, seemed like the farthest reaches of historical inquiry. Along the way, we have read and discussed the various scholarly debates regarding the place of the traditional (post-1945, elite white male) approach to Cold War diplomatic history, and considered the proliferation of other approaches. Topics covered included culture, world systems, national security, corporatism, internationalism, discourse, psychology, and gender.

Now at the end of our pilgrimage into the depths of Cold War historiography, what inferences can be offered? What can a novice historian with little knowledge of the Cold War or the "state of the art" of diplomatic history possibly contribute? Would it be yet another, albeit less sophisticated, addition to the "babble of labels"? This essay will attempt to explore the validity of one of the "alternative" approaches to diplomatic history examined in class, namely, gender and foreign policy. It is a topic scholars have just recently begun to explore in large part because of the surge in women and gender studies.

It is a new direction that promises to enrich our understanding of diplomatic history. But questions remain. Are women and gender studies central to the field of study? Or might this avenue of inquiry be simply another peripheral addition to the already multifarious, fragmented discipline? The contention of this paper is that gender should not be added as another feature to examine. Instead, gender should be woven into the tapestry of diplomatic history, creating a more complete understanding of the social, political, and ideological nature of American foreign relations.

The following essay will present a plausible framework for future studies in U.S. foreign relations. It is an attempt to move beyond a narrowly state-centered mode of inquiry where it is assumed that the state should stand at the center of attention, and the non-state actors assume importance by their connection to the state. But before suggesting...