The title of this volume, The Politics of Gender: A Survey, obviously suggests an analysis of politics from gender perspectives. The purpose of this collection of essays is to engage with the question of to what extent gender, as a key principle, can help us to understand the politics of everyday life. In addition, it is about whether a gendered and, more speciﬁcally, feminist epistemology is capable of transforming the dominant concept of knowledge-making that has traditionally excluded women as subject of knowledge. These questions raise two immediate sorts of concerns. First, conceptual diﬃculties: ‘gender’ as an analytic concept is neither straightforward nor easy to deﬁne. It is located within a wide diversity of theoretical and philosophical traditions and approaches and, hence, can be read in multiple ways. Moreover, feminists also come from diverse social groups, each with their own social and political experiences and, thus, their conceptual frameworks are also distinctively different. Gender politics is typically rooted in masculine and feminine identities. However, some recent critical feminist theorists have suggested that not only are there no ﬁxed gender identities-a point that most gender theorists would now accept-but that the very idea of a coherent identity is, after all, a cultural construction. This raises problems for the very idea of gender as a key principle of analysis. Second, gender invisibility: there is also the larger issue of long-standing
gender blindness and male monopoly of knowledge production, where feminist scholarship continues to be marginalized. Typically, feminist scholarship employs a ‘gender lens’ to ‘see’ diﬀerent social and political realities by drawing on diﬀerent epistemologies that seek to escape from the gender bias of conventional masculine theoretical assumptions. Although much mainstream academic scholarship continues to exclude gender from its conceptualizations, in the last two decades or so there has been a surge of feminist scholarship casting doubt on the role of traditional methodologies in the production of objective knowledge. Thus, feminists ask whether it is possible to produce, in Ann Tickner’s words, ‘a universal and objective foundation of knowledge’. Rather than viewing the traditional systems of knowledge production as an objective scientiﬁc inquiry, feminists urge us to think of
knowledge production as a social construction, formed mostly by men, that is ‘variable across time, place, and culture’ (Tickner 1992, 30; Tickner 2001, 4). So, then, to what extent can the increasing visibility of women scholars and the development of feminist epistemologies and methodologies inﬂuence our conceptions of knowledge? These are some of the questions, among others, that this volume seeks to address. The essays collected here emerge from a rather straightforward formula-
tion: the authors were simply asked to address, with a degree of explicitness, the gender aspects of their own specialized ﬁelds of study or disciplines, and to interrogate and challenge dominant analytical categories and conventional methodologies from this point of view. No speciﬁc themes or topics were imposed on the contributors. This collection thus takes on a multidisciplinary approach that transgresses disciplinary boundaries. One of the key objectives of the volume has been to expand the boundary of gender analysis; not necessarily to exclude men and masculinity ideas, for the politics of gender, as Steans writes, ‘need not exclusively be about women, nor need it only be by women’ (see Steans’s chapter in this volume). Critical theory, for instance, warns against the knowledge claim made in the name of ‘women’. Inevitably, we have to confront the question of how we categorize women and whether there is an inscribed gendered identity. Who is included and excluded from such characterizations? One interesting point about grounding claims about women is that, as soon as the category of women is invoked, positing an ‘essence’ of women, arguments soon arise among feminists questioning that supposed essence. For example, some feminists claim that there is an ontological speciﬁcity: women as mothers. This categorization must form the foundation for a speciﬁc common legal and political representation. However, not all women are or want to be mothers, and not all mothers see that as the proper foundation for their legal and political identity. Moreover, women are always divided along a variety of class, ethnic, religious, national, racial and sexual lines. Gender politics, therefore, is heterogeneous and ‘should involve the analysis of power relations between men and women and the discursive and cultural construction of hegemonic masculinities and femininities’ (see MacGregor’s chapter in this volume). The inclusion of four male-authored chapters in this edition aﬃrms the commitment to a more inclusive politics. The analysis of gender politics can expose the structural instability of sexual
identity, making possible a multiplication of possibilities in social and political life. Gender analysis enables us to understand how ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are not categorically separated, independent entities, but rather are mutually constituted and interdependent. This argument is crucial in challenging essentialism, reﬂecting instead the complexity, contingency and often contradictory process of identity formulation. The key to a gender analysis of politics, on this view, is to disrupt the dominant conception of the feminine within the gender dichotomy as a crucial step towards the displacement of gender hierarchy and undermining the role of gender distinctions in structuring the socio-political order. A common theme that emerges from this volume is that of subjectivity;
to a considerable extent the various chapters seek to explore the many social and legal practices through which the subject is constructed. There are, of course, diﬀerences among the contributors. Most noticeable,
perhaps, is that between Jill Steans and Glen Newey; while they both discuss what they take to be ‘orthodoxy’, they have entirely diﬀerent points of view. Steans’s critique of ‘malestream’ orthodoxy in international relations (IR), deﬁnes orthodoxy as a particular (male) mode of knowledge production; more precisely, as a disciplinary tool to tame feminist scholarship. Newey, on the other hand, makes an attempt to right orthodox feminists’ countless wrongs in misreading Hobbes’s political theory. In this sense, he turns feminist critique of male orthodoxy on its head. In defence of Hobbes, especially Hobbes’s view on women, family, sexual politics and rape, Newey argues that Hobbes’s political theory actually consistently displays ‘a basic commitment to original gender equality’, which is far more egalitarian than that which those dominant modern liberal political theorists, such as John Rawls, have managed to achieve. Newey charges that orthodox feminism, notably Carole Pateman, has misread the Hobbesian conceptions of the liberal sovereign individual and patriarchy. In defence of Hobbes, Newey asserts that Hobbes is ‘not a woman hater’ and he is wholly misunderstood with orthodox feminist reading of his work.