Letter From the Editors

JIA Editorial Board
February 11, 2020

The world is full of urgent global challenges. From climate change to trade disputes, to humanitarian crises and faltering alliances, the 21st century’s second decade has witnessed an assault on many of the long-held orthodoxies of international relations. Nevertheless, the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Affairs believes that the topic chosen for this issue is as important, and as timely, as any.

From the MeToo Movement and worldwide women’s marches, to #Balancetonporc and #tystnadtagning, feminism has surged into the public discourse like never before. These developments have catalyzed new, often bitter debates on important topics, including women’s rights, the gender pay gap, women’s involvement in politics and the workplace, and gender-based violence. On many of these issues progress remains uncertain: a resurgent activism emerges hand-in-hand with the forces of reaction. Whatever side one takes, there is no denying that feminism finds itself at the center of today’s most important public policy debates. At last, feminism has truly gone global.

Unfortunately, the international affairs and public policy fields have failed to dedicate sufficient attention to feminist politics and political movements. This failure is endemic, found everywhere from academia to think tanks and international organizations. Feminist IR theory, when taught, is often an afterthought, while feminist paradigms have not yet cracked the academic mainstream in universities across the world. With this issue on the Dynamics of Global Feminism, the Journal of International Affairs has chosen to dedicate its voice to filling that gap.

The Dynamics of Global Feminism asks its contributors a series of questions. Is there one “Global Feminism,” or several? Why have some feminist movements been successful while others have failed? How have globalization, the rise of populism, and the emergence of new technologies affected both the form and substance of feminism? What have past movements gotten wrong, or right, and how can feminism contribute to building a better world?

Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, our keynote, opens the issue. She shares her remarkable experience in the peace movement in Liberia. Ms. Gbowee demonstrates the immense potential of women’s activism but cautions that a local approach to female organizing is essential to its success.

Dynamics of Global Feminism then applies an international lens to feminism. Columbia’s Yasmine Ergas begins by highlighting the ways that the Beijing Settlement has affected feminist policy goals in the international arena. Nahla Valji and Pablo Castillo Díaz explore the troubling linkages between misogyny and violent extremism, while Victoria Scheyer and Marina Kumskova outline a proper feminist approach to foreign policy. Mona Lena Krook charts the emergence of the concept of violence against women in politics and explains how it can be used to develop new political frameworks.

The issue picks back up with Olga Jurasz and Kim Barker, who take readers into the digital realm. They argue that online misogyny has denied women equal participation in public and political life, and restricted their ability to express themselves openly. The section concludes with two interviews with the Editors. Professor Nimmi Gowrinathan outlines her work on women’s involvement in militant organizations, and Professor Cynthia Enloe interrogates the very title of this issue, highlighting the problems of terms such as “Global Feminism.”

At this point, the issue changes pace, nudging readers from argument towards art. Saumya Deva, the winner of the Journal’s inaugural Student Art Contest, draws readers’ attention to the struggle of female activists in Palestine with her powerful series “Repetition=Resistance.” Saumya supplements the series with a short written piece on its meaning and her inspiration.

The Journal then brings its readers the winning entry of the biannual Andrew Wellington Cordier Student Essay Contest. This year’s winner, Jasneet Hora, explains how the women vying for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the United States are poised to change both the perception and practice of public service.

Next, the issue turns to a series of regional case studies. Former Afghan Minister for Women Sima Samar shares her story of how she and other women contributed to the peace movement in Afghanistan. Author and activist Farida Shaheed also draws on personal experience, exploring how the contemporary women’s rights movement in Pakistan compares with past women’s movements, and what the two can learn from each other. Finally, Nela Porobić Isaković and Gorana Mlinarević take a close look at the peace-building process in Bosnia and Herzegovina to explain how feminist perspectives can support a more sustainable transition from war to peace.

The issue concludes with regional perspectives on governance and public policy. Professors Ipek Ilkkaracan and Naila Kabeer bring an important economic lens to the issue. Dr. Ilkkaracan examines the relationship between populist politics and economic gender disparity in Turkey, while Dr. Kabeer, in an interview with the Editors, shares her thoughts on global feminist movements, women’s empowerment, and women’s labor issues in Bangladesh and India. As these are only a few of many possible case studies, the issue concludes with a nod to other important works. Eugenia McGill’s review of Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Rachel Rebouché, and Hila Shamir’s Governance Feminism: Notes from the Field brings our readers’ attention to another valuable compendium of research and analysis of feminist politics around the world.

An issue on feminism is long overdue. And still, much remains to be said. It is the mandate of the Journal to provide a forum for discussion and debate on the most pressing issues of the day. We hope that this issue will be the start of a new conversation, not its coda. Until the next issue on Global Feminism.


—The Editors