Guest Editorial – Women and Security Special Issue

by Dr Negar Partow1

Published in National Security Journal, 09 April 2021

Download PDF version: Women and Security Special Issue Editorial (72 KB)

On 8 March 2021 the 110th anniversary of the International Women’s Day celebrated women of the past, present and future and commemorated more than one million women and men who marched across Europe in 1911 for women’s rights and to end discrimination against women. It was only after the 1970s, however, that discourses on gender equality went beyond what had been formally exclusive to demanding rights and ending discrimination. The second wave of feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s posed more significant challenges to the existing patriotic order. In 1982, Harvard professor Carol Gilligan published her research on differences between men and women in the process of moral development. The study was based on the Heinz dilemma, asking what Heinz should do, having exhausted every other possibility, he must decide whether to steal an expensive drug that offers the only hope of saving his dying wife. In her research, Gilligan found out that men responded to the Heinz dilemma by focusing on the empirical data and used them to decide the best course of action. Women, on the other hand, saw the problem to be more complex and focused on the relationship and connections amongst agents in the dilemma to find a solution. They responded by asking what would happen to the dying women if the husband is arrested and who would look after her. Gilligan pointed out that while men in her study paid attention to ethics of rules and regulations, female participants focused on “ethics of care”, and considered the proper way to address the dilemma to be fighting the question and see the individual in the story with connections rather than an isolated entity. For women who responded to the dilemma, those relations mattered. Gilligan argued that in general, the male’s approach to ethics is based on deciding what rules apply to individuals rather than being connected with others in a web of relationships. Acknowledging this difference not only highlights the implicit care that we all have explicitly but also it enhances our ability to assess security challenges and resolve them.

1 Dr Negar Partow is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University, and guest editor of this volume put together to observe International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021.