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The Curious Feminist

The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire

Cynthia Enloe
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 367
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  • Book Info
    The Curious Feminist
    Book Description:

    In this collection of lively essays, Cynthia Enloe makes better sense of globalization and international politics by taking a deep and personal look into the daily realities in a range of women's lives. She proposes a distinctively feminist curiosity that begins with taking women seriously, especially during this era of unprecedented American influence. This means listening carefully, digging deep, challenging assumptions, and welcoming surprises. Listening to women in Asian sneaker factories, Enloe reveals, enables us to bring down to earth the often abstract discussions of the global economy. Paying close attention to Iraqi women's organizing efforts under military occupation exposes the false global promises made by officials. Enloe also turns the beam of her inquiry inward. In a series of four candid interviews and a new set of autobiographical pieces, she reflects on the gradual development of her own feminist curiosity. Describing her wartime suburban girlhood and her years at Berkeley, she maps the everyday obstacles placed on the path to feminist consciousness-and suggests how those obstacles can be identified and overcome.The Curious Feministshows how taking women seriously also challenges the common assumption that masculinities are trivial factors in today's international affairs. Enloe explores the workings of masculinity inside organizations as diverse as the American military, a Serbian militia, the UN, and Oxfam. A feminist curiosity finds all women worth thinking about, Enloe claims. She suggests that we pay thoughtful attention to women who appear complicit in violence or in the oppression of others, or too cozily wrapped up in their relative privilege to inspire praise or compassion. Enloe's vitality, passion, and incisive wit illuminate each essay.The Curious Feministis an original and timely invitation to look at global politics in an entirely different way.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93851-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[xii])
  3. Introduction: Being Curious about Our Lack of Feminist Curiosity
    (pp. 1-10)

    Being curious takes energy. It may thus be a distorted form of “energy conservation” that makes certain ideas so alluring. Take, for instance, the loaded adjective “natural.” If one takes for granted that something is “natural”—generals being male, garment workers being female—it saves mental energy. After all, what is deemed natural hasn’t been self-consciously created. No decisions have to be made. The result: we can imagine that there is nothing we need to investigate. We can just feel sympathy with women working in sweatshops, for instance, without bothering to figure out how they got there or what they...


    • CHAPTER 1 The Surprised Feminist
      (pp. 13-18)

      Predicting never has been my preferred vocation. Friends have to bribe me to go with them to sci-fi movies. Reading academic “ten-year plans” almost never puts me on the edge of my seat. So, I confess, I am quite daunted at the prospect of responding to an enticing invitation from the feminist journalSignsto spell out even tentative hunches about where feminist scholarship—especially activist-minded scholarship—will be heading in the twenty-first century.

      Surprise. I have come to think that the capacity to be surprised—and toadmitit—is an undervalued feminist attribute. To be surprised is to...

    • CHAPTER 2 Margins, Silences, and Bottom Rungs: How to Overcome the Underestimation of Power in the Study of International Relations
      (pp. 19-42)

      When I think about what it is that seems so unrealistic (yes, that loaded term) in most formal analyses of international politics, what strikes me is how far their authors are willing to go inunderestimating the amounts and varieties of power it takes to form and sustain any given set of relationships between states. This conclusion, of course, rings oddly. So many analysts, after all, profess to be interested chiefly in power—who has it, how they got it, what they try to do with it. Their profession notwithstanding, I believe that by concentrating so single-mindedly on what is...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Globetrotting Sneaker
      (pp. 43-56)

      Four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War, Reebok, one of the fastest-growing companies in recent United States history, decided that the time had come to make its mark in Russia. Thus it was with considerable fanfare that Reebok’s executives opened their first store in downtown Moscow in July 1993. A week after the grand opening, store managers described sales as well above expectations.

      Reebok’s opening in Moscow was the perfect post–Cold War scenario: commercial rivalry replacing military posturing, consumerist tastes homogenizing heretofore hostile peoples, capital and managerial expertise flowing freely...

    • CHAPTER 4 Daughters and Generals in the Politics of the Globalized Sneaker
      (pp. 57-68)

      Many of us are trying to chart the basic dynamics of contemporary globalization: the specific processes, the complexities of those processes, the resistance to those processes. What can asking feminist questions reveal?¹ Try to imagine what a feminist set of questions yields in terms of making sense of globalization—what it is, who benefits, who loses, and what the prospects are for it. Pursuing these questions successfully requires wielding a feminist curiosity. After being a political scientist for about fifteen or twenty years (I was a little slow), I began to realize that I was missing a lot. I was...

    • CHAPTER 5 Whom Do You Take Seriously?
      (pp. 69-82)

      As a teacher, one thinks about silence. There is nothing quite so deafening as the silence that can greet a teacher who has just asked a group of students an unexpected question. People in university teaching talk with each other a great deal about their own current research and about the research of their colleagues. They talk much less often about what goes on between them and a classroom full of students. Still, when they do, one of the most persistent topics of conversation, often laced with considerable worry, is “how to get students to talk in class.” The concern...

    • CHAPTER 6 Feminist Theorizing from Bananas to Maneuvers: A Conversation between Cynthia Enloe and Marysia Zalewski
      (pp. 83-96)

      Marysia Zalewski (MZ): Let’s begin with your bookBananas, Beaches and Bases.Many people identify this book as primarily posing the question: “Where are the women?” What I’ve noticed time and time again is how this question gets so easily disassociated from feminism. Have you noticed this? Why do you think this is the case? And what do you think it says about feminism?

      Cynthia Enloe (CE): The reason I posed the question was because I thought it was actually quite a simple way of engaging people in trying to reimagine who is significant to analyze. That’s really the question....


    • CHAPTER 7 All the Men Are in the Militias, All the Women Are Victims: The Politics of Masculinity and Femininity in Nationalist Wars
      (pp. 99-118)

      Borislav Herak was an ordinary man.¹ He had not yet married and so lived with his parents in Sarajevo. Although ethnically a Serb, he, like so many Sarajevans, lived within an ethnically mixed family. His sister had married a Sarajevan Muslim Bosnian man. Borislav himself didn’t have much luck with girlfriends, and maybe that is why he read pornographic magazines up in his room. This disturbed his father, a welder. Nor could his son’s work life have been called a success. He had done poorly in school and had an undistinguished career as a conscript in the Yugoslav navy. In...

    • CHAPTER 8 Spoils of War
      (pp. 119-121)

      In September 1995, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, a twelveyear-old girl was assaulted and raped. Three U.S. Marines were charged. In the wake of the rape, the commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Richard Macke, told reporters: “I think it was absolutely stupid, as I’ve said several times. For the price they paid to rent the car, they could have had a girl.” While the comment forced the four-star admiral into early retirement, it also gave us a glimpse of the patriarchal assumptions that encourage U.S. men in uniform to see women as warriors’ booty.


    • CHAPTER 9 Masculinity as a Foreign Policy Issue
      (pp. 122-130)

      The militarization of any country’s foreign policy can be measured by monitoring the extent to which its policy:

      is influenced by the views of Defense Department decisionmakers and/or senior military officers,

      flows from civilian officials’ own presumption that the military needs to carry exceptional weight,

      assigns the military a leading role in implementing the nation’s foreign policy, and

      treats military security and national security as if they were synonymous.

      Employing these criteria, one has to conclude that U.S. foreign policy today is militarized.

      A feminist analysis can help reveal why U.S. foreign policy has become so militarized—and at what...

    • CHAPTER 10 “What If They Gave a War . . .”: A Conversation between Cynthia Enloe, Vivian Stromberg, and the Editors of Ms. Magazine
      (pp. 131-144)

      Ms.:Those of us who have been around for more than ten minutes are only too aware of the fact that a habit of war has become the subtext of our contemporary history. As feminists, we need to talk about the alternatives when differences escalate to the point of collective violence. But is there any situation in which violence is justified?

      VS: I would take any peaceful means until I hit a brick wall, such as Somoza’s regime in Nicaragua or apartheid in 1960s–80s South Africa. I’m also suspicious of premature conflict resolution that attempts to negotiate rights. When...

    • CHAPTER 11 Sneak Attack: The Militarization of U.S. Culture
      (pp. 145-147)

      Things start to become militarized when their legitimacy depends on their associations with military goals. When something becomes militarized, it appears to rise in value. Militarization is seductive.

      But it is really a process of loss. Even though something seems to gain value by adopting an association with military goals, it actually surrenders control and gives up the claim to its own worthiness.

      Militarization is a sneaky sort of transformative process. Sometimes it is only in the pursuit ofdemilitarization that we become aware of just how far down the road of complete militarization we’ve gone. In the fall of...

    • CHAPTER 12 War Planners Rely on Women: Thoughts from Tokyo
      (pp. 148-151)

      In Tokyo, early in 2003, I counted six of these photographs in the Japanese English-language daily papers: pictures of American and Australian wives and girlfriends of soldiers, sailors, and pilots teary as they kiss and wave good-bye to their military husbands and boyfriends, off to deployments in the Middle East. My Japanese feminist friends tell me that a month earlier there were strikingly similar photographs of Japanese military wives standing on the shore, waving to their Self-Defense Force husbands as they sailed on theKirishima,off to support the same Bush administration buildup to an invasion of Iraq.

      Each photo...

    • CHAPTER 13 Feminists Keep Their Eyes on Militarized Masculinity: Wondering How Americans See Their Male Presidents
      (pp. 152-154)

      Masculinity. It’s always there just below the political surface. Propping up authority. Causing anxiety. This prime minister’s wavy hair. That dictator’s khaki fatigues. A president’s cowboy belt buckle.

      Feminists notice these things. Feminists all over the world—in Turkey, South Korea, the United States, Japan, and France—use gender tools to investigate things that more conventional foreign policy “experts” find uncomfortable: the ways in which manipulations of manliness often shape foreign policy decision-making.

      As an American feminist, therefore, I find strange, worth investigating, George W. Bush’s seeming ability to so thoroughly infuse his presidential authority with militarized masculinity. George W....

    • CHAPTER 14 Becoming a Feminist: Cynthia Enloe in Conversation with Three British International Relations Scholars
      (pp. 155-190)

      My mother and I almost never talked politics. She actually voted Republican most of her life, but she didn’t vote Republican with as much emotion behind it as did my father when he voted Republican. My mother was never worried about my becoming increasingly feminist. She died in 1983, and by that time I had been doing feminist work one way or another for, oh, maybe five years. in her later years if one of her friends had asked her, “Do think Cynthia is becoming a feminist?” I think my mother would have said, “Oh yes,” and I don’t think...


    • CHAPTER 15 Women after Wars: Puzzles and Warnings from Vietnam
      (pp. 193-216)

      Wars don’t simply end. And wars don’t end simply.

      Most of us who have observed wars or experienced them firsthand know both of these things. Still, there is the temptation to give any process a too-neat starting date and too-neat ending date. To do so makes the world seem more manageable, more susceptible to human understanding. At no time is this temptation more potent than when we are analyzing a war. Then we are subject not only to our historian’s urge to assign definitive dates; we are, in addition, inclined to put the hurtful past behind us, to look forward,...

    • CHAPTER 16 Demilitarization—or More of the Same? Feminist Questions to Ask in the Postwar Moment
      (pp. 217-232)

      To explain why, even after the guns have gone silent, militarization and the privileging of masculinity stubbornly persist, we need to surrender the cherished notion that when open warfare stops, militarization is reversed. One of the insights garnered by feminist analysts from the recent experiences of women and men in societies as different as Bosnia and Rwanda is that the processes of militarization can continue to roll along even after the formal cease-fire agreement has been signed.

      Persistent militarization in a postwar society serves to reentrench the privileging of masculinity—in both private and public life. Thus, if we lack...

    • CHAPTER 17 A Feminist Map of the Blocks on the Road to Institutional Accountability
      (pp. 233-236)

      What are the linkages between feminist thinking, violence, terror, and accountability? Briefly, I’d like to try mapping accountability—or, more precisely, the obstacles that make it so hard to hold accountable those institutions (and their decision-makers) whose actions and inactions are responsible for so much of today’s violence against women and thus for the insecurity in the lives of women at home and abroad.

      Each of these obstacles to instituting effective accountability is best understood if we cultivate a feminist analytical curiosity. So much of what we already know about these obstacles has come directly out of feminist studies of...

    • CHAPTER 18 When Feminists Look at Masculinity and the Men Who Wage War: A Conversation between Cynthia Enloe and Carol Cohn
      (pp. 237-267)

      Carol Cohn (CC): Cynthia, what do you think we still don’t know enough about in the realm of international politics?

      Cynthia Enloe (CE): Like you, I, of course, see the “international” as embedded in the national and in the local. And, like you, I also see—or, better, have been taught by other feminists to see—the “political” in many spaces that others imagine are purely economic, or cultural, or private. With those provisos, I think we really don’t know enough about how masculinity operates; but to carry on that exploration, we have to be women’s-studies-informed. This is not masculinity...

    • CHAPTER 19 Updating the Gendered Empire: Where Are the Women in Occupied Afghanistan and Iraq?
      (pp. 268-306)

      Empire. Until not long ago the study of empires was the purview of academic historians. Some historians, though, especially male historians, recently managed to draw considerable attention from thoughtful magazines and television’s serious talk shows for their hefty new or reissued books on empire.¹ Sales figures began to rise and media invitations rolled in. Readers and viewers were beginning to look for parallels to contemporary international affairs. We often try to sort out puzzles by thinking through analogies. Analogies are powerful. If we get our analogies wrong, our explanations are likely to be askew. In the wake of the U.S....


    • [Part Four Introduction]
      (pp. 309-318)

      When we played guns, there were no Good Guys, no Bad Guys.

      We didn’t designate any of us—Richie, Alfie, Tommy, or me—to be the indians or the Robbers or the Nazis.

      We played Cowboys versus Cowboys, Soldiers versus Soldiers, Commandos versus Commandos.

      Often we didn’t call ourselves anything.

      It was the early 1940s, when the evening radio brought wartime news and the Saturday matinee featured sharp-shooting western heroes.

      But as we shot at each other

      from behind suburban pines, maples, and azalea bushes,

      we seemed to have no need for

      myths of White Hats, Civilization, or the Free...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 319-342)
  9. Index
    (pp. 343-367)