Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

It's So Ingrained, Nobody Notices: Books

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

It's So Ingrained, Nobody Notices: Books

Article excerpt

Gwendolyn Beetham on the surprisingly difficult art of seeing who's missing from the picture.

Seriously! Investigating Crashes and Crises as if Women Mattered

By Cynthia Enloe

University of California Press

264pp, Pounds 48.95 and Pounds 19.95

ISBN 9780520275362, 0275379 and 0956667

Published 6 September 2013

In the spring of 2011, I was having dinner with a friend when she asked me, incredulous: "Can you believe this stuff with Dominique Strauss-Kahn?" When my response, "Of course I can", brought laughter and a comment about being jaded, I began to wonder: "Why doesn't this outrageous act surprise me at all?" Reading Cynthia Enloe's latest book, I was reminded that the fact that I was not shocked had little to do with my jaded nature (well, maybe a little), but was because I view international politics through a gendered frame: in short, I take gender seriously.

It is not surprising that I was reminded of this lesson while reading Enloe, a prolific author who pioneered the act of taking women seriously in the international relations field. More than two decades on, Enloe writes with the same zeal and urgency as she did in her groundbreaking 1989 book, Bananas, Beaches and Bases, recognising that, although feminist scholars and policy-makers have made many inroads, there is still much to be done.

In true Enloe-esque fashion, the thread of taking gender seriously weaves together themes that, at first, seem disparate - sexual harassment, austerity, peacekeeping, the Arab Spring. Part of the difficulty, she reminds us, with asking gender questions - Who has power in the household? Who is invited to the decision-making table? Who is judged by what they wear to work? - is that these questions get at everyday issues that are so ingrained and, critically, so trivialised, that it takes training to see them at all. Enloe's own feminist coming-of-age story in chapter 2 highlights this fact (and gets my friend off the hook) - it was years before she took gender seriously in her own work.

The inclusion of the occasional photograph in Seriously! helps (literally) to illustrate the cause and consequence of not taking gender seriously. It is one thing to read about women's exclusion, but another to see photos of a meeting of an all-male United Nations observer team and an all-male group of Syrian rebels, or the all-male Group of Seven finance ministers and governors alongside the lone woman Christine Lagarde, Strauss-Kahn's replacement as International Monetary Fund managing director. …

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