In International Security and Gender, Detraz explores the role of socially constructed and expected codes of behaviour attached to both sexes in relation to international security’s most pressing issues. The work aims to incorporate gender as a concept into a traditionally masculine security studies discipline and thus broaden the sphere of analysis. However neutral the title may seem at the first glance, the applied gender lenses are clearly feminist and concerned mainly with women and their respective roles in various security landscapes, which include: militarisation and militarism, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, terrorism, human security and the environment. Each chapter is clearly structured, as it first introduces the chapter thematic comprehensively – almost like a textbook of international security – analysing threats and vulnerabilities, which may be appreciated mainly by students and scholars connected to IR and other branches of social sciences. Then, issues are analysed from gendered lenses in several of its aspects with the aim of showing how different the security threat under consideration may appear when focused on gender. Finally, each chapter is concluded with a view of the emancipatory potential in the field; again clearly studied from a feminist perspective.
Detraz’s understanding of gender, introduced at the beginning of the work, adopts a modern feminist perspective and she aims to explore gender roles in contemporary politics while highlighting the problem of inequality and existing patriarchal system(s) which privilege masculinity and are prevalent in security landscapes around the world. Not only does Detraz argue that different security situations (and interpretations) exist for women and men and that the impacts of war – a phenomenon central to security studies – are acutely gendered, at each stage. Women are believed to be more vulnerable during a conflict, as they tend to be marginalised and disempowered. From that perspective, the book offers fresh insights into issues of security, as these have been traditionally studied in academia rather from a holistic point of view, i.e. statist or structuralist focus. Importantly, Detraz does not approach security realities simplistically, seeing women as lacking agency. On the contrary, she acknowledges the differences in positions of women in private and, mainly, political life, ranging from victims of rape in war, military prostitutes and refugees to women as political and/or military leaders, activists, soldiers, revolutionaries or terrorists.
The second chapter, deals with gendered militarisation and militarism recognises that this ‘area’ is traditionally reserved for males and challenges patriarchal security dominance. Although, recently, many women joined and serve in military units, such is not entirely positive for Detraz, as the legacy of resolving conflicts by legitimised violence is critically challenged by many feminists. Also, the role of women in the military remains limited. Hegemonic masculinity is one of the central concepts of militaries and is successfully reinforced and effectively legitimised by every single violent conflict. Since in a majority of states, militaries are portrayed as protectors; militarised and aggressive men protect the innocents. When women join militaries, as active members, who remains to be protected? The example of PFC Jessica Lynch demonstrates the masculine ruled mentality, where a female soldier injured during enemy attack and subsequently rescued was firstly portrayed as real G.I. Jane who fought for her country under extreme duress. However, after finding out that she only prayed under fire, the picture of woman in peril was in place, a beautiful blonde female who still needed to be rescued from the hands of evil Iraqis by brave American male soldiers. Using this example, Detraz shows how social roles traditionally ascribed to females are still entrenched, and how mental structures are built around these. Importantly, it is not only the militaries, but also terrorist organisations, drug cartels and mafia that are highly masculine and, similarly to states, are not only abusing women to advance some of their criminal activities in the name of the protection of females – as bin Laden often did – but also use the feminisation of their enemy in order to express dominance. This dominance is, however, real for many civilian victims of militarisation, be it women suffering war rape, forced or ‘choosing’ to become military prostitutes, or beaten by their husbands returning from war.
Militarised masculinity is again highlighted in the next chapter dealing with peacekeeping and peace building, where othering is again active and peacekeepers are needed in order to protect the primitive and vulnerable, women. However, Detraz correctly points to many cases of peacekeepers harming the local population they were meant to defend, highlighting sexual misconducts during the missions and their consequences for women, as rise in prostitution, the spread of AIDS and the bartering of sex for food and other goods. It is suggested that the greater participation of women in peacekeeping would not only work as some kind of control over male peacekeepers, but would include cooperation from a greater proportion of the population and raise the probability for a more lasting peace. Gendered peacekeeping and peace building is thus desirable, however often gendered issues are ignored.
The beautiful souls and just warriors concept is also applied on the analysis of terrorism, where mainstream understandings of who is a terrorist is, above all, centred around males. In the terrorist narrative women who become terrorists are believed to have some special or added advantage, such as revenge-lust over a dead husband or son. Faith in a particular cause as a motivation is not enough for women, although for male terrorists is perfectly acceptable. Once again, females are the “protected” and formed one of the main pillars of thought used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan; to protect Afghan women from oppression of the Taliban. Interestingly, the US did not seem so gender sensitive prior to 9/11.
The last two chapters deal with human security and the environment. These analyse wide subjects and are analytically limited to emphasising the importance of (potentially) greater involvement of women, which are both disproportionately affected by negative phenomena related to such insecurities and omitted from decision-making procedures. The all-encompassing topic of human security is convincingly criticised and revised, similarly to the challenge posed by maintaining a sacredness of science as a male field of study.
Detraz selected difficult elements of security studies and analysed them through gender lenses in an understandable, clear, convincing and argumentative manner. The book offers insights into feminist security studies, and makes readers more critical towards the so-called ‘Holy Grail’ of state security and its measures through feminist perspectives. This is an essential read for every IR and feminist scholar and student seeking deeper understandings of current events in the field and a valuable source for further research.