Secretary Hillary Clinton and Feminist Foreign Policy
by Lewis Mobbs
Throughout my undergraduate programme at Loughborough, I have always been interested in foreign policy and gender. That is why I decided to focus my dissertation research on ‘Feminist Foreign Policy’. Whilst there are some examples of states following a strict Feminist Foreign Policy agenda, I was drawn to the case of Secretary Hillary Clinton. After Clinton’s tenure as the United States’ top diplomat (2009 – 2013), some political commentators lauded her record as an example of feminist foreign policy in action. However, whilst much of her rhetoric was feminist in content, at times, policy decisions and outcomes did not correlate with these supposed feminist values.
Instead of making a simple value judgement on Secretary Clinton’s record, I wanted to compare her record against a strict, more rigorous Feminist Foreign Policy framework. I decided to review academic scholarship on Feminist Foreign Policy and create a base of work to use as a tool for comparison. Whilst there is no widely accepted definition, most academic work on the topic refers to empowering marginalised women’s voices so that foreign policy is reactive to the women and girls it is trying to assist.
My dissertation argued that no matter how well-intentioned policy was under Secretary Clinton, it often failed to respond to the marginalised women it was designed to help and was, therefore, not an example of Feminist Foreign Policy. One example that demonstrated this well was Secretary Clinton’s strong support for a troop surge in Afghanistan. The surge was designed to provide security and suppress Taliban influence, an organisation that is exceptionally oppressive and violent towards women and girls in Afghanistan. However, this troop surge did little for women and was a blunt instrument in the sense that it failed to address deeper societal issues and the systemic patriarchy that plagues Afghanistan’s society.
Clinton’s backing of the troop surge led to one of the most poignant reflections of my dissertation. This case raised the question of whether or not mediating the relationship between feminism and US realism is actually possible, given the United States’ role as a global superpower. The US’s constant desire for influence often pursued through imperialist intervention is incompatible with the ethical approach a Feminist Foreign Policy insists on.
Whilst the project illuminated the difficulties of pursuing a Feminist Foreign Policy, it did not deter my personal belief that a Feminist Foreign Policy agenda is a realistic policy doctrine that can offer positive change in an unstable world.
Completing this research was the highlight of my University experience. Being given the opportunity to pursue a research project that is entirely centred around your interests is a privilege. Contributing to your area of scholarship, no matter how small, is extremely rewarding and something you look back on with immense pride.
You can find out more about Feminist Foreign Policy at https://centreforfeministforeignpolicy.org/
Bio: Lewis Mobbs graduated from Loughborough University in Summer 2020 with a First-Class Honours in Politics and International Relations. During his studies, his academic focuses have been on gender, US politics and foreign policy. Whilst studying for his undergraduate degree, Lewis was also President of Loughborough Marrow Society. In October 2020, Lewis began the MA Security degree programme at Loughborough University.
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