Analysis of security and insecurity issues are incomplete without a gender lens. People who identify as male or female are socialized differently, therefore their experience with security is different. However, gender is not the only identity that influences one’s experience. This is why an intersectional analysis is needed in order to truly frame individual experiences with respect to security and insecurity.

Gender identity is a social construct that refers to social and cultural distinctions associated with being men or women. The concept of gender also involves power relations. Examining individual’s gender identity in relation to security demonstrates how gender structures are reproduced within political spheres of the state. Indeed, political violence and conflict are spaces of “formation, de reproduction ou de transformation des rapports sociaux de sexe.”

Young’s analysis of the logic of masculinist protection demonstrates gender construction and the unequal relation between men and women, where men act as protectors and women are positioned as subordinate subjects. This same protector-protected logic is exported into political and security spheres of the state. The state holds the role of protector and citizens are subordinate subjects. Socially, men are viewed as protectors and women and children as their subordinates. Men are socially constructed to be courageous, responsible, and protective in their role. However, in exchange for male protection, those in subordinate roles, usually women, are expected to give up on their “decision-making autonomy.

This social construction of gender is reinforced through different aspects of society. For instance, military spaces are masculinized, and civil spaces are feminized, which influence people’s experiences and attitudes towards security. The construction of gender is expressed in the militarization of young men and how they perceive their role as protectors. In the military, men undergo a process to become “real” men, which reinforces norms of masculinities. According to the logic of masculinist protection, there are also negative outcomes for those in subordinate positions because they are perceived as inferiors. On the other hand, if we assume women have a subordinate status, it can exacerbate their experience of vulnerability. This, in turn, can discourage them from expressing their insecurity, due to their gender. Cases of honour killing in Pakistan illustrate that women are part of “rigid, patriarchal definition of female transgressive” system, which limits their ability to voice their insecurities given that it involves additional risks. Indeed, there are numerous examples of political violence or conflicts where women are targeted specifically because of their gender. During conflict, for example, women are more likely to be subjected to sexual violence.

Nonetheless, one’s experience of security or insecurity should not be analyzed only from a gender perspective. There is an interlink between gender and other forms of identity that can’t be separated.

Gender should be examined alongside other identities such as “race,” class, sexual orientation, religious groups, social status, and economic status.

This is why the concept of intersectionality is needed. For instance, rape was used as a war tool for ethnic cleansing during the conflict of ex-Yugoslavia. Women were raped not only because of their gender but also their ethnicity as Muslims. One must consider individual’s multiple identities, not just gender, in order to get a comprehensive understanding of individuals’ sources of security or insecurity. That’s why intersectionality is crucial in studying issues of identity.  

The logic of masculinist protection is also exported to international interventions. Intersectionality can showcase how the US Government used the same logic of protection, whether it was for gender or nation, during the intervention in Afghanistan. The US Government portrayed itself as “liberator” and protector of Afghan women. This image was reinforced by the fact that those being protected were poor, oppressed, and racialized Muslim women from a developing country. In light of this, Afghanistan, as a nation, was put in a subordinate position to the White, Christian, and Rich American hegemonic power.

All identities impact one’s experience of security or insecurity. Indeed, some identities will place individuals or states in position of protector, whereas other identities will put them as their subordinates. In other words, intersectionality accentuates the effect of multiple identities on one’s experience of security or insecurity.

Sara-Maude Coderre holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Asian Studies and a Master’s Degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Ottawa. She is interested in the domains of international affairs, diplomacy, Asian studies, and culture and identity. She is experienced in qualitative and quantitative research. She has co-authored a peer-reviewed article in Reflets journal. Her interest in China-Taiwan relations inspired her to write her Master’s thesis on the 2014 Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, which highlights how defending human rights and freedom of expression is at the centre of Taiwanese youth activism. Sara-Maude has lived in Argentina, Taiwan, China, South Korea and New Zealand. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Mandarin.

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder

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