Tamara Zieve, MA Candidate
IDC, Herzliya, Lauder School of Government
The purpose of this study is to investigate whether women have a more peaceful approach to conflict resolution than men.The topic of the relationship between gender and attitudes to conflict resolution is one that has been of interest to many scholars. Studies have been carried out in the past regarding this issue, some proving that women do have more tendencies to opt for more peaceful approaches, and others that negate this hypothesis. I believe there is a need to carry out a new research on this so as to provide up- to- date universal data as the past studies have only been carried out in specific zones. Carrying out this research in countries all over the world will lend scope for a comparison of countries; it will provide insight into whether approaches to conflict resolution are innately gender related, or alternatively, whether it varies between countries thus indicating that it is a result of socialization, culture and context. The results will also provide important information regarding the role of women in positions of decision making in areas of conflict resolution as it will illustrate if and how they come to the negotiating table with a different mindset and thus provide varied methods and approaches. In this proposal I shall explore the topic through a literature review and then I shall present my theory hypothesis and research design.
When discussing the role of men and women in conflict resolution, it is important to consider whether gender affects approaches to conflict resolution. There exists a stereotype that women are more peace loving than men, and can bring a calmer more compromising voice to the negotiation table. It has been argued that women are more effective and more efficient than men in negotiations and that there is a need for “peace promoters, not just warriors at the table.” Social research has demonstrated that women tend to be more cooperative and less aggressive (Hunt, 2005).
A single feminist theory on war and peace does not exist, but rather various arguments that conflict. Cockburn posits that there is one constant in feminist gender analysis: “the differentiation and relative positioning of women and men is seen as an important ordering principle that pervades the system of power and is sometimes its very embodiment.” What differs between the different feminist theories is how they view this positioning, the reasons behind it, and whether they view it is as something positive and necessary that should remain as it is, or as something negative that needs to be changed. These different approaches shall now be outlined.
Difference Feminism celebrates women as being different to men due to the possession of natural qualities which include being co-operative and pacific (Wilford, 1994). Difference feminists argue that, “women, because of their greater experience with nurturing and human relations, are generally more effective than men in conflict resolution and group decision- making…” (Goldstein, 2001). They claim that men are relatively violent and women relatively peaceful; due to women’s “care giving roles” and potential for motherhood, they are more inclined to oppose war and be more interested in finding alternative methods to conflict resolution (Goldstein, 2001). This is further supported by Skjelsbaek’s discussion of how motherhood is “conceptualized as the antithesis of violence” (Skjelsbaek & Smith, 2001). It is the mother’s duty to educate peace in creating positive relationships in all aspects of the child’s life. If we therefore, take the view that motherhood is central to the transition of a girl to a woman, and the military is central to the transition of a boy to a man in countries of a conflict, the antithesis of men versus women, violence versus peace results (Sjelsbaek & Smith, 2001).
The idea of “Mother politics” springs from Difference Feminism, following the previously discussed idea that women have an innate nurturing role and thus wish to protect their sons from risking their lives at war. Though this is attacked by liberal feminists, who argue that this is conforming to the patriarchal definitions of a woman’s role, it is certainly a factor that can be considered when exploring the question of whether women are more likely to be anti-war than men. The anti- war group, Women in Black against War do not see women as “natural peacemakers” but rather see female peace activists as those who have, “escaped masculine socialization” and are thus, “freer to formulate a transformative, nonviolent vision” (Giles & Hyndman, 2004). This idea too, however, seems to suggest the idea that war is man-made and that women have been subjected to due to the patriarchal nature of society.
If violent conflict does indeed have a gender component, then, as Cockburn argues, “violence reduction calls for a feminist gendered strategy” (Ibid, 44). It primarily must involve an alertness to gender difference and specificity to the way in which men and women may be positioned differently and have different strengths and skills. She concludes that, “our feminist strategic thinking calls for violence reduction calls for widespread consciousness of the power imbalance in gender relations, of the way patriarchal power infuses with violence institutions like the family, the military, the states..” (Ibid). This idea is key to the essence of my study as it demonstrates the way in which violence could potentially be reduced if more women were involved in conflict resolution. Through my research I shall attempt to obtain concrete evidence to support the posit than women are more prone to support peaceful solutions to conflict than men.
Women and the Military
Golan discusses the relationship between gender and the military. Focussing on Israel specifically, she maintains that women’s inferior position in the Israeli military system contributes towards their having less violent inclinations than Israeli men. The military is a patriarchal institution in which women in Israel are, “subordinate, subservient and superfluous” (Golan, 1997). Golan talks of the inequality of the military service as one of the factors that delays the achievement of gender inequality as a whole in Israel. Therefore, she argues that, “there is a connection between the quest for gender equality and the quest for peace, that is the effort to end armed conflict and the militarization that accompanies such conflict. This may indeed be the link between women and peace…” (Golan, 1997). This argument could certainly be applied to other conflict- ridden countries where the military is an engrained part of society, as the military universally remains a patriarchal institution.
Cockburn also discusses the link between gender and violence, giving examples of male dominated violence from high school children in Colombia, to the Balkans conflict. She discusses how men and women were positioned differently both in the conflict and in opinion polls concerning the conflict, “We might have analyzed political discourses to see the gender cultures involved, the manly vigour and pride at stake for the leaderships of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries and Yugoslavia as they balanced the advantages of negotiation against those of military attrition. And furnished with a gender analysis, we might have anticipated that some women would organize against war. And they did. Women in Black in Belgrade outspokenly linked masculinity and militarism…” (Giles & Hyndman, 2004). The point that Cockburn emphasizes is that often traditional perceptions exist regarding gender, peace, and conflict; however, they are not questioned or challenged often enough.
During times of war gender differentiation is heightened; men are instilled with patriotism and their duty to protect women, children and the nation, whilst women are, “reminded that by biology and by tradition they are the keepers of the heart and home…” (Giles &Hyndman, 2004). It would naturally follow therefore, that women left at home to fear for their husbands and sons lives, would have developed an aversion to war. Would this not also apply to men though, who would naturally fear for their own lives? Or is this overridden by idea that fighting envelopes a sense of pride and masculinity? Cockburn argues the latter: “Indeed, many versions of masculinity in the world’s varied cultures are constituted in the practice of fighting: to be a “real” man is to be ready to fight and to ultimately kill and die” (Ibid, 34).
Alternatively, Liberal Feminism maintains that there is a no causal relationship between peacefulness and gender but “rejects the idea that women are any more peaceful than men by nature” (Goldstein, 2001). This theory focuses on the belief that women equal men in ability and thus should strive to achieve equal gender rights by adapting to the patriarchal world as it is (Goldstein, 2001). That is to say that Man is held up as a prototype towards which Woman should aim to become, rather than accepting and celebrating the difference of men and women as is done by Difference Feminism.
Women’s Peace Movements
Other indications that women may be more prone to peaceful solutions to conflict than men is their dominance of anti- war movements in which women are often either more numerous than men, or sometimes form their own all- female organizations (Ibid). This could be due to this idea that women are more peace-loving, but is also related to the fact that they have far less power than men in decision making and negotiations and thus must seek other forums in order to try to pressure the governments into taking peaceful action. It has, however, also been the case in the past of that women have deliberately separated themselves from men in anti-war movements due to the fact that men often broke the code of passive resistance, reacting violently to the police (Ibid).
The socio-cultural approach versus the socio-biological approach
Other theorists have sought to explore whether women really do speak
in “a different voice” than men when negotiating or handling conflict (Korabik, Baril, &
Watson, 1993). Do women communicate differently than men in such situations? Do they behave differently? Do they pursue different outcomes? The question of socialization is raised here; those feminists who pursue entirely equal rights are arguably evolving to become increasingly like men. For instance, though the military is clearly still highly patriarchal. More women are found in most military units now. Does this then mean that more women are starting to think more like men in relation to militarism and conflict resolution as well (assuming that they used to think differently?) This is a question that I seek to answer through my study and that I expect may vary between countries with different level of equal gender rights.
There are generally two perspectives explaining the relationship between gender and political behaviour and attitudes which have been applied as well to attitudinal differences on issues of military force. Goldstein (2001) characterizes these approaches as the socio-cultural and the socio-biological approaches. The first also can be described as “situational”. This perspective suggests that the important attitudinal and behavioural differences are not related to gender but to differences in gender roles and socio-demographic characteristics such as differences in education, labour force participation and women’s role as primary caregiver. This view suggests that as women’s role in society changes and as men assume an equal burden of care-giving tasks, women will “become similar to men” in terms of attitudes and behaviours. This perspective also assumes that these situational factors contribute equally to attitudinal and behavioural variables for both men and women.
The other approach focuses on the different values, attitudes and issue interests that women bring to the decision making process based on “maternal instincts”. This perspective is more closely linked to the “difference” paradigm of Gilligan (1982) who has argued that women’s moral reasoning differs from that of men and that women do indeed speak in a “different voice”. These different patterns of moral reasoning place different emphases on the individual and the community: men prioritize the individual while women emphasize the importance of relationships and nurturing (Banducci, 2005). Given the different situation of different states in terms of modernization, equal gender rights etc. there is again an indication in the first approach that my results will vary between different type of states, whereas the second approach implies that women are universally more peace-loving as it is an inherent characteristic.
If women have more peaceful tendencies than men, then it follows that a greater presence of women in peace organizations, and positions of conflict resolution and power should then to lead to different approaches to the use of force. In Difference Feminism women are assumed to possess different values and when women hold a more equal role in society their values will play a larger role in the policy making process. Caprioli (2003) has summarized the relationship between these attitudinal differences and state use of force: “If women are inherently more pacifist or support less aggressive state policies due to socialization , then state international policies should become less aggressive as women break through the structural barrier and gain more influence over state politics, whether directly through political participation or indirectly as male politicians temper their support for aggressive policies in order to appeal to broader constituencies that include women.” Caprioli (2003). For this reason it is important to research into this issue; if women have different approaches towards conflict resolution than men, it carries important implications for the presence of women in political decision making and negotiations.
My theory includes a combination of certain aspects of the above mentioned feminist approaches, using Difference Feminism as the basis to argue that men and women have inherently different innate qualities, and that women have more natural tendencies towards peaceful methods of conflict resolution than do men. I combine this with Golan’s argument that women’s inferior position in the military system contributes towards their having less violent inclinations than men. I shall take into consideration the socio-cultural approach that in societies that have achieved development in gender equality, specifically within the military system, some women may have started to adopt mindsets similar to those classified as “masculine”. I shall particularly bear this in mind when doing in- depth explanatory research in my case studies. I do not believe, however, that this will constitute enough of a change to drastically alter the general pattern that I expect to find, of women being more supportive of peaceful methods of conflict resolution than men.
Are women more prone to peaceful methods of conflict resolution than men?
Women are more likely to have more supportive attitudes towards peaceful methods of conflict resolution than are men.
My study will include both qualitative and quantitative research. I will take twenty countries involved in different types of ongoing conflicts, and will use similar surveys in each case, which will be adapted to the specific situation of each conflict. The countries I shall use in my research are: Israel, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Darfur, Mexico, Georgia, Syria, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Kashmir, Colombia, India, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Lebanon and The Philippines.I will carry out three case studies in Israel, Sri Lanka and Somalia. These studies will be subject to qualitative research as they will be analyzed in detail taking into account their contexts. They will be treated as representative of other states in conflict; Israel will be used as representative of a territorial conflict with religious aspects, Sri Lanka as an internal conflict involving rebel groups, and Somalia as an example of civil war. The use of case studies will allow a more explanatory approach whilst the quantitative research will serve on more of a descriptive level. The study aims to identify the influence of gender on attitudes towards conflict resolution, to discover whether there is a relationship between these two variables and if so, what the relationship comprises of and what the reasons behind it are.
Units of Analysis
My research population will comprise of a sample in each country that will encompass people of all sects of society of each state who are above the age of eighteen. As my study is focused on the influence of gender on attitudes towards conflict resolution, the units of analysis are the groups of men and women. The research, however will be carried out on individuals, to later draw conclusions about the influence of gender, therefore initially the units if analysis will be individuals.
It is important to conceptualize the variables that are at the basis of this study, in order to understand exactly what is being explored. The independent variable is gender, and the dependent variable is “attitudes towards conflict resolution”; this shall be separated into “attitudes” and “conflict resolution” in order to fully define this variable.
Attitudes are achieved by the process of socialization through which people learn their general political attitudes (Johnston & Pattie, 1988). These are in turn manifested via political such as whom one supports, votes for and what governmental action they would favour in order to achieve the fruition of their beliefs. Conflict resolution, in this study refers ways of resolving both internal and international wars and any related problems.
The independent variable, gender, on the most basic level represents the binary biological differences between men and women. From a feminist perspective, it is an analytic category within which human think about and organize their social activity (Harding, 2005). For Difference Feminists this expands to include different innate qualities that belong to men and women.
The next consideration is how these variables can be made operational. A survey of closed-ended questions shall be devised, regarding various aspects that will indicate approaches towards the resolution of current conflicts. The dependent variable, “attitudes towards conflict resolution” will be measured by ordinal scales and gender will be measured by a nominal scale.
Below is an example of the type of survey that will be used for my research; this survey has been created specifically for the situation of Israel. Some questions were taken from the Israel National Elections Study 2006.
- In your opinion, what is Israel’s general situation?
- Very good 2. Good 3. So so 4. Not good 5. bad
2. In a peace agreement with the Palestinians, should Israel agree or disagree to a territorial compromise and to the evacuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria?
- Should definitely agree 2. Should agree 3. Should disagree 4. Should definitely disagree.
3. And if it would not be possible to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the next few years, should Israel undertake another unilateral separation?
1. Yes definitely 2 Yes 3. No. 4. Definitely no
4. What are the odds that the peace between Israel and the Arab states will grow stronger in the next 3 years?
1. great odds 2. Medium odds 3. Low odds 4. Very low odds
5. And what are the odds for a war to break out between Israel and an Arab state in the next 3 years?
1. great odds 2. Medium odds 3. Low odds 4. Very low odds
6. Do you think it is possible to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians?
1. definitely yes 2. I think so 3. I don’t think so 3. Definitely no
7. What do you think are the aspirations of the Palestinians in the long run?
1. the return of some of the territories occupied in the six day war
2. the return of all of the territories occupies in the six day war
3. To conquer the state of Israel
4. To conquer the state of Israel and to destroy a significant part of the Jewish Population in Israel.
8. If there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab states do you think the Israel- Arab conflict will come to an end?
1. I’m sure it will come to an end 2. I think it will come to an end. 3. I think it won’t come to end. 4 I’m sure it won’t come to an end.
9. What should Israel stress in order to avoid war with an Arab state?
1. Having peace talks 2. Strengthening its military might
10. To what extent are you worried or not worried that you or a member of your family could be injured in your daily life?
1. Very worried 2. Worried 3. Worried 4. Not worried at all
11. Do you think Israel should agree or disagree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria as part of a permanent settlement?
1. Should definitely agree 2. I think should agree 3. I think should not agree 4. Should definitely not agree.
12. As a part of a permanent Arab settlement with the Palestinians, should Israel be prepared to give up or should it retain the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem in order to reach such a settlement?
1. Definitely give up 2. Give up 3. Retain 4. Definitely retain.
13. Should Israel return to Syria territories in the Golan in return for a peace treaty and security arrangements acceptable to the IDF?
1. No 2. Israel should return a small part of the Golan 3. Israel should return a significant part of the Golan 4. Israel should return all of the Golan Heights.
14. And what is your opinion regarding the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria as part of a permanent peace agreement?
1. Nothing should be evacuated. 2. I am prepared to evacuate small ad isolated settlements. 3. I am willing to evacuate all the settlements including the large blocks of settlements.
15. There is a lot of talk about left and right in politics. How would you rank yourself from 0 to 10? 0 , means left and 10 means right and 5 is in the middle.
Left 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Right
16. Where you in favour of the war in Gaza?
1. Yes, definitely. 2. Yes, mostly 3. Not sure 4. Not really 5. Not at all
17. Do you think that the war in Gaza achieved Israel’s objectives?
1. Yes definitely 2. Yes mostly 3. Not sure 2. Not really 5. Not at all
18. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a threat to think Iran is to the state of Israel? 0 means the not at all and 10 extremely.
Not at all 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Extremely
19. Do you think Israel should pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear capabilities?
1. Yes definitely 2. Maybe 3. Don’t know 4. I don’t think so 5. Absolutely not
20. Do you think Obama is good or bad for Israel?
1. Very bad 2. Bad 3. Indifferent 4. Good 5. Very good
Each survey will include questions specific to each conflict. For instance, the Iraq survey would include questions related to the conflict between the Suni and Shia sects whilst Iranians would be asked about the recent elections and their opinions regarding the nuclear weapons issue.
I shall find students in each of the countries to be surveyed who are willing to co-operate with my study by carrying out the surveys in their respective countries.
Once all results are collected, the data shall be processed using SPSS in order to analyze and compare the results. Variables will be grouped into indexes according to relevant topics of conflict resolution. The results shall be divided into two groups of men and women in order to discover the relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable. Results from each country shall initially be analyzed separately and later compared.
I expect the results I collect to be useful in providing statistical evidence for a hypothesis which is at present based largely on theoretical ideas. Although research studies of a similar kind have been carried out in the past, none have been as large-scale meaning that the hypothesis that women are more prone to peaceful solutions to conflict resolution than men has not been tested on such a universal level as I intend to do. It will be useful to see if and how results vary across countries and different types of conflicts and the study will add useful information to the discussion of the place of women in formal positions of conflict resolution. I expect to find a variation of results, between different types of states, however, ultimately I expect to find a general pattern that women are more supportive of peaceful means of conflict resolution that men. Women’s voices are far less heard and are far less influential in the political arena. Men are in control of politics and in control of the military. As was discussed in the literature review, many think that if these institutions had more female input, they would be run differently. It is therefore important to research the validity of this theory, and to explore women’s perspectives on peace and conflict in contrast to men’s.
Banducci, Susan. 2005 “Gender As a Variable in Studies of War and Peace: Variance and Context” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii. http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p72156_index.html (accessed 27.08.09)
Eccleshall, Robert; Geoghegan, Vincent; Jay, Robert; Kenny, Michael; Mackenzie, Iain; Wilford, Rick. 1994. “Feminism”. Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Routledge. London and New York.
Giles, W & Hyndman, J. 2004. Sites of Violence. Gender and Conflict Zones. University of California Press: Berkley, Los Angeles, London.
Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Golan, Galia. 1997. “Militarization and Gender: The Israeli Experience”. Women’s Studies International Forum. Vol. 20, Nos. 5/6.
Goldstein, Joshua S. 2001. “A puzzle: the cross-cultural consistency of gender roles in war.” War and Gender. Cambridge University Press.
Hunt, S. 2005 “Moving Beyond Silence: Women Waging Peace,” in Helen Durham and Tracy Gurd (eds.) Listening to the Silence: Women and War. Koninklijkej Brill, The Netherlands. Pp. 251-271. http://swaneehunt.com/articles/Moving_Beyond_Silence.pdf
Skjelsbaek, Inger &Smith, Dan (Eds.) 2001. Gender, Peace and Conflict. SAGE: London: Thousand Oaks: New Delhi.