Why We Need a Feminist Domestic and Foreign Policy: New Research

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that “women’s work,” or the care economy, is essential work. In a recent article, I wrote about the essential infrastructure workers whose jobs were deemed too important to be halted in the pandemic but who are also usually underpaid, undervalued, and unseen. These roles are also overwhelmingly filled by women and, specifically, women of color. Lyric Thompson and Gawain Kripke of NBC News report that a growing number of policymakers in the United States are calling for a domestic “feminist response” to the pandemic. Representative Jackie Speier, D-CA, explains that a feminist policy response means “treating women as the essential workers they’ve always been” by providing

  • Economic security with a fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage
  • Hazard pay
  • Universal paid family and medical leave
  • A robust safety net
  • Subsidized childcare
  • Domestic violence prevention funding

New research, reported by Thompson and Kripke, calls for a feminist foreign policy as well. This report shares a reason why female leaders appear to have more success in fighting the pandemic: the female leaders emphasize “empathy, human dignity and care rather than pitting the formal economy against the goal of saving lives.”

Thompson and Kripke note that the new research, based on a broad review of feminist policies in other countries, a global summit of government leaders, and consultation with activists in forty countries, refines the global picture into a tailored vision of what feminist foreign policy would look like. Here are the key points from their findings. A feminist foreign policy would

  • Call for a feminist economic recovery, similar to what the state of Hawaii has done, that prioritizes the care economy and the health and well-being of the most marginalized: indigenous women, women of color, incarcerated people, aging women, domestic violence survivors, and LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Reconceptualize the idea of “national interest”—a shift from prioritizing military security, profit, dominance, and competition toward putting people’s health and personal safety, peace, and inclusion first. It’s an approach that invests in public health around the world, lifting up and caring for the most marginalized, and it emphasizes collaboration and learning.
  • Emphasize the importance in the international arena of cooperation and care, including restoring funding to the World Health Organization, reinvesting in the UN Family Planning Program, leading global efforts to respond to gender-based violence, returning to the Paris Climate Agreement and making new commitments to go beyond those goals, consciously supporting female farmers, and investing in the indigenous women who organize communities to salvage ecosystems and foster resilience.

Having a domestic and foreign feminist policy approach is possible. Thompson and Kripke note that several other countries are in the process of implementing policies that require equal numbers of women and men in leadership positions and taking women’s rights issues into account in matters from trade to immigration to diplomatic engagement and aid programs. It’s possible in the United States too.


Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash

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