Peace Studies: Where are all the men?

22 Sep

It is the start of the academic year and I am delighted to say that we have a bumper crop of MA Peace and Conflict Studies students. I’m looking forward to the debates and the intellectual exchange. One thing that is noticeable about the class is its profile: it is overwhelmingly female. This is neither a new nor a Manchester phenomenon. I have noticed it at other universities, MA programmes and summer schools. The study of peace is a largely a female pursuit. Why?

There is merit to a socialisation argument. This goes much deeper than the common refrain that girls have Barbie Dolls and boys have GI Joe and Action Man. The socialisation and validation of gender specific roles and behaviours is often so embedded in societies that it is rarely questioned. If something is so familiar (like a piece of household furniture, for example), then it can persist for long periods unquestioned. Gender socialisation goes very deeply to the roles and tasks that gain approval among children and students. Deep in the very core of how society is organised, there is a sense that care-giving, empathy and a range of activities and emotions linked with fair-play are somehow ‘female’. Is it too much to speculate that Peace Studies (as opposed to War Studies) is somehow seen as being more appropriate for female students? Clearly gendered divisions are by no means absolute: both men and women study war and peace, and not all men and women fit easily into neat silos. But there is a discernible female preponderance in Peace Studies classes and it is probable that the reasons lie in deep in the organisation of society.

There is no problem per se in having classes dominated by one gender or the other. What matters is that all classrooms are inclusive learning environments. But I taught in a few summer schools where the female preponderance in the classroom did seem to have the effect of silencing the one or two male students who were present. This probably mirrors the situation in programmes (civil engineering perhaps) where there are only a few females.

While the study of peace at MA level is dominated by females, we cannot say that peace studies – as an academic profession – is dominated by females. Certainly there are senior female scholars out there – as journal editors, full professors, heads of department, and prominent theorists, researchers and teachers. The number seems to be growing too. But a rough head count of full professors suggests – to me at any rate – that females still lag behind in the seniority stakes. The key question is whether the current crop of younger female scholars will be able to progress their way up the career ladder or are the structural impediments too great?

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One Response to “Peace Studies: Where are all the men?”

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  1. Peace Studies: Where are all the men? - Manchester CallingManchester Calling - 05/10/2015

    […] Read the full blog by Professor Roger Macginty at rogermacginty.com […]

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