- Editors’ Note:Get in Formation
Last year, a prominent female foreign policy expert came to us in tears. “What do I have to do to be acknowledged?” she asked in exasperation. She felt that a male colleague had been recommended over her to speak on an important panel. During meetings, her bosses seemed to credit her male colleagues with ideas that she had brought up. Editors, she said, rarely replied to her pitches. She felt insecure and unheard. Maybe, she said, she wasn’t as smart as she thought.
“If I were a man, I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with such paralyzing self-doubt,” she said. “This wouldn’t even be a problem.”
Certainly the U.S. election won’t lift the unsettling feeling that a woman’s competence is valued less than a man’s confidence. How else could an extremely smart, articulate, and experienced woman lose the U.S. presidency to a reality TV star who boasts about sexually assaulting women? While some respectfully disagree with her economic and foreign policies, the bulk of attacks against Hillary Rodham Clinton have always been gendered: She’s “shrill”; she should smile more; and she lacks “stamina.” At the same time, Trump’s well-documented misogyny, sexual abuse, racism, and ineptitude weren’t enough to keep him from the White House.
As long as men dominate institutions and nodes of power, we will continue to turn to men as authorities. We will continue to seek male approval, male opinions, and male guidance. Worse, we will continue to accept men’s flaws and dismiss their ignorance and transgressions.
It’s true: Women have made waves in the highest of offices around the world this year. As one male foreign policy expert tweeted at us, as if to counter the existence of gender imparity, President Barack Obama’s top three national security advisers are women. Rome and Tokyo voted in women as mayors. Myanmar and Estonia welcomed female heads of state. Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s first female president. Theresa May took charge at 10 Downing. While each has helped shatter glass ceilings, the perception that women are leaders and experts with value and wisdom to impart must constantly be defended and justified.
Men continue to dominate policy matters, boardroom decisions, fellowships, professorships, and opinion pages. Women are usually represented, but often their presence is a box to be checked.
Boxes, in any form, suit a bygone era—a past in which most problems did not immediately pour over borders or go viral. It was a time when problems could be packaged in morning newspapers and tackled over cigars in oak-paneled rooms. Today’s hyper-connected world has yielded challenges that can no longer be contained to a particular time or place. From pandemics to warfare, current affairs move in real time and at tremendous speed. But while urgency and reach have upended foreign policy, they have yet to upend our approach to it.
In today’s world, solutions no longer lie in the hands of heads of state or foreign ministers. And they can no longer be constructed in the minds of only half the population. [End Page 1]
This issue, penned entirely by female foreign policy experts and journalists, imagines a world where women are accepted—a world where we wouldn’t need to interrupt to be heard at the table. In reconstructing a media landscape where the majority of foreign policy experts quoted, bylined, and miked are not men, we quickly gain deeper insight into a complex world, one historically narrated by only one segment of society.
How far off is this reimagined world? According to data: far. In the United States, women author about a quarter of the op-eds published. On the front page of The New York Times this summer, World Policy Journal found that men were quoted nearly three times more often than women. For the last two years, we’ve conducted studies on foreign policy analysis in conjunction with Media Matters for America. The results are a 1950s redux: Women made up roughly a fifth of foreign policy guests on major American news programs in 2014...