Cynthia Enloe

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Cynthia Enloe (born July 16, 1938) is a feminist writer and professor.


Enloe spent her early life on Long Island in a New York suburb. After completing her undergraduate education at Connecticut College in 1960 (which, Enloe reports in The Curious Feminist, had one of the highest rates amongst colleges in the American Northeast of married female students), she went on to earn an M.A. in 1963 and a Ph.D. in 1967 in political science at the University of California, Berkeley.[1] For much of her professional life she taught at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Having retired from Clark, Enloe is a research professor in the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment. She is a former Director of Clark University’s Women Studies program and still a frequent and energetic lecturer. In addition to serving as an editor for such scholarly journals as Signs and the International Feminist Journal of Politics, Cynthia Enloe has written nine books, mostly published by the University of California Press. Much of Enloe’s research centers on women’s place in national and international politics. Her books cover a wide range of issues encompassing gender-based discrimination as well as racial, ethnic and national identities.

She lives in Boston with partner Joni Seager

Important writings[edit]

In The Curious Feminist, Enloe pays particular attention to the effect of globalization on women’s labor and wage ratios. This book not only addresses women’s roles in economic markets, world conflicts, and power politics, but also shows Enloe’s particular interest in linking these themes to women’s everyday lives. She addresses themes similar to those in Bananas, Beaches and Bases, but in this book she also discusses how she became interested in becoming a feminist. She asserts that curiosity as a feminist means that no woman’s life should be beyond the scope of her interest. She also focuses on the influence of American culture on women of other nations and scrutinizes the masculine aspects of such well-established organizations as the United Nations and the American military. Among other things, she explains that, though she views violence as fundamentally masculine, she does not view only men as perpetrators of violence.[2]

Bananas, Beaches, and Bases[3] presents sexism as a prevalent issue and gives readers a look at the history of such commonplace components of the modern world as the tourism industry. Enloe displays the links between women of different cultures during the 1800s. Enloe discusses colonialism in light of the typically held perceptions of the masculine West and the feminine East. Discussing women from varied cultures, Enloe investigates how Muslim women, among others, felt compelled to validate their cultural practices in the face of Orientalism. This book argues that lack of understanding of foreign cultures and fascination with the differences in clothing and lifestyles of indigenous and colonial populations contributed to their continued subjugation.

In Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives Enloe elaborates upon the theme of militarization and how governments utilize women’s labor in the process of preparing for and fighting wars.[4]

In ‘Gender’ is not enough: the need for feminist consciousness, Enloe reviews previous conversations with colleagues and fellow feminists, regarding masculinity and international relations. It is mentioned that women are generally disengaged in the UN’s wartime peace process of ‘DDR’: disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Enloe comments on a recent meeting she attended pertaining to ‘gender and small arms trade’, and how attempts to focus the UN gathering on masculinity had been largely unsuccessful. The matter of international relations and masculinity is addressed, and with that, the concern of masculinity of peacemaking efforts in relation to security. Conversation about the politics of masculinity is quickly dismissed by delegates, suggesting the fear of having their masculinity – and therefore reputation in the world of international relations – examined. As important as it is to address the dynamics of masculinity in politics and specifically in international relations, it is also crucial not to neglect the women and girls. When masculinity is given proper thought, it seems the topic of feminism becomes non-existent. The invisibility of women in military measures and the political disregard for the needs and ideas of women and girls are highlighted and given proper context. Enloe discusses the question of serious feminist analysis in international relations. Two potential fears arise from this question; first, thought of one’s own relationship to masculinity is necessary when deciding what is deemed a ‘serious’ issue; and second, the potential to be seen as feminine based on one’s judgment of said ‘serious’ issue and therefore the possibility of being valued as less credible. Enloe warns the issues of letting masculinity and men override all aspects of international relations. She speaks of her own difficulties with writing candidly about women and the military and her fears of not being recognized as a legitimate political scientist because of her particular views. The stigma behind feminist thought in international relations needs to be reviewed and resolved. Enloe makes very clear that there is still an immense need for the study of masculinity in international relations and political economy. In order to better develop the international relations discipline, it is imperative that ‘gender’ be given a broader scope. In order to do so, there must be a feminist consciousness throughout the international relations community, as well as at the local level. A feminist consciousness will instill the education and interest in women and girls through their experiences, actions and ideas. Enloe finishes by reminding that without a proper feminist consciousness; we cannot fully comprehend or accurately analyze masculinity.[5]

Selected other writings[edit]



Research Profile for Cynthia Enloe Clark University website. (accessed March 27, 2007).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Enloe, Cynthia. 2004. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in The New Age of Empire. London: University of California Press, p. 158.
  2. ^ Enloe, The Curious Feminist, pg. 133.
  3. ^ Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  4. ^ Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives. London: University of California Press, pg. 33.
  5. ^ Enloe, Cynthia. “Gender is Not Enough: The Need for a Feminist Consciousness.” International Affairs 80. (2004): 95-97.

External links[edit]