Alletta Brenner


The aim of this paper is to examine how a language of “women’s rights” entered into foreign policy discourses of the Bush Administration in the period of 2001-2004. Through a discursive analysis of speeches, press releases, interviews and written documents, I find that feminist-inspired language and concepts entered into the mainstream discourse on numerous occasions throughout this period, though usually in the service of other foreign policy objectives. In this analysis, I identify three primary “dialogical frames” in which such references appear, labelling these: “Us vs. Them,” “The Active Leader,” and “The Moral Community.” Many feminists have argued that these kinds of references are disingenuous “gender decoys.” While politically motivated calculation clearly played a role in this discourse, I argue that ideology and identity must also be taken into account as influencing factors. In conclusion, while problematic, the use of such language by the Bush Administration (or any government for that matter) also presents a discursive opening through which more substantive change may be achieved.

Author Biography

Aletta Brenner is currently studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. She wrote this essay while working towards her MSc in International and European Politics at Edinburgh University.