Gender and the Subject of (Anti)Nuclear Politics: Revisiting Women’s Campaigning against the Bomb


  • Author’s note: Many thanks to Claire Duncanson, Runa Das, and two anonymous ISQ reviewers for their constructive, thought-provoking feedback on earlier drafts of this article. Thanks also to Laura J. Shepherd for sharing her articles via email, and to the participants in the panel on feminism and nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War world at the Political Studies Association (UK) annual conference, Edinburgh, March 30–April 1, 2010, where the first draft of this article was presented.


This article aims to rehabilitate women campaigners against nuclear weapons as a focus of study and interlocutor for feminist International Relations scholars. Highlighting the recent tendency in gender and security studies to ignore or stereotype these campaigners, I first show how their critical re-investigation has been facilitated by recent systematizations of poststructuralist-influenced feminist methodology. In this light, I then revisit the discourses circulating in women’s antinuclear activism in the 1980s before deconstructing in more detail the post-Cold War writings of Helen Caldicott and Angie Zelter. I argue that multiple, differently gendered constructions of the antinuclear campaigner were in play during the Cold War and have since been reconfigured in ways that reflect and reproduce the shift to a post-Cold War context and differences between the United States and UK. In such ways, then, women antinuclear campaigners continue to develop diverse oppositional subject positions in their efforts to challenge nuclear hegemony, in a discursive struggle worthy of attention from gender and security scholars as part of a broader, critical re-engagement with the gendered dimensions of nuclear politics.