The relationship between men and women influences the larger order of societies across the globe. Donna Lee Bowen, professor emerita of Political Science and Middle East Studies/Arabic at Brigham Young University, recognizes the power of this insight.
This past March, Bowen published a book with Valerie M. Hudson and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen entitled The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide. Together, they expose the systematic subordination of women in marital, family, and kinship relations and the effect this subordination has on societies, including greater violence, instability, hunger, and economic decline.
The authors warn against Patrilineal Syndrome, where men seek to control women precisely because they are dependent on women for reproduction and social preservation. Bowen explains further: “These practices produce undesirable outcomes for women, families, and society. In our book we provide strong empirical proof of linkage between women’s subordination and negative outcomes in areas of political stability and governance, security and conflict, economic performance, economic rentierism, health and well-being, demographic security, education, social progress, and environmental protection.”
The book stems from research conducted by Bowen and her colleagues as part of the Kennedy Center’s WomanStats Project. As Bowen notes, “The germ for the book’s idea started with the formation of the WomanStats Project, whose aim is to make the link between the fate of nations and the status of women visible and demonstrable. As we worked together on our first journal article about the relationship between inequitable family laws and violence against women in 2012, the basic premise for the book started to take shape. The culmination was when we wrote the article on clan governance and state stability which explored the relationship between female subordination and political order in 2015.”
The final result is a pointed look into international gender politics, using empirical data from the WomanStats Project to provide real insight into how the subordination of women affects global security.
Visit the BYU Lee library to learn more about The First Political Order or purchase it through Columbia University Press.
—Erica Bassett and Emily Nelson, 19 January 2021