Gender mainstreaming: the appropriation of feminist discourses in development?

Suzanne Clisby (University of Hull)
Maggie Bolton (University of Aberdeen)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Gender mainstreaming is a response to feminist and anthropological critiques of gender disparities in development. This panel calls for an analysis of gender mainstreaming from a feminist anthropological perspective and aims to critically explore issues of ownership and appropriation therein.

Long abstract:

Gender mainstreaming' is heralded as a major global strategy for ensuring the incorporation of gender perspectives and the promotion of equality in all areas of social development. Placing gender mainstreaming on the international development agenda can be perceived as a successful outcome of feminist/GAD and anthropological discourse and activism. The question is, how has this policy been translated in terms of practice and what are the real consequences of that discourse? The incorporation, for example, of 'gendered' terminology into policy without the corresponding implementation at all levels can serve to blunt women's calls for change on the grounds that their concerns have already been addressed. More critically, is gender mainstreaming being subverted as a tool for the appropriation of women's knowledge, interests and concerns in social development arenas? Does the terminology of gender obscure women and facilitate the continuation of male dominance over development processes? Does it impose an inappropriate model of womanhood on non-Western women? Has, then, the incorporation of feminist critiques into international development discourse subverted feminist theories of ownership and appropriation? Finally, to what extent has the requirement for 'gender mainstreaming' in international development discourse become an extension of a neo-liberal/neo-colonial project to control and 'civilise' developing economies? Is a putative concern for gender equality in development being used as another means to distinguish between the modern, civilised One and the colonial, traditional Other? We invite papers that explore one or more of these questions: we would especially welcome contributions from feminist anthropologists engaged in development.