Here we provide a critical reading of gender mainstreaming as a potential emancipatory force that has been co-opted within Orientalist-Occidentalist polemics. This remains a critical period in the “mainstreaming” debate, where feminist reappropriation is necessary to repoliticize the concept and reorient development sector focus from tokenistic inclusivity to social transformation. We consider two sides of the debate. In the first scenario, the requirement for gender mainstreaming in international development discourse has not only failed to address its original feminist goals, but has become (or remained) an extension of Orientalist, neocolonial projects to control and “civilize” developing economies. Here, a putative concern for gender equality in development is used as a means to distinguish between the modern, civilized 'One' and the colonial, traditional 'Other'. In the second scenario, gender mainstreaming is held up as all that these “othered” Occidentalist forces stand against; an exemplar of the inappropriate imposition of “Western” moralistic paradigms in non-Western contexts. Ultimately, the co-optation of gendered discourses in development through these Orientalist-Occidentalist polemics serves to obfuscate the continued depoliticization of mainstreaming. A critical question remains: can gender mainstreaming ever transcend this discursive impasse and reassert its feminist transformatory potential?