Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Caught between the orientalist–occidentalist polemic: gender mainstreaming as feminist transformation or neocolonial subversion?

Clisby, Suzanne; Enderstein, Athena-Maria


Suzanne Clisby

Athena-Maria Enderstein


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?


Clisby, S., & Enderstein, A. (2017). Caught between the orientalist–occidentalist polemic: gender mainstreaming as feminist transformation or neocolonial subversion?. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 19(2), 231-246.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 7, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 21, 2017
Publication Date Apr 3, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 7, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 21, 2018
Journal International Feminist Journal of Politics
Print ISSN 1461-6742
Electronic ISSN 1468-4470
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 231-246
Keywords Co-optation, Feminism, Gender mainstreaming, Occidentalism, Orientalism
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:


You might also like

Downloadable Citations