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Gender vs. Diversity Mainstreaming: A Preliminary Examination of the Role and Transformative Potential of Feminist Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 December 2005

Olena Hankivsky
Simon Fraser University


Abstract. This paper considers why gender mainstreaming (GM), a strategy that many have claimed holds promise for transforming public policy and working towards social justice, is inherently limited and flawed. The paper begins with a brief overview of GM, specifically focusing on the Canadian context, and highlights current discussions in the literature regarding issues of implementation and best practices. It then moves on to reveal that a critical but overlooked dimension of GM is its theoretical foundation. In contextualizing GM within a contemporary feminist theory framework, the paper seeks to illuminate the problematic relationship that currently exists between GM and feminist theory and, moreover, demonstrates why the theoretical premises of GM need significant reworking. The argument put forward is that if insights of recent feminist theorizing are taken seriously, it becomes clear that GM should be replaced by an alternative and broader strategy of diversity mainstreaming. Through the use of practical examples, the paper illustrates how diversity mainstreaming is able to better capture, articulate and make visible the relationship between simultaneously interlocking forms of oppressions that include but are not limited to gender.

Résumé. Cet article étudie pourquoi l'intégration d'une perspective de genre (IPG), une stratégie dans laquelle beaucoup ont vu la promesse d'une transformation de la politique publique et d'un progrès vers la justice sociale, est en soi limitée et défectueuse. L'article débute par un bref exposé sur l'IPG, s'intéressant principalement au contexte canadien, et il met en évidence les discussions actuelles dans la littérature au sujet de problèmes de mise en oeuvre et de pratiques exemplaires. Il révèle ensuite qu'une dimension critique mais négligée de l'IPG est son fondement théorique. En contextualisant l'IPG dans un cadre de théorie féministe contemporaine, l'article cherche à éclairer la relation problématique qui existe actuellement entre l'IPG et la théorie féministe et, de surcroît, démontre pourquoi les prémisses théoriques de l'IPG nécessitent une révision significative. L'argument avancé est que, si l'on prend au sérieux les conclusions des théories féministes récentes, il semble évident que l'IPG devrait être remplacée par une stratégie plus vaste d'intégration d'une perspective de diversité. S'appuyant sur des exemples pratiques, l'article montre que l'intégration d'une perspective de diversité réussit à mieux capturer, mettre en rapport et rendre visible la relation entre des formes d'oppression qui s'entrecroisent simultanément et qui incluent mais ne se limitent pas au genre.

Research Article
© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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