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Inclusion, Solidarity, and Social Movements: The Global Movement against Gender Violence

  • S. Laurel Weldon (a1)

Women's movements are increasingly divided along lines of race, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. When such division obstructs cooperation, women lose their most effective advocates in the public sphere. How can movements overcome these divisions and improve their influence on policy and society? In some contexts, it seems that activists are able to overcome such divisions without denying politically salient conflicts. The transnational movement against gender violence, for example, mobilizes people not only across differences of race, class and sexuality but also across differences of language, national context, level of development, and the like. How do they do this? I argue that the movement against gender violence has achieved cooperation through the development of norms of inclusivity. Such norms include a commitment to descriptive representation, the facilitation of separate organization for disadvantaged social groups, and a commitment to building consensus with institutionalized dissent. Developing such norms is not the only possible path to cooperation, but it is an important and overlooked one. It illuminates a way of maintaining solidarity and improving policy influence without denying or sublimating the differences and conflicts among activists. Existing scholarship on social movements that attributes successful cooperation to shared interests, identities, or opportunities, is incomplete because it does not take account of relations of domination among activists who cooperate. Attending to the context of structural inequality in which social movements operate improves our understanding of social mobilization and illuminates overlooked paths to cooperation.S. Laurel Weldon is associate professor of political science at Purdue University ( The author thanks Jane Mansbridge for her help. Thanks also to Karen Beckwith, Elisabeth Clemens, Jennifer Hochschild, Aaron Hoffman, Debra Liebowitz, and Iris Young for comments on earlier drafts. Thanks to Anne Walker and Vicki Semler for helpful conversations, and to Charlotte Bunch, Arvonne Fraser, and Jutta Joachim for helping with key details. Reviewers for Perspectives provided many valuable suggestions. Errors and shortcomings remain my responsibility.

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