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Gender, masculinities and women’s empowerment

Gender, masculinities and women’s empowerment

Feminist thought has contributed a great deal to our understanding of heteronormativity – particularly through theorising on the concept of patriarchy, and work to challenge beliefs about the natural superiority of men over women. Yet sexuality is considered a trivial issue by some feminists. Other believe that is solely the preserve of white, middle class women. Feminists working on women’s empowerment have also done less work on how gender norms impact upon men and ‘other genders’. The surge of interest in recent years in men and masculinities within international development has provided new and enlightening ways of looking at the intersections between colonialism, class, ethnicity and gender and how they impact upon sexuality.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism and identity politics have led to a greater visibility of homosexuality and challenged the development sector to acknowledge same sex desire. However, even LGBT politics have not always challenged heteronormativity. Indeed, some gay and lesbian cultures replicate and reinforce strict gender norms, policing their own behaviour, with violent, racist and homophobic results for those who do not conform to particular conceptions of ‘LGBT’.

Understanding the power and impact of heteronormativity may provide new opportunities to create alliances amongst these sometimes disparate groups.

(Image credits: chrisdonia/ Flickr under Creative Commons License)

Bringing Together Pleasure and Politics: Sexuality Workshops in Rural India
J. Sharma / Institute of Development Studies, Sussex [ES] 2010
What are the linkages between sexuality and violence against women -beyond sexual violence? Do poor rural women want to talk about sex? What does it mean to take a political approach to sexuality? Should pleasure be a part of this pol...