‘I don’t even know what gender is’: a discussion of the connections between gender, gender mainstreaming and feminist theory

Marysia Zalewski

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58 Citations (Scopus)


In this article I discuss some of the connections between gender, gender mainstreaming and feminist theory. As a global initiative, gender mainstreaming is now well established; but the role of feminism and feminists in achieving this success is questionable. Some, including Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley claim that feminists, particularly in the realm of governance feminism, have been extremely successful. Yet despite this success Halley invites us to ‘take a break from feminism’. I consider this political and intellectual invitation in this article in order to shed some light on the relationship between gender mainstreaming and feminism but also to probe what Robyn Wiegman refers to as a ‘critical incomprehension’ around feminism. My discussion includes a brief analysis of the imagery used in documentation relating to the United Kingdom's Gender Equality Duty Legislation; the latter a contemporary example of a legislative attempt to properly mainstream gender. In conclusion I return to the Halley's invitation to ‘take a break from feminism’ and introduce, by way of contrast, Angela McRobbie's recent discussion of post-feminism ultimately suggesting that we might see Halley's call, as well as the popularity (and ‘failures’) of gender mainstreaming as examples of post-feminist practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages25
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • masculinity
  • men

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