Gender mainstreaming as a knowledge process: towards an understanding of perpetuation and change in gender blindness and gender bias
Cavaghan, Rosalind Munro
This thesis locates itself in wider developments in gender theory and examinations of the state’s production of gender inequality. It responds to two research problems in existing literature. Firstly, scholars have developed increasingly complex theorisations of the social construction of gender and the state’s role in it. This body of research has shown how gender blindness and gender bias in state policies produce inequality and how gender structures priorities, hierarchies and roles within state organisations. Fully operationalising these insights has, however, thus far proved difficult. Secondly, whilst existing research provides a nuanced picture of these multiple dynamics involved in the state’s reproduction of gender inequality, we cannot yet fully account for the processes through which these dynamics are maintained. As a result, our explanations of how change could be achieved are also under-developed. This thesis uses gender mainstreaming (GM) implementation as a model to explore these research problems, examining the processes underlying the ‘disappointing’ policy outcomes which existing analyses of GM implementation have documented (Bretherton 2001, Daly 2005, Mazey 2000). Whilst these existing studies provide an essential starting point, this thesis argues that many have applied an implicitly rigid or rationalistic approach to policy analysis, highlighting the disparity between the intended and actual outcomes of GM. This kind of approach fails to operationalise our understanding of the construction of gender as a process and a constantly renegotiated phenomenon. It also fails to exploit the research opportunities which GM implementation provides. To enable such an analysis, this thesis draws together literatures from policy studies, particularly interpretative policy analysis (Colebatch 2009, Pressman and Wildavsky 1984, Yanow 1993) and science and technology studies/the sociology of knowledge (STS/SK) (Latour and Callon 1981, Law 1986) to apply an understanding of policy implementation as a process of negotiation, where we analyse how policy is interpreted, understood and enacted, on the ground. This perspective emphasises how local responses to strategic policy demands emerge through collective processes of interpretation, which are heavily affected by pre-existing policy assumptions, activities and practices (Wagenaar 2004, Wagenaar et al 2003). These concepts are used to operationalise the concept of gender knowledge (Andresen and Doelling 2002, Caglar 2010, Cavaghan 2010, 2012, Doelling 2005) to investigate how shared (non)perceptions of gender inequality are institutionalised and perpetuated, whilst competing notions are marginalised. Thus developed, the gender knowledge concept enables us to grasp and analyse (non)perceptions of the gender inequality issue; the evidence or ways of thinking which underpin them; and the processes, materials and persons involved in institutionalising them to the exclusion of competing perceptions. This approach therefore operationalises the notion that gender and gendering is a process and connects the ‘genderedness of organisations’ (Benschop and Verloo 2006, Rees 2002) to gendered policy outputs. Examining ‘what is happening’ when GM is implemented in this manner provides an opportunity to identify mechanisms of resistance, i.e. the processes through which the production of gender inequality is maintained. By corollary, examining ‘successful’ incidences of GM implementation provides empirical examples of how change has occurred. The project thus aims to produce theoretical insights which can be extrapolated to a wider understanding of the perpetuation of the state production of gender inequality.
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