The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


Gender equality is increasingly understood as fundamental to international development, despite how the field differs from feminism in its intellectual tradition and ultimate goals. However, legitimacy, gender and understandings of gender equality are transnational and not global modalities, and even the most well-meaning institutions are not absent from global power relations or individual subjectivities. Often located in the “West,” international development organizations frequently make assumptions shaped by Western hegemony and therefore reproduce the very inequalities they claim to address. I explore the overlaps and asymmetries between transnational feminism and the gender equality programs of international development organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. These institutions and others like them reproduce hegemonic inequalities in three areas: first, imaginative geographies of power; second, understandings of gender and gendered subjects; and third, definitions of success in gender equality. For a truly transformative gender agenda, development organizations must recognize the politics of their locations, as well as the perhaps surprising extents and limits of transnational power and solidarity.