Meeting Global Feminist Objectives
In light of these concerns and obstacles—as in most studies examining gender violence in comparative perspective (e. g., Elman 1996; Weldon 2002; Kantola 2006; Zippel 2006)—this study relies on assessing responsiveness of the state and society rather than effectiveness. In other words, the study investigates the degree to which certain initiatives are taken up rather than assessing the complex relationship between initiatives, the services provided and received, and the incidence of gender violence. Despite the limitations in this approach, increasing responsiveness represents a de facto enhancement of women’s status, as increased state response “to assuage physical and sexual abuse of women. . . can, in effect, delegitimize male force and violence against women” (Elman 1996, 3).
To address the concerns raised about neoimperialism, I use as standards of responsiveness the broad, multifaceted initiatives imagined by global feminists. I further specify in the following chapters what global feminists see as best practices for addressing different forms of gender violence. Here, I summarize the global feminist goals as increased mobilization, awareness, and responsiveness. Underneath is the desire, as articulated in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, to “promote gender equality and empower women” in order to help women live fuller, richer lives.
The new global feminism is about promoting women’s mobilization at the local level. The consensus that overcame the deep divisions between feminists from the North and South required norms of inclusivity: a commitment to including different types of women, to creating separate organizations for disadvantaged groups, and to sustaining consensus even with dissent (Weldon 2006, 55). Activists working across divides also developed strategies such as “transversalism,” where each group gets an opportunity to talk openly about their values and experiences and then listens to the other group do the same, and “deliberative disagreements,” in which actors hold different views but commit to finding a mutually acceptable solution (Saarinen 2004). These new norms and strategies created the possibility to get beyond the universalistic (and thus divisive) global sisterhood model promoted by Northern feminists to a new global feminism. As such, any foreign intervention justified as global feminism would have to encourage the mobilization of women in the target country.
In this study, interventions are seen as successful to the degree to which they promote feminist mobilization in the target country of Russia. This is a question not simply of speed or even size, but of the quality of mobilization. Are Russian women’s groups, with foreign interventions, more or less capable of transforming gender by interacting with society and the state? The quality of mobilization and their capacity for activism is partially a question of resources, including money, but also access, influence, reputation, and expertise, some of which foreign intervention may augment (McCarthy and Zald 1975; Sperling, Ferree, and Risman 2001).4 Another important aspect is the degree to which organizations can coordinate their action, for example, how networked the various movement organizations are, an important way of keeping organizations involved in the movement (Tarrow 1994; Staggenborg 1989). Yet, the assessment of Russian mobilization must be put within the context of recent feminist mobilization worldwide that, in most places, looks more like formal NGOs than grassroots protests (Henderson 2003).
Although many women’s groups, in the Global North, South, and East, reject the term “feminism” for various reasons (Basu 1995), for analytical simplicity, I use the term “feminist” here to refer to organizing as women to challenge gender injustice, whether or not groups themselves embrace the label. In other words, I adopt a concept of de facto feminism, in which I consider as feminist all women’s groups and networks who seek social or political change to lessen sex/gender hierarchies (Moghadam 2005, 79). At the same time, I recognize that there are multiple feminisms locally and globally. Global feminist intervention is “simultaneously an encounter between two (or more) specific and concrete types of local feminism and also about constructing something that is new, different, and selfconsciously more globally framed than either was initially” (Sperling, Ferree, and Risman 2001).
Despite these limitations on the ground, global feminists, as a transnational social movement, have always sought more than just policy reform; they aim to transform the organization of social and political life. In the language of social structure, the global feminist movement aims to transform the global and local social structures of gender. This objective is encapsulated in the idea of raising awareness. In contrast to the consciousness-raising of Western feminist groups in the 1970s, raising awareness is typically an external process in which women’s groups use the mass media or public events to distribute information about violence against women. One of the most successful global campaigns is the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, from November 25, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, the International Human Rights Day.5 The hope is that these kinds of campaigns might also prevent some forms of gender violence, such as trafficking in women.
For this study, interventions are assessed as effective when they help transform public awareness of gender violence. Does intervention cultivate local activism and awareness campaigning? Does the intervention introduce—or assist local women’s organizations in introducing—new terminology for gender violence based on global feminist ideas and terms? Does the intervention promote— or help local women’s organizations promote—global feminist understanding of gender violence, such as seeing violence against women as a violation of women’s human rights? As I elaborate in chapter 4, raising awareness represents the “meaning work” of politics, that is, “discursive politics” (Fraser 1990). The assumption is that policy reform will likely follow shifts in the meanings of violence against women. This study uses insights from various schools of thought on discursive politics, including the anthropological discussion “appropriation,” “translation,” and making of global norms “into the vernacular” (Merry 2006a).