The central question of this book came from the more hopeful moment, asking whether foreign intervention in the name of women works. Looking at the period of intense foreign intervention, the book considers what happens when Westerners bring attention to an issue ignored by a state such as Russia. Although we are still far from knowing what policies and practices are most effective at eradicating violence, we can ask whether interventions at least achieve the objectives that transnational feminists seemed to have agreed upon: to foster women’s mobilization and activism, to cultivate a new public awareness of violence against women, and to shift policy and practice toward recognizing violence against women as a human rights violation. To address these questions, I compare various types of intervention into Russian gender violence politics and policymaking from the early 1990s to the middle of the first decade of the new millennium.
The findings suggest the possibility for some success. Regrettably, the least coercive interventions—the alliance between transnational feminists and human rights advocates to monitor, blame, and shame the authorities for their dismal response to gender violence—are insufficient, at best leading to superficial changes. But, given already-existing local interest in the issues, the Russian case suggests that the addition of significant and sustained financial assistance can lead to greater awareness of gender violence and more responsiveness. On the other hand, the most aggressive interventions—by strong states using “sticks,” not just “carrots”—may trigger rapid policy reform but prioritize the concerns of the strong state, not of global or local feminists. Most significantly, the study suggests that achieving global feminist objectives is more likely when there is more of a consensus on “best practices” and when transnational feminists and local activists are included in the intervention process. In terms of theorizing feminist change in non-Western contexts, the book advances the argument that, in the aftermath of the Cold War and the global feminist consensus, study of gender politics must blend the traditional political science fields of comparative politics and international relations to elucidate the nexus between the global and the local.