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Towards A Genuinely Progressive Feminist Foreign Policy

Gabrielle Bardall has written an article on the current failings of Canada’s feminist international assistance policy, which is part of the government’s broader feminist foreign policy. In part, she writes:

A feminist approach to democracy development must be more than a simple numbers game to increase the number of women and minority groups in democratic institutions that sustain existing power structures. A feminist approach must instead involve people of all genders working together to advance democratic institutions, processes and values that disrupt those patriarchal power structures and prioritize gender equality across diverse populations and partisan lines. It is measured by the extent to which those institutions and processes are transformed by feminist principles and feminist actors (male and female), not just by the percentage of seats held by each sex.

In past professional settings I’ve been critical of Global Affairs Canada’s modes of applying gendered lenses and feminism into foreign policy processes, not because I disagree with doing so conceptually, but because it has so routinely felt non-progressive by focusing less on feminism and more on sex. Bardall‘s framing, of needing to move towards a non-neoliberal concept of feminism, nicely captures my disquiet and does so far more elegantly that I’ve managed in the years I’ve been stewing on this issue. Until a model of feminism is adopted into Canada’s foreign affairs policies that is explicitly anti-patriarchal then any adopted feminist approach will serve to principally adjust who is at the table without striving to redistribute power itself in a more equitable manner.