What Became of 'Frontline Feminism'? A Retro-Perspective on Post-Conflict Belfast


Cockburn, Cynthia. 2013. “What Became of 'Frontline Feminism'? A Retro-Perspective on Post-Conflict Belfast.” Feminist Review 105 (1): 103-21.

Author: Cynthia Cockburn


A feminist stock-taking on ‘post-conflict’, this paper revisits a study made by the author in 1996–1997, when the women’s community sector was a lively actor in the processes leading to the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998. Refusing to observe sectarian conflict lines, women’s centres were re-writing official ‘community development’ policy as community empowerment and political challenge. The author draws on new interviews conducted in 2012 with feminist community activists of that earlier period of ‘frontline feminism’, associated with the Belfast Women’s Support Network. The women reveal how continuing poverty, discrimination, violence and unhealed trauma still characterise working-class life in the post-conflict period, and impede the integration of Protestant and Catholic communities. Official provisions for gender equality have been interpreted in gender-neutral ways, and in some cases turned against women. The demilitarisation of masculinity has been painfully slow. The women’s community sector has experienced a loss of political drive as women’s centres have become service providers, dependent on state funding. Feminism is renewing itself, but in fresh forms with different priorities. Will it recover a voice that ‘speaks truth to power’?

Keywords: women, post-conflict, feminism, Northern Ireland, community

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, Trauma, Post-Conflict Regions: Europe, Western Europe Countries: Ireland

Year: 2013

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.