Gendered Power Relations

Away from Home: Iranian Women, Displacement, Cultural Resistance, and Change


Moghissi, Haideh. 1999. "Away from Home: Iranian Women, Displacement, Cultural Resistance, and Change." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 30 (2): 1-10.

Author: Haideh Moghissi


This article discusses the gender character of displacement. Using the example of the Iranian female diaspora, it argues that women's experience of displacement is relatively more positive than that of men, and women, generally, are more prepared and make more efforts to build a home away from home. However, the pressures for cultural resistance against the dominant culture and the institutional racism in the host country may counterbalance the impact of women's positive experiences. Under the banner of 'cultural resistance', patriarchal values and sexist norms are revitalized within the family as well as in the community, and the voices of dissent are muted and dismissed as outside influences.

Keywords: displacement, cultural resistance, diaspora, gender identity, migration


  • In her article, Moghissi argues that gender-based discrimination persisted within communities of displaced Iranian women despite the relatively progressive nature of their new environments. This persistence of conventional gender roles, she writes, stemmed from a desire to “maintain community dignity and cultural identity” (1) even if this compromised women’s rights. 
  • Many Iranians who have migrated to European countries feel the need to cling to elements of their culture that they feel define them, and the elements of their culture that they seek to uphold oftentimes involve gender roles. Although the majority of the Iranian diaspora community come from middle-class, secular, educated backgrounds, they still uphold Iranian traditions as a way to cope with their new environments. Moghissi’s research proves that women tend to deal with changes that moving entails better than their male counterparts; they are often able to find work in typically “male” spheres, whereas displaces Iranian men often leave the well-developed careers they had had in Iran for low-paying jobs elsewhere.
  • The racism that displaced Iranian women face in their new host societies also contributes to a desire to cling to old traditions. They crave a sense of belonging, so they often revert back to the patriarchal traditions that governed their past lives. Because the female Iranian daispora clings to these conventional gender norms, all “feminist” activity is categorized as outsider, Western influence. Despite this, Moghissi believes that through Iranian women’s involvement in the women’s movement abroad, they will “inevitably bring to their community more awareness about social problems in the host country and may inspire new commitments for it and force the community to get more involved in the struggle for social justice” (8).

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Households Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iran

Year: 1999

Engendering Caribbean Security: National Security Reconsidered from a Feminist Perspective


Thorburn, Diana. 1997. "Engendering Caribbean Security: National Security Reconsidered from a Feminist Perspective." Caribbean Quarterly 43 (3): 74-89.

Author: Diana Thorburn

Topics: Economies, Feminisms, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Security, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking Regions: Americas, Caribbean countries

Year: 1997

Victims and Vamps, Madonnas and Whores: The Construction of Female Drug Couriers and the Practices of the US Security State


Schemenauer, Ellie. 2012. "Victims and Vamps, Madonnas and Whores: The Construction of Female Drug Couriers and the Practices of the US Security State." International Feminist Journal of Politics 14 (1): 83-102.

Author: Ellie Schemenauer


This article explores how the US "war on drugs" depends on certain notions of femininity and womanhood. In particular, I examine how female couriers from the Americas are constructed at US border sites of international airports in the 1990s. I find that female drug couriers are described in terms of victims and vamps - a take off of the madonna/whore dichotomy. The victim and vamp discourses, I argue, are the performative enactments of a security state that operates according to a racialized logic of masculinist protection. I hold in tension the circulation of the victim/vamp discourses with the story of Paula, a Colombian woman who was caught trafficking heroin in hidden compartments of her suitcase. I use Paula's story to call attention to the political work in dismissing women as agents in the international drug trade.

Keywords: war on drugs, feminist perspectives, race, masculinity

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Masculinism, Security, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2012

The War on Drugs and the Gender Gap in Arrests: A Critical Perspective


Merolla, David. 2008. "The War on Drugs and the Gender Gap in Arrests: A Critical Perspective." Critical Sociology 34 (2): 255.

Author: David Merolla


Many theories of offending have been advanced in an effort to explain the increasing number of women arrested in recent years. In this article, I move away from individual level explanations of offending and attempt to explain this trend with a structural approach. Specifically, I argue that the 'war on drugs' has made females more vulnerable to arrest in recent years, regardless of offending behavior. I argue that two arms of the war on drugs, representing direct and ideological aspects of social control, work together to make women more likely to be arrested. This article contributes to the literature in two ways. First, it shows that scholars interested in the gender gap cannot ignore the war on drugs. Second, it shows the utility of a focus on the criminal justice system, and potentially other systems of social control, rather than individual level offending to explain trends in arrests. 

Keywords: criminal justice, war on drugs, vulnerability

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Justice Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2008

The Role of Women's Organizations in Post-Conflict Cambodia


Frieson, Kate G. 1998. The Role of Women's Organizations in Post-Conflict Cambodia. Washington: Center for Development Information and Evaluation, USAID.

Author: Kate G. Frieson

Keywords: post-conflict, women's organizations, intersectionality, socio-economics


"Two decades of conflict and genocide in Cambodia, in particular the rule of terror of the Khmer Rouge, have had devastating social, family, interpersonal, economic, and political effects on women. This report, one in a USAID-funded series on women in post-conflict societies, explores the role of the indigenous women's organizations (WOs) created and nurtured by the international community to improve the lot of Cambodian women. The WOs, though numbering only 18, are empowering women through vocational training and microcredit programs and by assisting victims of HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and trafficking and forced prostitution. They are also beginning to influence the political landscape through voter education and advocacy programs. According to one trainee: "Men cannot abuse women if women know their rights. Now we understand how to work together for justice." Yet WOs continue to face many obstacles. The country has no tradition of civil society organizations, government support is unstable, and WOs' dependence on external assistance limits their autonomy and capacity to fashion new programs. WO leadership is dominated by one charismatic figure reluctant to delegate authority. Most of the WOs have yet to develop an open management system in which the staff can discuss issues and problems freely. WOs require continual international support to survive and play an important role in improving women's social and economic conditions.

"The Cambodian experience inculcates the following major lessons: (1) Comprehensive, targeted interventions based on a coherent policy framework are needed to help women and reconstruct gender relations in post-conflict societies. Gender-blind policies and programs are not sufficient. (2) The war undermined the traditional sexual division of labor, creating new economic and political opportunities for women. Women entered into occupations closed to them earlier and held important national and local offices during the conflict. After the war, donors developed programs to consolidate those gains. This course can be followed in other post-conflict societies. (3) Education and training of women in refugee camps can prepare them to assume leadership roles in post-conflict societies. (4) Newly founded WOs can be used by the international community to channel humanitarian and developmental assistance in post-conflict societies. But WOs are also a means to help women gain self-respect and participate in decisionmaking. (5) WOs in post-conflict societies can develop local roots and gain political legitimacy despite dependence on international resources. (6) Donors should consider multi-year funding to allow WOs to focus on social, economic, and political development activities. (7) WOs often follow the example of international NGOs in their working conditions, spending considerable resources on four-wheel-drive vehicles, spacious offices, and large support staff. Such operations are questionable under the conditions of post-conflict societies. (8) Cambodian WOs should be encouraged to specialize instead of competing for external resources for similar programs." (This annotation is from

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Displacement & Migration, Refugee/IDP Camps, Economies, Education, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Genocide, Indigenous, Justice, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Rights, Women's Rights, Violence Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 1998

Feminist-Nation Building in Afghanistan: An Examination of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)


Fluri, Jennifer. 2008. "Feminist-Nation Building in Afghanistan: An Examination of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)." Feminist Review 89 (1): 34-54.

Author: Jennifer L. Fluri


Women-led political organizations that employ feminist and nationalist ideologies and operate as separate from, rather than associated with, male-dominated or patriarchal nationalist groups are both significant and under-explored areas of gender, feminist, and nationalism studies. This article investigates the feminist and nationalist vision of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). RAWA exemplifies an effective political movement that intersects feminist and nationalist politics, where women are active, rather than symbolic, participants within the organization, and help to shape an ideological construction of the Afghan nation. RAWA subsequently links its struggle for women's rights (through feminism) with its nationalist goals for democracy and secularism. This article also analyses RAWA's use of conservative nationalist methods to reproduce the future of the organization and to develop ‘citizens’ for its idealized nation, while countering existing patriarchal social and familial structures through a re-configuration of women's roles in the family, community, and nation. This inquiry is based on geographic and feminist examinations of RAWA's organizational structure, literature, and political goals obtained through content analyses of RAWA's political literature and through interviews with RAWA members and supporters living as refugees in Pakistan in the summer of 2003 and winter of 2004/05. RAWA is an instructive example of counter-patriarchal and nationalist feminist politics that questions patriarchal definitions of the nation and its citizenry by reconfiguring gender norms and redefining gender relations in the family as a mirror of the nation.

Keywords: feminist, nation-building, reconstruction, governance

Topics: Citizenship, Civil Society, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Governance, Nationalism, Political Participation, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan

Year: 2008

Rape as a Weapon of War: Advancing Human Rights for Women at the U.S.-Mexico Border


Falcón, Sylvanna. 2001. "Rape as a Weapon of War: Advancing Human Rights for Women at the U.S.-Mexico Border." Social Justice 28 (2): 31-50.

Author: Sylvanna Falcon


Falcón examines the gendered effects of militarization on women at the U.S.- Mexico border, particularly in the form of "militarized border rape" and sexual assault. For Falcón, militarization ideology is embedded with issues of hyper-masculinity, patriarchy, and threats to national security. She maintains that violence against women has escalated to the serial, multiple, and mass murders of Mexican women (e.g., in the border city of Ciudad Juárez).

Keywords: war on drugs, militarization, rape, national security

Topics: Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Security, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, SV against Women, Violence Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico, United States of America

Year: 2001

Gender, Race and Sentencing


Daly, Kathleen, and Michael Tonry. 1997. "Gender, Race, and Sentencing." Crime and Justice 22: 201-252.

Authors: Kathleen Daly, Michael Tonry


Race and gender pose empirical and policy problems that are both similar and different for the U. S. criminal justice system. They are similar in that blacks and women occupy subordinate social and economic positions in American life, and their interests are less likely to be represented in the justice system than are those of white men. They are different in that blacks are overrepresented in arrest statistics and jail and prison populations while women are underrepresented. If over- (or under-) representation is assumed to result from similar effects of bias and subordination, the two patterns are hard to explain. The empirical literature on criminal courts reveals policy dilemmas in achieving "just" sentencing practices. Blacks (and especially black men) may be more likely than white men or women to benefit from tightly limited discretion and limited individualization of sentencing whereas women (both black and white) may be more likely to benefit from broader discretion and greater individualization. Future policies will need to confront the competing demands of justice that race and gender pose in the official response to crime.

Keywords: criminal justice, intersectionality, race, incarceration

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Justice, Race Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 1997

Female Drug Smugglers on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Gender, Crime, and Empowerment


Campbell, Howard. 2008. "Female Drug Smugglers on the U-S.-Mexico Border: Gender, Crime, and Empowerment." Anthropological Quarterly 81 (1): 233-67.

Author: Howard Campbell


Women's involvement in drug trafficking in recent years has expanded dramatically. Yet there are few studies of female drug smugglers, the causes of female involvement in smuggling, and the impact of smuggling on women's lives specifically. In this article, I provide in-depth ethnographic interviews and observations of a broad spectrum of female drug smugglers on the U.S. Mexico border. Moving beyond stereotypes, I examine how drug trafficking affects women's relationships with men and their position in society. Economic and cultural factors strongly shape women's involvement in drug smuggling and the effects of smuggling on their lives, but these factors and effects vary significantly, depending on women's social class position and place within drug organizations. High-level female drug smugglers may be attracted to the power and mystique of drug trafficking and may achieve a relative independence from male dominance. Middle-level women in smuggling organizations obtain less freedom vis-á-vis men but may manipulate gender stereotypes to their advantage in the smuggling world. Low-level mules also perform (or subvert) traditional gender roles as a smuggling strategy, but receive less economic benefit and less power, though in some cases some independence from male domestic control. A fourth category of women do not smuggle drugs but are negatively impacted by the male smugglers with whom they are associated. I argue that drug smuggling frequently leads to female victimization, especially at the lowest and middle levels of drug trafficking organizations. However, it is also, in the case of high-level and some low-level and middle-level smugglers, a vehicle for female empowerment.

Keywords: war on drugs, patriarchy, shadow economies

Topics: Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico, United States of America

Year: 2008

Gender Violence: A Development and Human Rights Issue


Bunch, Charlotte, and Roxanna Carrillo. 1991. Gender Violence: A Development and Human Rights Issue. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Women's Global Leadership.

Authors: Charlotte Bunch, Roxanna Carrillo


This document includes two articles describing the failure of the international human rights movement to consider or remedy the situation of women outside of the basic demand for political rights of people in general. The first article, "Women's Rights as Human Rights: Toward a Re-Vision of Human Rights" (Charlotte Bunch), emphasizes the responsibility of governments and patriarchy for the perpetuation of violence against women. Little is done to remedy domestic violence, and in many countries females are routinely denied education, health care, and proper nutrition, with the result that they are unable to escape from the subjugated position that is traditional to the culture. The article explores the importance and difficulty of connecting women's rights to human rights. Four basic approaches that have been used to make the connection are: (1) women's rights as political and civil rights, (2) women's rights as socio-economic rights, (3) women's rights and the law, and (4) a feminist transformation of human rights. The second article, "Violence Against Women: An Obstacle to Development" (Roxanna Carrillo), specifically looks at strategies for combating violence against women as related to development planning. At multiple program levels, an awareness of cultural specific forms of gender violence can help identify and overcome obstacles impeding women's participation. Such programs must recognize that change can be threatening and can result in more violence. Women must be trained in communication skills, awareness of possible actions, management skills, and self defense. On a very direct level, projects can test one or more education campaigns and seek to make violence unacceptable within a society.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Humanitarian Assistance, Context-Appropriate Response to Trauma, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 1992


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