Intersectional and Cross-Movement Politics and Policies: Reflections on Current Practices and DebatesSigns


Mieke Verloo
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Intersectional and Cross-Movement Politics and Policies: Reflections on Current Practices and


Author(s): Mieke Verloo

Source: Signs, Vol. 38, No. 4, Intersectionality: Theorizing Power, Empowering Theory (Summer 2013), pp. 893-915

Published by: The University of Chicago Press

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Accessed: 27/08/2013 00:35

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Intersectional and Cross-Movement Politics and Policies:

Reflections on Current Practices and Debates

M i e k e V e r l o o1 The concept of interference between inequalities is developed in Verloo ð2009, 2011Þ. I use “interference” as a broad term, as it is used in physics, to keep open the option that in-political and policy practices, categorizing the different ways in whichmove-This article sets out to find strategies that in one way or another try to counter the ongoing reproduction of inequalities within movements and policies. It does so by drawing on academic literature and other reports ofS ome crucial social theory predicts that policies and movements thatwork against inequalities can be set up to achieve equality for certaindisadvantaged, marginalized, or exploited groups but that social movements and policy makers will find it very hard to escape the dominant discourses that created the inequalities, especially if the subject position from which they choose to fight inequalities is linked to these discourses ðFoucault 1972; Tilly 1998Þ. Moreover, power mechanisms—such as opportunity hoarding by exploited or marginalized groups and adaptation to the categorical pairs that form the basis of exploitation—will be hard if not impossible to counter ðTilly 1998Þ.

Yet historically we see that movements and policies can achieve progress toward equality, as has been the case for gender equality ðWalby 2011Þ.

Even if it is clearly possible to highlight ongoing inequality, exploitation, and marginalization in the globalized world, there is a long list of exploited and dehumanized categories of people who have gained access to fundamental human and democratic rights over the last century, such as the right to education, to bodily integrity, to vote, to marry, to have property, to have equal access to public services, or to live as a family. This article does not challenge these achievements but uses strong theoretical arguments that predict an ongoing reproduction of inequalities to scrutinize howmovements and policies deal with inequalities that interfere with one another.1

Are there ongoing inequalities within equalitymovements and policies, and how are they dealt with? The specific case at hand is feminist movements and gender equality policies and how they address what Kimberle´ Williams

Crenshaw ð1989Þ calls political intersectionality.equalities can strengthen one another, specify one another, or cancel one another out. Which of these they do is a matter of empirical evidence. [Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2013, vol. 38, no. 4] © 2013 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0097-9740/2013/3804-0005$10.00

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions dangers involved. The main section then presents four approaches that 894 y Verloohave been detected in movement and policy practices. I conclude by discussing the potential and limitations of these four approaches in terms of the conceptual questions presented earlier.

Approaches in existing gender equality policies

Equality policies are commonly believed to address social processes that turn differences between people—in how they live, what they own, who they are—into a basis on which one group of people exploits another or thwarts another group’s chances of success in society. In this understanding, differences are seen as the raw material of inequalities, even if the differences involved are for the most part not seen as given but as social constructions resulting from historical and ongoing processes.

In the field of research on gender equality policies, the differences that are of concern are mostly differences in social, cultural, economic, and political status between men and women. Building on Judith Squires ð2000Þ, who categorized the various ways of understanding these differences, we can distinguish between understandings that see the two sex and gender categories as given and those that do not.

When gender equality policies principally accept the categories of men and women as given, there are two opposing takes. First, in strategies of inclusion, men and women are seen as basically equal human beings whoment and policy strategies address intersectional inequalities, and reflecting on their potential and their limitations. I find that current academic discussion and research suggest four different political and policy approaches to best address interference between inequalities, that is, to best address structural and political intersectionality: reactive approaches that focus on the importance of exposing stigmatizing or marginalizing effects, pragmatic approaches that highlight possibilities for intersectional politics within the confines of existing political and policy instruments, substantial approaches that call for a focus on structural change, and procedural approaches that center on the inclusion of particular groups of political actors.