The feminist politics of naming violence

Dr Elizabeth Frazer, Associate Professor of Politics, has co-authored a new publication in journal, Feminist Theory.


The naming of violence in feminist political campaigns and in the context of feminist theory has rhetorical and political effects. Feminist contention about the scope and meaning of ‘Violence against Women' (VAW) and ‘Sex and Gender-Based Violence' (SGBV), and about the concepts of gender and of violence itself, are fundamentally debates about the politics of feminist contestation, and the goals, strategies and tactics of feminist organisation, campaigns and action. This article examines the propulsion since the late twentieth century of the problems of VAW and SGBV on to global and national political agendas. The feminist theory that underpins the uptake of this new agenda is contested by opponents of feminism. More significantly for the article it is also contested within feminism, in disputes about how feminist political aims should be furthered, through what institutions and with what strategic goals in view. The article aims to show that theoretical and philosophical controversy about the concepts of violence, and sex and gender, are always political, both in the sense that they are an aspect of feminist competition about how feminist politics should proceed, and in the sense that the political implications of concepts and theory must always be a significant factor in their salience for feminist action.

Dr Elizabeth Frazer is Associate Professor of Politics, Official Fellow, New College