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Varieties of gender wash: Towards a framework for critiquing corporate social responsibility in feminist IPE

Walters, Rosie ORCID: 2022. Varieties of gender wash: Towards a framework for critiquing corporate social responsibility in feminist IPE. Review of International Political Economy 29 (5) , pp. 1577-1600. 10.1080/09692290.2021.1935295

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Recent years have seen vast sums of money invested in health, education and economic empowerment Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs for women and girls, particularly in the Global South. Feminist scholars of IPE have charted how transnational corporations (TNCs) have partnered with international institutions, donor governments and non-governmental organizations to position themselves as champions of gender equality. There is some debate in the literature over whether this phenomenon constitutes a co-optation or an appropriation of feminism. In this article, I focus on the behavior of TNCs, arguing that it can be conceptualized as ‘gender wash.’ Drawing on the extensive environmental literature on the ‘greenwashing’ of corporations’ public images, I outline a framework for analyzing CSR as ‘gender washing.’ Adapting Lyon and Montgomery’s summary of the greenwashing literature, I present seven varieties of gender wash – selective disclosure, empty gender claims and policies, dubious certifications and labels, co-opted NGO endorsements and partnerships, ineffective public voluntary programs, misleading narrative and discourse, and misleading branding – giving illustrative examples for each. In doing so, I aim to put forward a useful tool for critiquing contradictory claims made by corporations whose products, business model or employment practices are inherently damaging to women and girls.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN: 0969-2290
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 May 2021
Date of Acceptance: 18 May 2021
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 13:17

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