Feminism has become an important part of global discourse as various approaches are being developed to counter gender inequality. The three different feminist approaches are the basic needs approach, instrumentalist approach, and development approach. The basic needs approach to gender inequality is motivated by saving lives and reducing suffering (Chamberlain 2017). The instrumentalist approach is based on understanding gender as differences between women and men (Williams 2018). The development approach is based on the understanding of gender as structural relations of power ingrained in the communities’ social, cultural, and political systems (Lazar 2017). These approaches play an integral role in understanding gender inequality. Therefore, this paper will describe the three feminist approaches and determine the best approach to gender inequality in the current society.
Three Different Feminist Approaches to Gender Inequality
The Basic Needs Approach
The basic needs approach to gender inequality by feminists is inspired by the need to save lives and reduce suffering. From the perspective of gender, this approach seeks to ensure that the basic needs of women and girls, and that of men and boys, are attained (Chamberlain 2017). This approach majors on the number of male and female beneficiaries reached or involved in a given program. Checking the number of men and women beneficiaries is an important strategy for promoting equal access to services and resources. In addition, humanitarian donors requesting a report on gender-segregated beneficiary data promote equal access to resources based on numbers (Chamberlain 2017). The main aim of the basic needs approach is to make sure that every gender has access to essential resources.
The basic needs approach has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of this approach is based on its practical orientation towards the concrete effects of humanitarian programs for women and men (Chamberlain 2017). The approach directs a lot of focus on gender inequalities in access to essential resources and services at the most common levels. For instance, it is far fewer women and girls to access basic education and get an opportunity to earn an income. Monitoring such gender inequalities is an important step towards addressing gender inequalities (Chamberlain 2017). However, the disadvantage of this approach is the fact that it is blind to the dynamics of gender and power that contribute to inequalities in accessing resources and services (Chamberlain 2017). The approach does not meet the goal of changing the dynamics that contribute to gender inequalities.
The Instrumentalist Approach
The instrumentalist approach to gender inequality is based on understanding gender as variations between women and men. The approach is based on the view that women and men are affected differently and react differently to emergencies and displacement (Williams 2018). For effective use of scarce resources, gender differences and roles must be taken into account. The approach ensures that women are used as resources for programs, especially in food and nutrition and hygiene and sanitation. The sustainability of the project is achieved when women are engaged in the program (Williams 2018). Women’s involvement in programs like distributing food and other essential resources is an important strategy to ensure that resources are effectively used. The approach portrays women as responsible and just in the way they handle operations.
The instrumentalist approach has an advantage and disadvantage in the approach to gender inequality. The primary advantage is the positive and active image given to women as the best in offering humanitarian support (Williams 2018). Women are portrayed as key humanitarian supporters and important stakeholders, and their involvement in the implementation of humanitarian programs is deemed essential to promote effectiveness. However, the disadvantage of this approach is the fact that women’s participation in aspects pertinent to their lives is not viewed as an important end to itself, but instead, women are used as a tool that humanitarian organizations should use to realize their goals (Williams 2018). The goal of the approach is not to transform conventional gender relations but to improve humanitarian effectiveness.
The Developmental Approach
The development approach to gender used by a feminist is based on the understanding of gender as structural relations of power ingrained in the communities’ social, cultural, and political systems. Communities influenced by conflicts or disasters are described as less developed and backward (Lazar 2017). This approach presents gender inequality, discrimination, and violence as symptoms of underdevelopment that can be solved by transforming conventional communities into modern and democratic societies with liberal values. The development approach majors on the reconstructions of the societies to modernity as a means to address gender parity (Lazar 2017). In this approach, feminists are seen as having a mandate to contribute to the creation of more developed societies.
The development approach has an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage is its view of gender as a social and relational aspect in society. The approach links gender to a structural understanding of power. It suggests that the advancement of gender equality involves the transformation of cultural, socio-economics, and political systems (Lazar 2017). However, the disadvantage of the approach is the link between gender inequality and underdevelopment. When gender equality is portrayed as a symbol in cultural conflict, it tends to promote resistance to everything viewed as an external proposition to change. In addition, this approach appears to be biased because it relates gender inequality to under-developed communities (Lazar 2017). It presents a notion that gender inequality does not exist in developed communities.
The Most Beneficial Approach to Understanding Gender Equality Today
The most beneficial approach is the development approach because it is where the transformation of gender inequality relations is a goal. The main goal involves more far-reaching ambitions for social change towards gender (Lazar 2017). It is suggested that the promotion of equality involves transforming the cultural, socio-economic, and political systems and that gender is linked to a structural understanding of power. This definition is mainly feminist, but the envisioned mechanism of social transition toward gender equality is problematically positioned within a liberal peace-building and development context (Lazar 2017). The strength of this approach is its understanding of gender and power as hierarchical, socially constructed, and variable over time and space, as well as its strong commitment to changing unequal gender relations and power structures. Therefore, the development approach is the best among the other approaches because it suggests how to change the status quo on gender inequality.
The basic needs, instrumentalist, and development approaches are used by feminists to address gender inequality. These approaches to gender inequality have been established on a different understanding of gender. The approaches differ in their goal of addressing gender inequality. Based on the three, the most beneficial approach to understanding gender inequality is the development approach. The development approach propagates gender inequality as an aspect constructed by society. This approach is most effective because it suggests the transformation of society to develop liberal values.
Chamberlain, Prudence. 2017. The Feminist Fourth Wave: Affective Temporality. Springer.
Lazar, Michelle M. 2017. Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis. In The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies, pp. 372-387 (J. Flowerdue, J.E Richardson, Eds). Routledge.
Williams, Joan C. 2018. Deconstructing Gender . Routledge.