Elaine Coburn | International Feminist Journal of Politics
What forms do gender equity arguments take in major international institutions? What broader struggles do these reflect? What contradictions does gender mainstreaming reproduce and what feminist possibilities does it open up? This contribution describes, critiques, and tentatively explains the recent understudied “gender turn” in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the Fund, a major international financial institution. The IMF’s concern with gender is late compared to other multilateral institutions, like the United Nations and the World Bank. Nonetheless, since 2013, the IMF has published more than 2,900 documents, videos, and podcasts specifically about women, alerting the public to gender equity matters through a dedicated “Gender and IMF” homepage and through Twitter, via the hashtags #Women4Growth and #IMFGender. In so doing, the IMF draws on existing, economistic “women’s empowerment” initiatives by major finance and corporate enterprises, in newly opened policy space following the 2008–09 crisis, under unprecedented feminist leadership at the highest level of the Fund. The IMF’s attentiveness to gender, pursued alongside market-led economic efficiency aims, produces a new actor, “femina economica.” This elastic figure is symptomatic of tensions within the organization and of broader contradictions in the current, uncertain moment of the capitalist world political economy.