Gwen Hunnicutt


A major accomplishment of women’s rights scholars and activists has been to make violence against women (VAW) visible. After decades of struggle, in a dramatic turn, VAW has become a highly politicized topic since the mid 1990’s, and even more so after 9/11. An unfortunate side-effect of the increased recognition of harm done to women is that the issue of VAW is sometimes co-opted by the state and used in service of their political projects. In this paper I present the political co-optation of VAW as one of the pressing challenges facing scholars who conduct research on the problem of VAW. The issues detailed here have been debated in the transnational feminist theory literature and the feminist international relations (IR) literature for the last two decades. Yet, the issues detailed in this paper rarely appear in mainstream VAW research. This paper is an effort to encourage cross-fertilization between these fields and to outline key issues of engagement regarding the issue of the politicization of VAW. After detailing the problem of political co-optation I then go on to offer ideas about how to proceed as scholars and activists in a political climate where the issue of VAW is routinely misused as a tool by the state to serve political ends.

Author Biography

Gwen Hunnicutt is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Cross-Appointed Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Gwen received her PhD in Sociology in 2003 from the University of New Mexico. Professor Hunnicutt studies various dimensions of gender violence, and is currently preparing a manuscript that explores the intersection of ecology, feminism and gender violence. Professor Hunnicutt teaches a variety of classes dealing with gender and violence, including The Sociology of Gender and Gender, Crime and Deviance.