overturning racial/ethnic discrimination. Issues constructed as common to men and women tend to be seen as simply “issues,” unmarked by gender; women’s issues are only that, specific to women and not seen as benefitting men. Backburnering works because women activists are invested in struggles that benefit men and women in communities; women often make the decision to sacrifice their “narrow” concerns for the good of the group. Even if compatriot men accept women’s issues, gender inequality can cause those issues to become compartmentalized. Compartmentalization results from the identification, named above, of common gender interests as just plain “issues” and of women’s issues as “women’s issues.” When movements accept, in whole or in part, a women’s agenda for action, and make women responsible for it, these concerns are handed over to those in the organization who are most structurally disadvantaged, with the fewest resources available to work effectively on them. Compartmentalization occurs when organizations decide that the women will take care of all that women’s “stuff.” This can happen in movement settings and in mainstream institutions alike (Gelb 1989; Izraeli 1990; Kuumba 1999; Roth 1998). To take an example familiar to many of us in the university, women’s studies programs themselves are seen as symbols that our institutions are committed to women’s interests, even as these programs are often marginalized, underfunded, and otherwise ignored. The challenges that women face in movements, whether they work with men or on their own, have not diminished their capacity for action, as this website certainly shows. Women in movement politics, in the public arena, and in the disruptive fields of activism face the burdens of gender expectations and transcend these expectations. Women in women’s movements, feminist, proto-feminist, or otherwise, are spared the problems engendered by mixed-gender activism, but it is women’s autonomous movement work that threatens the status quo the most, as it disrupts political and gender norms. Women, as activists in movements far and wide, have been and continue to be a problem for power and authority, and thank goodness for that. 4
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- Fall '13