Deakin University

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The continued importance of a feminist analysis: gendered inequalities visible through a critique of Howard government policy on domestic violence

journal contribution
posted on 2008-03-01, 00:00 authored by Selma MacfarlaneSelma Macfarlane, Christine Morley
This paper argues that feminist analyses remain crucial to any critical analysis of social policy. From the outset, it needs to be said that we are not suggesting that other critical analyses are less important, such as anti-racist analysis, for example (Dominelli 2002a, 2002b). We also acknowledge the significance of intersectionality theory which identifies the ways in which race and racism may compound gender inequality to shape experiences of oppression or privilege (Mullings & Schultz 2006; Weber 2006). Having said this, in this paper we argue that feminist analyses remain as important as ever, in challenging dominant patriarchal/capitalist discourse currently informing social policy in Australia.

As a counter discourse, feminism puts women’s experiences and the unequal relationships of patriarchy at the forefront of analysis, highlights gender inequalities entrenched in social institutions and policy, and draws attention to the organisation of society along gender specific lines and the inequalities resulting from the relegation of women to the private sphere (Dominelli 2002a).

Specifically, we will demonstrate that the Howard government’s policy responses to the issue of family violence have reflected a renewed attack on previous gains made by women, and exemplify a neo-liberal, neo-conservative approach to social policy that demands a critical feminist analysis. Given the recent federal election, it seems particularly timely to reassert the importance of a feminist analysis of social policy and to direct the attention of the new federal government towards reversing recent trends to de-politicise violence towards women.



Just policy




Health through action on social exclusion edition


31 - 37


RMIT Publishing


Melbourne, Vic.





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal