Chapter 3: Gender, development and disasters
Having explored the notions of disasters and development, and related ideas such as poverty, vulnerability, and risk, attention now turns to how gender has been incorporated into development and disasters. In this chapter, the evolution of thinking around ‘engendering’ development is discussed. The disasters field has lagged behind somewhat in incorporating gender into its discourse and practice so the focus is on development. The discussion seeks to serve as a framework for understanding how gender might be incorporated into discussion of disasters, and the problems that engendering the disasters discourse might meet. However, first some basic gender concepts and theories need to be presented. There are some notions which are basic to gender studies. First, is the term ‘gender’ itself. While now in common usage, gender is a relatively new term and has only been widely used in relation to differences between men and women since the 1970s. Until then, discussion of differences between the two groups was based on sex, that is biological difference based on the sexual organs present at birth. Whilst this construction denies the existence of those people who are born with an indeterminate sex, with neither sexual organs or with both, such binary opposites pepper Western thinking and understanding. In general, the construction places one group, in this case the male, as central, and the opposite, in this case the woman, is ‘other’ to this, known through their difference from the dominant ‘norm’. Simone de Beauvoir’s famous 1940s text, The Second Sex, highlights this construction of women as ‘other’
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