An intersectional analysis of contestations within women’s movements: The case of Scottish domestic abuse policy-making

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

While policy scholars have elaborated on the ways in which social movements operate within discursive struggles over meaning-making to generate policy change, less attention has been paid to contestations within movements. This oversight is remarkable given that the process of shaping shared understandings and framings of policy problems is political and, thus, a site of epistemic power struggles. This article offers sharpened analytical tools to study internal framing politics, advancing an integrated feminist institutionalist approach. It empirically demonstrates the merits of this approach by applying it to a so-called “feminist policy success” case: Scottish domestic abuse policy-making. Domestic abuse experts often hail Scottish domestic abuse policies as ‘world-leading’ due to their gendered and feminist policy constructions, which can be credited to successful feminist mobilisation around devolution. However, this article disrupts the dominant narrative by teasing out for whom the framing of policy has been a success within the movement, uncovering points of contention. Drawing on policy analysis and elite interviews, the study identifies and traces an enduring intramovement contestation around the dominance of gendered frames and subsequent marginalisation of intersectionality. It argues that while the women’s movement has made considerable gains in integrating feminist concerns in policy, framing opportunities have not been equally shared, marginalising some actors and their frames. The Scottish case demonstrates how and why we should not underestimate the real and (un)intended consequences of intramovement contestations. Beyond the Scottish context, this article calls for scholars to account for diversities in identity, agency and claims-making within movements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPolicy and Politics
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Dec 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • domestic abuse
  • policy framing
  • social movements
  • contestations
  • Scotland
  • gender
  • intersectionality
  • feminist institutionalism


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