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It is now a truism in academic and policy circles that humanitarian crises of all kinds exacerbate intersectional oppressions. At the same time, purportedly “feminist” foreign policy and international assistance are ascendant, and the language of “gender-responsive” and “gender-transformative” humanitarianism is becoming commonplace, despite little consensus on what such terms entail. Humanitarians remain alternately hesitant, conflicted or even resistant to engaging with themes that might be considered foundational to a feminist approach, including challenging dominant masculinities, understanding the multiplicity of femininities, going beyond the gender binary, power and gendered norms, the relationship between gender-responsiveness and humanitarian principles, or how humanitarianism itself participates in gendered harms and exclusions.
A feminist approach to humanitarianism must be alert to what is happening to particular gendered bodies in crisis settings, but it must also encompass a systemic and structural analysis of humanitarian leadership and culture. With that in mind, what would a meaningfully “feminist” humanitarianism look like – and is it possible? Are the two compatible, or does a feminist humanitarianism necessarily imply complicit, colonial or “humanitarian” feminism? What might a feminist lens – one that is also global, anti-racist, decolonial, disability-inclusive and anti-oppression – reveal about humanitarian response in a variety of geographies and thematic areas?