Women Empowerment.Towards a feminist reconceptualization of power and agency

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Çelebi L. B.

in: Women Studies. A sociological, cultural and literary approach, Dr. Gizem ORCIN; Yasemin AGAOGLU, Editor, Iksad Publications, Ankara, pp.2-12, 2020

  • Publication Type: Book Chapter / Chapter Research Book
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Publisher: Iksad Publications
  • City: Ankara
  • Page Numbers: pp.2-12
  • Editors: Dr. Gizem ORCIN; Yasemin AGAOGLU, Editor
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Within the context of gender inequalities, the aim of my paper is to focus on the connected issue of women empowerment and more in particular on the controversial relation that women have with power. Though empowerment is generally explained as the system by which people gain control over their lives by increasing their assets and capabilities (WHO, 2014), my approach to empowerment intends to dig deeper in the epistemological grounding of empowerment so re-thinking the core relation of power and agency and its theorizing within feminism. Feminist theorists have shown that gender inequality is not an individual matter but is deeply rooted in the gendered social order of societies. Gender is thus considered a system of power that privileges men at the disadvantage of women. However, gender is a salient variable that assumes importance in the interaction with discursive constraints and at the same time needs to be weighted in respect to the deep heterogeneity that characterizes women. Drawing from various theories of power (Foucault, Arendt, Carroll, Hartsock, etc.) this paper is anchored on the premises that women stand in a position of both oppressors and at the intersection of multiple oppressions. This complexity needs more sophisticated instruments of analysis that are envisaged here in the methodological tool of intersectionality, intended as the examination of the matrix of domination (Collins, 2000) and in the theory of structuration (Giddens, 1980) that involves the concept of duality of structure which expresses the mutual dependence of structure and agency. As a conclusion this analysis aims to show that the dialectical relationship linking oppression and agency is far more complex than simple models of oppressors and oppressed would suggest and this obliges us to reconceptualize power more broadly.