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Engendering care: HIV, humanitarian assistance in Africa and the reproduction of gender stereotypes
This paper draws upon recent research in Durban, South Africa to unravel the complexities of care ethics in the context of humanitarian aid. It investigates how the gendering of care shapes the provision of aid in the context of the HIV in Africa constructing an image of 'virile' and 'violent' African masculinity. Humanitarian organisations construct imagined relations of caring, invoking notions of a shared humanity as informing the imperative to facilitate change. This paper draws on varied examples of research and NGO activity to illustrate how these relations of care are strongly gendered. Humanitarian interventions that invoke universalising conceptions of need could instead draw on feminist care ethics that seeks to balance rights, justice and care in ways that attend to the webs of relationships through which specific lived realities are shaped. Essentialising feminized discourses on care result in a skewed analysis of international crises that invariably construct women (and children) as victims in need of care, which at best ignore the lived experiences of men and, at worst, cast men as virile and violent vectors of disease and social disorder.