Professor Laina Bay-Cheng and colleagues publish editorial, "Critical Feminisms: Principles and Practices for Feminist Inquiry in Social Work"

Published May 23, 2022


Laina Bay-Cheng

Laina Bay-Cheng.

Kudos to Professor Laina Bay-Cheng and her colleagues on the publication of their editorial, "Critical Feminisms: Principles and Practices for Feminist Inquiry in Social Work" in Affilia.

Goodkind, S., Kim, M. E., Zelnick, J. R., Bay-Cheng, L. Y., Beltrán, R., Diaz, M., Gibson, M. F., Harrell, S., Kanuha, K., Moulding, N., Mountz, S., Sacks, T. K., Simon, B. L., Toft, J., & Walton, Q. L. (2021). Critical feminisms: Principles and practices for feminist inquiry in social work. Affilia.

Article Information

Since its founding 35 years ago, Affilia has been committed to supporting and publishing feminist research and praxis. As the first and only feminist social work academic journal, Affilia has provided an important home for feminist social work scholarship. Of course, during this time, and well before, definitions of “feminist” and indeed “social work” have been contested, as they continue to be today.

The original full title of the journal was Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work. This name was chosen because the founders had a vision of Affilia as a place to share “what the women's movement has brought to the social worker's view of the world, the client's world, and the world's world” (Saunders, 1986, p. 3). At the same time, the mission statement of the founders described a commitment to fostering the “development of feminist values, theories and knowledge as they relate to social work research, education and practice” (Sancier, 1986, p. 4). As the context, frameworks, and praxis of feminisms and social work have evolved, so too should we. Thus, we are changing our name to Affilia: Feminist Inquiry in Social Work to better reflect the scope of the journal and the scholarship we publish. We believe that this new subtitle stays true to the founders’ mission while being more explicit about our feminist commitments and recognizing new developments in feminist theorizing and research and the breadth of Affilia content. It honors that feminism has never been solely for or about “women” and that it is more than a fixed personal identity or political doctrine. Instead, we recognize feminism as an intellectual movement fueled by critical analysis and aimed at social justice.

As we celebrate our 35th anniversary and continue the ongoing practice of refining our feminist vision, we thought it would be useful to initiate a conversation amongst the editorial board about how best to articulate our commitment to using feminist theories and methods – and Affilia's platform – to advance social justice. Our goal was to clarify a set of critical feminist principles to inform our work as editors, as well as to offer guidance to authors and reviewers.

Before introducing these principles, we offer a note about what we mean by critical feminisms. The term “critical” risks cliché when articulated without description or explanation. However, we use this term intentionally, both to signify our social justice goals and to differentiate from versions of feminism (e.g., “choice feminism,” “commercialized feminism”; see Goodkind [2009]) that have been coopted by neoliberalism and often function to reinforce rather than challenge the status quo. We recommend Patricia Hill Collins’ (2019) Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory for an extensive discussion of critical theory as central to social change projects. Notably, Collins (2019) describes critical theory as critical in two senses of the word – involving analysis and critique (which is how it is usually understood) and as essential or necessary (a less often used connotation in this context). We embrace this dual meaning, conceiving of critical feminisms as providing an essential, necessary means to understand and critique inequality, and thus work towards social justice. In recognition of rich and contested interpretations of the term “critical,” we choose to let the pages of our journal be the platform for continued engagement with and evolution of the content and meaning of critical feminisms. Hence, we opted for a simpler subtitle for the journal – “feminist inquiry in social work” – to avoid foregone assumptions about the meaning of critical feminisms while signaling an opening to ongoing critical dialogue.