The wide adoption of gender mainstreaming has rekindled debates about feminist engagements with the State. The purpose of this article is to provide a clearer specification of power politics in such engagements and develop the conceptual tools to assess the utility of feminist strategies. Drawing on feminist state theory and comparing two feminist strategies (gender mainstreaming and the equal rights strategy), this article develops an analysis of six types of power mechanisms. Feminist engagements with the German agricultural sector are used to illustrate these mechanisms. The campaign to gain women farmers independent pension rights illustrates the mechanisms of compromise and silencing of difference. The current effort to mainstream gender into rural development policies illustrates mechanisms of cooptation and normalization. In both forms of engagement, in addition, there is evidence of women's empowerment and state refusal. The article concludes that the success of both gender mainstreaming and the equal rights strategy is limited because they are sidelined, side-tracked and slowed down by mechanisms of power.