Friday, 19 February 2010

Gender policy or gender politics?

Five years down the road of EU enlargement, the dominant mood is one of disappointment. Is this simply a crisis of leadership (some have even begun speaking of a backlash) in the European Union? Or are we perhaps dealing with a broader phenomenon sometimes referred to as "gender fatigue"? What may be at stake here is the exhaustion of a certain strategy of pushing for women’s rights – a strategy whose present embodiment is in the "gender mainstreaming" policy. We might also ask whether we are facing three separate challenges here, or three aspects of the same impasse – in European political institutions, in social attitudes, and inside women’s organization? If the backlash in the EU, gender fatigue in the workplace and disaffection with gender mainstreaming within the women’s movement are three separate independent phenomena, then the recipe for our problems would be to continue doing what we have done all along, only more effectively. If, however, we are dealing with various aspects of a single crisis, then we need to ask about its root causes.

In the article The European Union, Gender Politics and Social Change in a collection Gender in the EU (pp. 30-32) published by the Heinrich Bőll Stiftung, I am trying to trace the consequences of the replacing of feminist politics with "gender policy". What is the true meaning of the recent exchange of politics for policy? What happens, when we leave behind struggle for change, and try to negotiate the administration of change instead? Will we be able to restore the momentum of social movements, and their utopian power? These questions are pertinent not only for feminist struggle, but for the environmental and other struggles as well.

Adam Ostolski

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