Re-Signifying Feminism: The Neo-Liberalization of Gender Equality in Post-Recession Britain.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Vicki DABROWSKI, Goldsmiths College, University of London, United Kingdom
With the rise of more extreme forms of austerity measures and cuts to social welfare in the UK, democratization (especially in reference to women’s equality) seems to be ‘rolling back’. Women are bearing the brunt of the deficit reduction strategy, specifically women from lower social classes and from particular regions in the North of England (Women’s Resource Centre, 2012). Within this context, there has been a reported resurgence of feminist activism, which has been affirmed within mainstream media and other social and political spheres (Dean, 2010). However, drawing on interviews and focus groups with 55 young women (18-35) in three cities in the UK (Leeds, London and Brighton), I argue that this certain kind of ‘new feminism’ helps to re-direct such a trend of democratization, rather than increase democracy and equality (see Walby, 2009/2011).

 Using the term ‘neoliberal feminism’ (Rottenberg, 2014), this paper explores how feminism is currently being re-signified within post-recession Britain. I argue that the feminism young women now ‘speak’, can be seen to adopt a ‘neoliberal’ form, consisting of free choice, individualism, opportunity and success, in which the female subject accepts full responsibility for her own well-being and self-care (Rottenberg, 2014). Despite living in a time of rising uncertainty, precarity and deepening social inequality in the UK, such a ‘neoliberal feminism’ helps to disavow the current social, cultural and economic forces producing inequality. Young women acknowledge the impact austerity is having on their lives, however individual creative solutions are used to appease such structural problems and are presented as the way out of such a situation. Such findings will contribute to understand how feminism is both spoken and ‘allowed’ to be spoken within the current economic and political context of the UK and how this new form of feminism is aiding the re-direction of democratization.