The Resonance of Feminism and the Gendered Relations of Austerity

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Shelley BUDGEON, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Gender equality ‘is increasingly framed as central to the realization of both modernization and economic efficiency and its achievement presented as a key to good governance. Both rights-based and utility-based arguments have converged to place equality high on the agenda of liberal states and organizations’ (Squires (2007:1). The socio-economic conditions forged in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 provide an important context for assessing the status of gender equality and the practice of oppositional feminist politics in the UK. The wider context for this research is a postfeminist regime in which gender issues can be granted legitimacy on the condition that radical variants of feminism are dismissed as out of touch with contemporary gender relations. The legitimacy granted to equality suggests feminism has been successfully institutionalised, however, many scholars assert mainstreaming has inadvertently facilitated the legitimation of an accommodating, ‘moderate’ feminism more amenable to maintaining, rather than challenging, neoliberal norms. This paper applies principles of Cultural Political Economy in an analysis of mainstream newspaper representations of austerity during the time of the coalition government (2010-15) during which austerity policy was inaugurated thus threatening the institutionalisation of gender equality. The findings show that a sustained critique of austerity as a threat to gender equality resonated throughout the coalition parliament due to the consistency of moderate feminism with the norms of late capitalism. Insights into the effects on social reproduction of the gender regime within which the financial crisis occurred in the UK are discussed. It is concluded that in view of the complexity associated with a postfeminist gender order what is now required is the development of a feminist analytics in times of inclusion.