Fast Facts: Gender social inequality and austerity in Europe

23700472_sEurope’s austerity fetish and longer term neo-liberal reforms promoted by Big Business, Governments and the EU Commission hurt women disproportionately. Here’s a few facts to illustrate the point.

Europe wide 

  • The gender pay gap is around 16%
  • It ranges from more than a quarter (27%) in Estonia to around a fiftieth (2%) in Slovenia. The latest figures from Eurostat suggest that at least until 2010, the gender pay gap appears to have been narrowing. However, there was no further progress in 2011. Continue reading

Intersectionality and Postmodern Feminism

intersectionality-illustrated1We left the last post having worked through the basic conceptualisation of intersectionality. If you can’t be bothered to trudge through its thousand or so words, simply put it is the appreciation of how different oppressions rooted in ostensibly discrete sets of violent (symbolically and physically) social relations can intersect and condition the lives of whole groups of people. Furthermore, activists involved in social struggles have to be conscious of and fight against the replication of oppression within discourses and movements committed to liberation. For example, feminism has to be alive to the possible marginalisation of black and minority ethnicity women, disabled women, and so on within the women’s movement.

There are some issues with this, not least the pathological forms of identity politics that have become indistinguishable from intersectionality in the eyes of many participants and observers of the relevant debates. What strikes me, however, is how none of these debates are nothing new. Historical debates within feminism since the 60s were characterised by the “classical” distinctions between liberal, socialist and radical feminisms which, in the 80s and 90s, were followed by critiques attacking unconscious ‘race’, class, cis-gendered, and heteronormative biases, and a valorisation of doubly/triply etc. oppressed experiences of womanhood, are visited and revisited by today’s ‘third wave’ feminism. This is less a ‘second time as farce’ repetition, even if the chosen venues for such arguments are Facebook and Twitter feeds, and more a cycle reflecting the persistence (or the perception of persistence) of really existing issues. Continue reading

What is “intersectionality” for? And where does it leave class?

intersectionality-illustrated1Intersectionality is the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination.

Julie Burchill wrote this. Paris Lees rejoined with this. Burchill (paraphrased): “intersectionality is about scoring points off multiple oppressions”. Lees (paraphrased): “intersectionality is about respecting difference”. Who’s right? Both of them are. Here’s a 3,000 word essay making that point too. But what often falls by the wayside in discussions around intersectionality is, to put it crudely, what intersectionality is for. It doesn’t have to be for anything, of course. If you want it to just be a marker for mutual respect then take it. But for people of a more socialist bent, intersectionality is about political agency. But how does it, if you can pardon the pun, intersect with a socialist political project? Where does it leave class? Continue reading

UKIP and masculinity

This morning, Diane Abbott gave a heavily trailed speech on the crisis of masculinity. Simplifying her argument somewhat, cultural change and the restructuring of the jobs market has thrown young men into a state of anomie. In one direction they’re being flattered as gendered consumers into clothes, gadgets, cars, booze and footy. From another comes the pressure from ‘pornified culture‘ to shag around as much as possible. And there is the ever-present expectation that a man should have a job that can provide for himself and any family that comes along.

The problem of course is this hegemonic ideal is not only out of reach for growing numbers of young men, it is also persistently challenged by different kinds of masculinities. And that’s well before you start talking about the distinct blurring of gendered identities and sexualities. Continue reading