Woman up! for a new progressive agenda

March 2014 marks the fifth edition of the Transatlantic dialogue on gender issues, organised by […]
Speakers

02 - 05/02/2014

March 2014 marks the fifth edition of the Transatlantic dialogue on gender issues, organised by FEPS and the Fondation Jean Jaurès. The current political momentum both in Europe and the USA combined with this exciting anniversary lead to a unique occasion within the cycle of the dialogue. This is expressed symbolically through the fact that the venue of the dialogue is again Boston, where the research programme was launched five years ago. The event is organised with the support of the Boston University (BU), in the framework of women’s history month. The 2014 theme “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment” serves as an inspiration to link past achievements with present and future aspirations.

All of the addressed topics are crucial on the short-term at the upcoming European Parliamentary and USA mid-term elections. However, by synthesising the experiences from the past meetings, the objective of the seminar is to tackle the main theoretic, strategic and policy challenges concerning gender equality that progressives will face on the long-term on both sides of the Atlantic. Hence, the dialogue is planned to be an inspiration for both American and European participants: collecting initiatives and setting up strategies that can either strengthen progressives’ position for 2016 Presidential elections and beyond or that can influence the new European Commission’s objectives on gender equality.

These concerns are embedded in the broader issue of creating a credible progressive alternative as a response to the current financial, economic and political crisis. In terms of gender equality, while left-wing parties have enormously contributed to introduce the legal changes for achieving equality between women and men, they are currently not perceived as a driving force for change. Instead, rather alarmingly, it is perceived that they reflect only in their rhetoric the societal change that women’s entry to the labour market have brought, but they are not seen to be ready to transform the current power structure. Furthermore, the progressive narrative on gender issues is seen to be an agenda follower which in need for adaptation to the new societal challenges to become again agenda setter. Gender equality in the labour market is a key element of the emancipation process. Progressives are aiming to empower women through a fulfilling and meaningful job that contributes to the cohesion of the society. However, the still existing issues – like gender pay gap, involuntary part-time and temporary contracts, higher in-work poverty – transforms this narrative to a negative one. It is felt that instead of empowering women, the focus is narrowed down to technical labour market interventions. This profound disappointment in the progressive promise of achieving gender equality has turned away many voters. On one hand, they prefer to identify with the positive narrative offered by the right, where women have a meaningful role within the society as mothers. On the other hand, many of them turn away from established political structures towards being active in the current protest social movements. This latter one is problematic, as most of these movements deny any kind of gender aspect and/or recreate within their structures the traditional gender roles, with men being the leading advocates of the cause, while women are preparing soup for other activists.

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