Emancipation of women has been a core part of the left wing ideology. Despite the proud tradition of the social democratic movement and especially of its feminist organisations, it seems that the ownership of the so called “women’s affairs agenda” is no longer exclusively in the hands of progressives. Both conservative and right wing extremist parties learnt to appeal to women with their ‘modernised’ pleas. Therefore, this issue of “Queries” shows deliberations on the threats and opportunities for the feminist cause nowadays. Bringing together European and American perspectives, it presents the aims that need to be achieved by progressives worldwide if they are to champion equality in the 21st century and safeguard herewith their raison d’être.
The first chapter is devoted to the question of domestic work. Studies and opinions shared in the articles indicate it is the next mainstreaming theme for all progressives – embodying an overall need for solid answers to the ageing society, evolving labour markets and the crisis of welfare states. There are over 100 million workers employed within private households worldwide. Their work is often delivered without any employment contract, without social security and health insurance, their work remains underpaid, undervalued and disrespected. The ILO Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 are the first step for a desperately needed change; however there is a long way to go with only 63 governments having ratified them. This is the core sense of the “12 by 12” campaign, whose materials were kindly offered to this issue by the ITUC – International Trade Unions Confederation.
Following it, the second chapter focuses on women immigrants who constitute a great proportion of domestic workers. The articles bridge feminist deliberations with another grand debate within the progressive movement – namely the one on the future of welfare state. Globalisation has resulted in the growing interdependences among states, while the need of those to remain competitive increased. This has led to a demur of domestic policies, which enhanced by the neo-liberal economic crisis, translated especially within the EU to further pressure and austerity applied towards welfare state policies. Logically, individuals seek private solutions to a state’s shortcomings in the provision of care for elderly, children, sick etc. – and here one ‘reeks’ the benefits of migration. Engagement of them in households is often done outside of legal frameworks (if those exist). And has created a group of ‘outcasts’ from the entire system of labour and welfare provisions that generations of social democrats struggled to put in place in the course of 20th century.
Consequently, the third and the fourth chapters assume contemporary predicament of feminism. The respective authors analyse it in the light of societal evolution leading to i.e. increased individualisation and reluctance of citizens to unite people in the name of a common objective. These offer fertile ground to prominent women on the right (moderate and extremists), who argue that they gained their respective positions without support from any of the feminist organisations (overlooking the fact that their participation in politics is possible thanks to struggle of generations of suffragettes). Right wingers also appear strategically stronger in gaining women’s support, resorting itself to strong cultural and religious emblems that seem to offer supplementary credibility to their ideas about the women’s roles in contemporary family and society. While examining strategies of counterattack, the contributors also consider what a new, distinctively progressive feminist agenda should entail. Changing times imposes additions and modifications to the original list of objectives, as also to the methods that the young generation wish to apply may vastly differ from those used by i.e. second wave feminists.
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