Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Theoretical Debates on the Concept of "Gender Equality"1

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

Theoretical Debates on the Concept of "Gender Equality"1

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper analyses the three types of gender equality and the political strategies adopted by the European Union. The paper presents the theoretical debates on the concept of gender equality and the efficiency of the strategies designed for each individual type of equality. The European Union preferred to substitute the use of the initially adopted strategies (equal opportunities and positive action), with the strategy of gender mainstreaming. However, this article brings arguments that all three types of strategies must be adopted simultaneously, as prerequisite for reaching a proper level of gender equality in all fields (economic, social, political).

Keywords: gender, gender equality, equal opportunities, affirmative action, gender mainstreaming.

1. Introduction

This paper describes the approaches of the concept of gender equality and the EU policies for each individual type. As support for explaining this concept the article uses the perspective of the approach identified by Teresa Rees (1998) and Mike Verloo (2005), as well as the political perspective identified by the European Union, trying thus to show the way in which the theoretical and practical approaches interacted and their effects on this concept.

2. Definition of the concept of "gender equality"

Gender equality is a concept which explains and evaluates the patriarchal domination and oppression of the society. The concept of gender equality was defined historically both from the perspective of the feminist theories, and from the political perspective. The contested character of this concept relies on it harmonious, yet conflicting form (Verloo M., Lombardo E., 2007, p. 22). Mieke Verloo shows that the duality of this concept consist, on the one side, in the trend to incorporate the diversity within a dominant form or, on the other side, to include it within a paradigm so that this single form will determine its acceptation as a common purpose and will enter it into the agenda (Verloo M., 2005).

As Meike Verloo, Emanuela Lombardo and Petra Meier notice, gender equality is a concept debated a lot from the perspectives of the different political actors and exponents of the broad range of the feminism, at the institutional and non-institutional level, within the framework of different national and international organisations. Briefly, the concept has been approached from different angles which showed the specificity of the national policies of implementation. The authors claim that the discursive dynamics determined, by its definition, a specific form for a particular period, by decreasing or expanding its area of action and by adopting various political and theoretical approaches (Lombardo E., Meier P. and Verloo M., 2010, pp. 107 - 111).

Regarding the development of this concept, there are three theoretical approaches identified by Teresa Rees in Mainstreaming Equality in the European Union Education, Training and Labour Market Policies (1998). Each of these feminist approaches is correlated with specific political strategies. The first identified approach is that of the "adjustment"1, relying on the assumption that the fight against gender discrimination requires a legal framework which to allow the access of women to the fields from which they have been previously excluded, while not contesting the existing masculine norm (Walby S. 2005a, Verloo M., 2007). The second identified approach is that of the "difference from the masculine norm" (Verloo M., Lombardo E., 2007, p. 23) which presumes the proper evaluation of the "differentiated contribution of the men and women in a segregated society" (Walby S., 2005b, p. 455). The last theoretical approach of the gender equality is that of the "transformation of all norms and standards of what should be feminine or masculine" (Verloo M., 2007, p. 23), implicitly, as Walby defines this type of approach, "transformation of the gender relations" (Walby S., 2005b, p. 455). …

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