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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Feminist Resistance in the Triangle of Neoliberalism, Conservatism and Racism

Civil Society
Social Movements
Political Activism
Johanna Kantola
Tampere University
Johanna Kantola
Tampere University
Anna Elomäki
Tampere University

This Paper analyzes the changing conditions of feminist resistance in the current political context of neoliberalism, conservatism and racism. We provide a new analytical understanding of the three forces that are usually discussed in pairs – neoliberalism and conservatism (e.g. Brown 2006), conservatism and racism (any research on radical-right populism) or racism and neoliberalism (e.g. Davis 2007, Roberts & Mahtani 2010) – as a triangle, where each point and side are co-constitutive of the others. Earlier research on feminist resistance to and complicity with these three forces has tended to focus on the relationship of feminism to one point or at best one side of the triangle. We argue that understanding the possibilities and limitations of feminist resistance in the current economic and political context requires a more holistic approach.

The Paper addresses these theoretical questions in the Finnish context where, firstly, economic austerity policies were significantly intensified by the conservative-right government (neoliberalism). Secondly, traditional family values have become more visible, gender equality sidelined, and misogynist sentiments increasingly common (conservatism). Thirdly, since the success of the right-wing populist the Finns party, immigration policies and hate speech have become harsher (racism).

Our research material consists of policy documents of and interviews with actors from different established women's organizations and new feminist movements. We are particularly interested in how their activities are located in relation to the points and sides of the triangle. Our paper shows that feminist resistance in the triangle is difficult, but not impossible. The political context provides a fertile ground for new feminist movements, but both old and new forms of feminist resistance tend to focus on the points or the sides of the triangle. We propose that in order for feminist resistance to be effective, it has to address all three points of the triangle.
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