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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

'Everyone Has the Right to their Opinion': Anti-Gender Ideology Rhetoric and Epistemic Actor Coalitions of Slovak Policymaking

Contentious Politics
Petra Meier
Universiteit Antwerpen
Petra Meier
Universiteit Antwerpen
Veronika Valkovičová
Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Comenius University

This paper builds upon the growing body of literature on the ‘anti-gender ideology’ actors and rhetoric in the Central and Eastern European region. However, rather than being based in the framework of social counter-movements or the current theorisations on European populism, it proposes to study the actors in their epistemic actor coalitions, as it recognises their presence within bureaucracies, governmental bodies and expert working groups. The paper approaches the actors with a focus on what within governmental structures is considered to constitute ‘legitimate knowledge’ and how the actors aim to establish new frameworks of ‘alternative policy knowledge’. More particularly, this paper looks into the case of the Slovak governmental Committee on Gender Equality and investigates the varieties of discursive strategies applied by the actors to de-legitimise gender equality policies, as recently theorised by Andrea Krizsán and Conny Roggeband. Within this expert and civil society advisory platform, the ‘anti-gender ideology’ rhetoric has been established as a crucial resource of a ‘reactively oppositional’ actor coalition, actively countering proposals made by an oppositional ‘feminist’ actor coalition since 2013. As such, the coalition and its discourse has been legitimised within the advisory body as an equal voice within the policymaking environment, as it later entered the sphere of politics and contributed to the developments of the 2015 ‘Referendum on Family’. This paper unpacks the process of the establishment of the anti-gender rhetoric within the bureaucratic structures setting the discursive framework of the gender equality policies as it scrutinises the resources available to the epistemic actor coalition and the contributing factors which led to the popularisation of the opposition to feminist projects.
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