RECON Online Working Paper 2010/06

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Gender Identity in a Democratic Europe



Nora Schleicher (Budapest College of Communication and Business)



This paper examines the relationship between gender identity, feminism and democracy in the context of the European Union. In the first part of the paper, Schleicher examines the concept of gender and pose the question: under which circumstances can and should the term ‘gender’ replace the term ‘woman’. In the second part, versions of Wollstonecraft’s Dilemma are considered. Should women fight for the recognition of their equality, for the recognition of their difference, or for the deconstruction of the term ‘woman’? Next, Schleicher looks at the consequences of the above dilemmas for the relationship between gender and democracy. How can traditional, liberal democracy based on universal principles and the commonality of all human beings accommodate to women? In participatory democracy can and should women stand for other women? Are there interests common to all women? Who should represent these interests? Does deliberative democracy offer a way out of these dilemmas? What is the role of communication in deliberative democracy? Are there specific masculine and feminine styles that effect the outcome of the decision making process in deliberative arenas? Finally, Schleicher considers the diversity of gender identities within the European Union. This diversity is illustrated by presenting different approaches to feminism, different feminist identities within the EU. Scandinavian ‘state-feminism’ and post-socialist ‘shy feminism’ are looked at in more detail. The paper concludes that we cannot understand the relationship between gender and democracy within the EU without taking into account the existing diversity in terms of the relationship towards democratic institutions, the state and the private sphere, and the meanings attached to the term ‘woman’. Without an understanding of the historical context leading to the above-mentioned differences the differential effects of the EU’s common gender policies is difficult to comprehend.


Deliberative Democracy - Diversity/Homogeneity - Gender Policy - Identity - Political Representation - Post-Communism

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