Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 January 2022
One of the crucial themes that has emerged as a background and premise for feminist scholarship and debates is the gendering of inequality during the past 30 years inspired by feminist politics. Gender equality has become part of the political agenda in western democracies and social movements have taken up the struggle for women's equal rights all over the world. Feminist scholars have studied the gendered links between the family, the state and the market and have re-conceptualised the division between public and private, between paid and unpaid work and care and between equality and difference (Hobson et al, 2002). Equality is contested as a concept and as a cultural norm and there is a debate about the meaning of gender equality and the means to achieve it. Gender equality is about recognising the equal moral worth of women and men. It has been defined by the European Commission as “a situation where all individuals can develop their capacities and can make choices without being constrained by gender stereotypes or restrictive roles; and where different behaviors, goals and needs of women and men are equally recognised, valued and promoted” (cited in Liebert, 2003, p 12). From this perspective an equality policy is a set of public policies that seeks to promote gender equality as a societal value and norm by adopting equitable programmes and measures. Arguably, gender equality is an important normative ideal, although equality is no longer high on the political agenda (Phillips, 1999).
Today the European welfare states are at a crossroad and new forms of inequality have become visible. One of the challenges is to analyse the interconnection between gender equality and other kinds of inequalities in relation to race, ethnicity and class. Citizenship has become a key concept in social and political theory embedded in debates about equal rights and resources to overcome inequality. Since the 1990s it has been employed as both a normative and analytical framework to analyse the inclusion and exclusion of women and marginalised social groups (Lister, 1997). The notion of citizenship refers both to rights, belonging and participation (Bellamy et al, 2004). It has been connected with the nation state, and the double process of globalisation and immigration represent new challenges to link the framework of citizenship with transnational governance (Hobson and Lister, 2002, Bellamy et al, 2004).