Handbook of European Policies
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Handbook of European Policies

Interpretive Approaches to the EU

Edited by Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch

This definitive Handbook addresses the current lack of research into European policymaking and development using an interpretive perspective. Questioning areas that mainstream approaches tend to neglect, contributors target the ways in which ideas, arguments and discourses shape policies in the institutional context of the EU.
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Chapter 18: EU gender equality policies

Johanna Kantola and Emanuela Lombardo


Interpretive studies of EU gender equality policies show that gender equality is constructed and contested in the EU. Not only does the European Parliament or the European Commission put forward different framings of gender equality problems and solutions, but also within each institution different meanings are attributed to gender, equality, women and men. This ongoing construction and contestation that takes place in the daily dynamics between actors, discourses and institutions, is what produces change in EU gender equality policies. Shifts in framing over time show the expansion of gender equality policy strategies from equal treatment to positive actions, gender mainstreaming and multiple inequalities, the institutional and policy moves from employment to human rights, and the predominance of neoliberal economic priorities over gender and social aims in times of economic crisis. Interpretive works show that power relations mobilised in the construction of Europe have important gender and intersectional dimensions.

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