Keywords: degrowth; gender relations; political economy
Abstract: The aim of this research paper is to analyse what the potential impacts of degrowth – or planned economic contraction - may be on women and the objective of reaching a state of gender equality. Starting with a short critical feminist overview of capitalism this paper will then follow on into a discussion regarding whether degrowth may emancipate women from the limitations imposed by the current economic model and generate new forms of access, participation and representation. In addition, degrowth will be placed under critical scrutiny as to whether current forms of gender inequality under the capitalist system will be exacerbated under degrowth and lead to further gendered marginalisation. Furthermore, cultural and social norms will be discussed in regards to what opportunities there are to revolutionise gender relations in terms of how those relations play out within work places, public spaces and domestic roles.
In critiquing the issues described above this paper will pay particular attention to reproductive work or care work including child rearing, cleaning, cooking, and other domestic chores. Women are currently charged with the bulk of social reproduction and the expansion of unpaid labour under a degrowth economy places important implications. In addition, women’s access to public domains has been ascribed restrictive cultural and social norms which also raises significant concerns regarding degrowth and its reconceptualization of public places. Furthermore, questions regarding women’s opportunities and how they are perceived in relation to domestic violence, GDP and its failure to assess levels of equality, and job opportunities and the wage gap.
Lastly, the role of ecofeminism has been significant within current literature regarding gender and degrowth economics. I will argue that ecofeminism displays a number of issues regarding the relationship between men and women and their gendered relationship to the environment. I will propose that if degrowth is to be a successful vehicle in reaching a state of gender equality the debate needs to go beyond arguments stipulated by ecofeminism and incorporate broader and more nuanced approaches towards the relations between men and women.