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3. Strategies for Women’s and Gender Policies or the Four Pillars: Quotas, Norm-setting, Mainstreaming and Autonomous Practice

Every political institution, whether it be a political party, a trade union or an association, represents a place in which ritualized and/or judicialized patterns of behaviour and modes of thinking prevail. It is here that hierarchic gender difference starts. These structures largely exclude women, and the few women that are included are often silenced because of the response of the others. Objectives for action are largely established by disregarding women’s interests. Political institutions are structured in a way that does not alter, but stabilizes prevailing gender conditions.

Gender policy is thus equivalent to a policy which

  1. identifies gender discrimination within an institution and reveals its causes

  2. reveals to the outside world the alleged gender neutrality of politics as indirect discrimination against women

  3. aims at creating egalitarian gender conditions internally

  4. uses external politics for breaking down gender hierarchy.

The strategies suitable for achieving this end will be described in the following.

3.1 Egalitarian Representation: Quotas

3.1.1 The quota puts an end to the exclusion of women

There is broad agreement on the fact that women’s equality – as laid down in the German Basic Law – has not yet been achieved. However, there is already political disagreement on what it actually entails. To recognize the fact that women are not adequately represented in political decision-making bodies may be the lowest common denominator in gender policy. Statistical data concerning the number of women in governments and parliaments, political offices, honorary offices and decision-making bodies are set up accordingly and demonstrate that male representatives are numerically dominant almost everywhere. Since democracy is founded on the principle of comprehensive and equal participation and representation of all members of society, this phenomenon violates the constitutional principle of equality. But the causes of this lack of representation and participation are interpreted in different ways. It is not so long ago that political science in its research regarded women as apolitical, without interest in politics and therefore apathetic, or in brief that they displayed specific deficiencies. And moreover, these attributes were backed up by empirical research. A politically active woman was regarded as atypical, as an exception to the rule and – as such – merely re-affirmed the political inertia of all others. It was only in the last ten years that women political scientists began to criticize as discriminatory attributes the myth about women and their political deficiencies (Sauer 1998). They proved

  • that it is the structures that exclude women,

  • that once the definition of politics is expanded, political activities of women do in fact take place,

  • that it is simply an expression of hierarchic gender conditions if women, qua women, are thought to be deficient.

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To introduce balanced gender quotas is an appropriate strategy for halting under-representation of women in political institutions. Its aim is to formally establish gender equality in political decision-making bodies. Women are included not because they are generally thought to have some special characteristics – such as feminine qualities, viewpoints or attitudes – but because they have obviously been quantitatively excluded so far on the basis of their sex. It is the very fact that women, qua women, have been excluded that provides the rationale for a gender quota. But increased participation of women thus established does not guarantee the pursuit of specific political objectives, i.e. gender does not automatically result in a particular political programme. However, a gender balance between men and women in a political body is proof of the fact that there is no discrimination on the basis of sex. In consequence, women are excluded not because of some special features of womanhood, but because the female sex has so far been thought to be less important and could therefore be excluded. Such a formal approach provides the only genuine argument in favour of a quota; any other argumentative point of content should not, and cannot, refer to gender because it may turn out to be counter-productive. Once seats on political bodies are allocated to women for reasons other than their exclusion on the basis of sex, there may be a problem of finding reasons why, in case of conflict, a specific political idea or attitude, or certain qualifications can only be provided by women and not by men. A difference-theoretical argument in favour of quotas easily results in empirical aporia: it is just as unjustified to accuse all male beings of acting and reacting patriarchally in a concrete case as it is to propose that every female person assumes a specific feminine behaviour or viewpoint. Although it is extremely probable that women introduce to political bodies a special experience influenced by gender hierarchy, this does not justify the demand for a gender balance – even if it is done because a political body may benefit from such experience. It would be difficult, both theoretically and empirically, to prove that such experience can be introduced exclusively by women and by any woman.

The argument in favour of gender-specific quotas for a political body can therefore rest in the formal exclusion of women only, otherwise it would mean disrespect for the many other differences that women display. Equally, men are not denied the right of taking up a disproportionate amount of seats because they take a wrong, undesirable and, in particular, uniform attitude, but because their preponderance constitutes a phenomenon indicating the exclusion of women.

The problems in implementing decisions in favour of quotas are manifold: they are, as a rule, like a textbook on gender hierarchy in the respective political system and can be read as such.

Three typical arguments are disproved in the following:

„We cannot find a woman, women are not at all interested."

This statement blames women themselves for being excluded qua women and makes individuals responsible for their exclusion. In fact many political decision-making bodies are male-dominated, and their internal structures and their products in the form of policies are therefore perceived as having such a strong gender bias that women initially have no access to them, even though they are officially open to them. In these cases of conspicuous male domination, a quota procedure is particularly problematic for many women because it exposes them to a paradoxical situation which they find hard to get round: in order to be able to participate in such a body in the first place, they must accept that others regard them as being included by means of a quota (quota woman). The quota in this case is regarded as support of women who are suffering from a deficiency of some kind or other, not as compensation for discriminatory structures. A woman is then free to accept as her own the deficiency that her sex is accused of, and if she does she is the deficient

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woman who is finally invited to join. Or she defends herself against such assumed deficiency, then she is not the woman who was meant to be there in the first place. Faced with the choice of either being accused of defects or being the wrong person, women often prefer not to get involved at all. However, exclusion on the basis of sex is perpetuated in consequence. In other words, if no woman is willing to participate, it is gender culture that is to blame and not only women as a group. To change the gender culture is, however, a task to be faced by men and women alike.

„We cannot turn down experienced men."

Hierarchic gender conditions create a dilemma in many cases: individual men have to „carry the can" for what earlier generations have incorporated in the structures. The case of the individual man reveals what has remained hidden in the countless cases of women: gender is a selective feature, for men an inclusive, for women an exclusive one. Gender difference is politicized in such a manner that their sex does not appear to play a role for men, yet constitutes an undeclared reason for excluding women. Specific experience and qualification are reasons for including men, yet of a nature that many women cannot acquire in the same way. Without breaking with traditions, i.e. excluding men in individual cases, this gender imbalance in political bodies cannot be overcome. The woman appointed or elected in such a case is personally not at the same level as the man who did not get a chance, but represents the sex so far excluded; depending on the political weight attached to gender discrimination in a given situation, people may accept the individual fate of a man as part of the deal. Women are neither heartless nor stupid when they insist on their rightful place in spite of the individual fate of a man; they merely follow through their demand for a gender balance.

„Women are not qualified for appointments."

To be able to take part in political decision-making often presupposes holding other offices, meeting certain conditions. If no woman has the necessary qualifications at a given point in time, it is first and foremost an important indicator of anti-female discrimination in other sub-political processes. The reasons for it need to be carefully analyzed and put right by new measures. But it is equally possible to question the arguments for legislation and conditions. If they even faintly give the impression of being the result of traditions and customs, they need to be revised for being exclusivist to women; this often applies to inherited memberships.

3.1.2 Effects of Greater Women’s Participation in Decision-making Bodies

Those who believe – and take as their point of departure – that men and women are essentially different regard being a woman as a resource for improving politics; they expect women – because of their being different – to give new inspiration and add new values to structures and concepts hitherto shaped by men. Not least have the theories on female morality (Gilligan 1982) reinforced hopes that more women in politics would make a difference to the kind of policies. Women are regarded as less depraved, more emotional and morally stronger: women who complement men as human beings will finally – when they start taking part in decision-making – place emphasis again on values previously neglected by men. The question of what a feminine policy would look like and whether there exists a feminine style of policy-making at all has been the object of many studies about women in politics. The empirical answer to the question of whether women adhere to a self-perception in their political work which is different from that of men is both „yes" and „no" (Sauer 1994). There is no proof of a feminine gender identity which applies to all women across the board, nor do all women politicians behave in the same manner and have the same image of themselves as women, or even wish to be something special and different owing to their sex. Nowhere near all of them orient themselves at a feminine gender stereotype in their political behaviour or specific viewpoints. Many feel rather greater af-

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finity towards their fathers and the values they represent, i.e. male viewpoints. The findings are by no means unambiguous. There are also good reasons for criticizing attempts at identifying something which confirms a specific gender difference; the argument against the theory of difference is that gender cannot be used as a category for describing human nature and identity, but represents a structural category for analyzing socially-produced idiosyncrasies with which individuals must come to terms. When, where and by what means gender plays what part in the political process of participation depends on the cultural and historical context. Even a comparison between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR illustrates that the experience differs greatly. While gender did not play an important role for politically active women in former East Germany when they entered politics nor did they feel part of a „special" gender at the age of 16 to 18, political participation of women in the Federal Republic was influenced much more by the necessity of striking a balance between being a woman and policy-making. They feel rather more alienated (Penrose 1994, Schöler-Macher 1994). Conversely, there are nowadays younger women in the Federal Republic who see themselves as players of institutions for whom a lot is at stake, who have learnt to profit from existing rules and try not to see themselves as alienated (Hasenjürgen 1996). It therefore depends on the historical and cultural context whether being a woman is experienced as a problem of identity in conflict with the political context.

Gender difference is just as inappropriate for justifying quotas – requiring gender hierarchy to be properly understood – as is the conclusion that women’s participation is not absolutely essential because not all women in political office question gender hierarchy and pursue, or wish to pursue, a pro-women policy.

Empirical studies on women politicians clearly demonstrate that women are made to feel, and feel themselves, inferior as a sex. At the level of gender relations, they have all experienced how men ignore them in discussions as a matter of course, how men take over responsibility by being chivalrous and take women under their protection – in brief: they have seen the entire spectrum of gender-specific forms of interaction in groups and committees and corresponding institutional backgrounds. Even if they do not comment on such directly discriminating experience, women in political office are often critical about the way they are treated. But at an individual level, they do not necessarily react in the same way: some try to forget the experience and deliberately disregard it. Other women in male-dominated organizations identify very strongly with their traditional gender role and wear feminine ornaments, such as jewellery or special clothes, and avoid criticizing dominating behaviour by men. This is not always an expression of „female weakness", but the result of a careful balancing act which women must go through again and again: findings from research in this field prove that women in traditionally male occupations irritate men in these jobs and have to find a way of responding to this irritation of male thinking and feeling. If these women do not in consequence underline their female identity by means of traditional gender attributes, the irritation becomes even greater because then traditional male identity, which manifests itself by being different from women in the first place, is called into question as well. Many men regard it as an enormous provocation when such doubts are cast on conventional forms of representation and interaction, and react with crushing contempt. They simply deny that women who trigger off such reactions still belong to the female sex. „She is no longer a woman". Women who wish to assert themselves in male-dominated institutions must carefully calculate the measure of provocation that she and others can live with. The situation of women in politics is further aggravated by the fact that they share political objectives with the men of their own parliamentary group and that they need each other’s support for realizing their aims.

Still other women make efforts to oppose male behaviour of domination and to assert themselves by disregarding gender-specific attempts to suppress them. These women wish to con-

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tribute to a change in the way men and women treat each other. They believe that this behaviour reflects gender hierarchy and attempt to change it. They do not see this personal experience as a private matter, but as an indicator for a specific feature of those very societal structures in which they are politically active.

To integrate individual women in political bodies is thus no guarantee of a different culture of interaction, a different policy vis-à-vis the outside world. Nevertheless, experience and studies from the Nordic countries demonstrate that something equivalent to the law of critical mass takes effect: if there are at least 30% of women on a specific body the probability increases that behaviour and regulations are called into question and are altered. Thus women in Scandinavia were able to successfully change both the style of interaction within political institutions and the arguments used in the political discourse when they had gained more than 30% of the seats (Dahlerup 1991). Similarly, the European Commission expects greater gender awareness in the output of political bodies once more women take part (Euro. Com. 1997, p. 4).

And last but not least it affects the general conditions under which political bodies are used to work if women – not qua women, but because of their gender-specific situation in life – call into question the normal working arrangement in politics. In order to be able to reconcile their political activities with looking after their children and relatives in need, they demand shorter meetings, different meeting schedules and more effective forms of political presentation. The more women are involved, the greater the probability that one of them requests such choice and, in consequence, receives support from other women. At this point, the quantitative selection for positions appears to affect the level of opportunities for realizing specific ideas: it is especially in circumstances entirely designed to fit men’s situation in life – without an obligation for private unpaid work – that women will have no choice but to request new conditions if they wish to continue – unless they choose to lead a life similar to that of men. However, Scandinavian experience also demonstrates that topics and concepts introduced by women are not automatically adopted once quotas have been introduced. What is required is consistent recruitment of women with gender awareness as far as it concerns the political objectives of their organization and its structures, and this can be achieved by a policy of alliances.

The policy of alliances pursued by women is further proof of the fact that quantitative participation of women and the conceptual design of policies are interrelated. The parliamentary vote on intra-marital rape and termination of pregnancies in the Federal Republic of Germany is a case in point demonstrating that alliances can be successfully concluded across party lines. Women members of Parliament to some extent renounced party loyalty for the sake of their gender. They took this decision primarily as women concerned about a special form of gender hierarchy. This alliance would hardly have come about without some prospect of winning a majority in favour of the position of the women’s alliance. Again, this is proof of the fact that it requires proper majorities of women to bring about such decisions.

3.2 Legalization and Norm-setting

Gender conditions are also reflected in legislation and norms. It has always been one of women’s strategies to alter them. The formal principle of gender equality of opportunity, or the ban on discrimination on the basis of sex is written into the Constitution. This principle can be used as a point of reference, and can take concrete shape, in organizations and bodies which are expected to implement a gender balance, and also in institutions in which discrimination is to be abandoned. It needs to be incorporated into the relevant regulations, statutes, guidelines, organizational targets or agreements so that equal opportunity is identified as an aim to which the organization feels itself committed. Whether it concerns the reform of public administration, a political party or a trade union – experience shows that it mostly takes a prolonged process to implement such a self-im-

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posed commitment internally as well as externally. However, to discuss gender equality of opportunity as part of the normative rules normally paves the way for its inclusion into organizational culture. Such a discussion helps to make everyone aware of the gender issue whatever their place in the organization.

As part of such discussions, the terminology applied needs to be clarified. A decision must be made on which term to use:

  • implementing the principle of equality of men and women,

  • equal opportunity for women,

  • equal rights for women,

  • gender balance between men and women,

  • gender equity,

  • gender democracy,

  • emancipatory gender democracy.

Each of these terms needs to be clearly defined in the context of a political organization and, in the final analysis, only those concerned can determine what they should mean in a concrete case.

However, the terms used for describing the objectives cannot be selected at random because people’s attitude to the gender issue, and also the gender theory they use for reference, are reflected in the very terms used: those who use the term women’s policy wish to pursue a policy aimed at women; anti-discriminatory policy clearly spells out what it is all about; those who speak of policies for lesbians and gays wish to implement a policy in favour of these groups, while a policy of anti-heterosexism, in contrast, describes what must be changed.

The traditional triad of terms used in connection with women’s issues, i.e.

  • equal opportunities in shaping one’s life,

  • partnership of men and women,

  • positive action for women,

is based on the assumption of gender difference and aims at changing it in parts only: equal opportunities need not be used by everyone, partnership also fits in with the model of a male bread-winner, and positive action may primarily focus on facilitating the traditional division of labour between men and women in favour of women.

In contrast, the term gender balance implies a situation in which inequality of positions on the basis of gender should no longer be permissible. Gender democracy means the empowerment of both men and women to negotiate norms and political objectives, while emancipatory gender democracy emphasizes the changes that men and women must come to terms with.

Norms and conceptual terms can be very abstract, and yet they pave the way for concrete policies. To develop a mainstreaming policy is inconceivable without integrating equality of opportunity in the treaties of the European states. Political activities can refer to such norms for legitimization; last but not least they offer a point of reference to individual women who feel discriminated against and encourage them to defend themselves against such discrimination. Norms that have been established and come into force are not, however, automatically effective – as has been demonstrated by many studies about what people regard as legally right or wrong (cp. Lautmann 1986). But if norms and guiding concepts are not automatically applied, this raises the question of appropriate strategies to achieve this aim.

3.3 Initiative and Control: Mainstreaming

3.3.1 Definition of Mainstreaming

The mainstreaming approach in women’s and gender policies has been spelled out in the most precise terms at the EU-level. In order to fully understand it, the general conditions established at that level need to be carefully considered. It is certainly true that mainstreaming is far too easily praised as the latest and most modern form compared to positive action which is perceived as out-of-date – frequently with the aim of withdrawing resources and instruments of power from the strategy disrespectfully called positive action.

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Mainstreaming presupposes

  1. that the gender issue is regarded as a political issue,

  2. that political interventions must aim at establishing gender equity and equality of opportunity and at implementing human rights for women as well,

  3. that existing strategies are recognized as deserving complementation.

Under these circumstances, mainstreaming in practice means the mobilization of all available resources in order to bring about equality of opportunity. At a European level these resources include, in particular:

  • the legal instruments,

  • the financial resources,

  • the analytical tools,

  • the moderation potential.

Different approaches are used for ensuring equal opportunities:

  • promoting women as a group discriminated against,

  • creating general societal conditions which ensure equal opportunities,

  • awareness-raising about the gender issue, in particular amongst male actors.

Gender controlling constitutes an important activity in the context of mainstreaming, in other words examining every political activity for the contribution it makes to ensuring equal opportunities:

  • Action programmes are already analyzed from a gender point of view and revised at the design and planning stages.

  • Political concepts are analyzed, evaluated and reformulated in view of the gender issue.

  • Access to programmes and financial resources for women is studied and improved.

The important point is the idea behind mainstreaming: the gender issue is considered to be an essential criterion for solving social, economic and environmental problems. The seeming gender neutrality of many problems is recognized as such, and the gender context clarified or elaborated. In consequence, women would not hold special meetings to address their problems, but the special problem of men and women would be discussed at all meetings. Such a demand does justice to the dimensions of gender-hierarchic conditions in all sections of society, yet meeting this demand involves an entire process.


  • many and varied methods already exist for specifically analyzing gender conditions in all subject-related contexts,

  • political actors are gender-aware both in their personal behaviour and in the way they manage problems,

  • gender conditions are seen as a natural element in solving complex problems and are already taken into account at the planning stage,

  • the effects of political measures are assessed as far as their impact on gender relations is concerned, and those measures excluded which will not de-hierarchize them,

  • monitoring whether the gender perspective forms an integral part of all political activities has become obsolete.

3.3.2 Conditions for Mainstreaming

Mainstreaming is a strategy which requires the acceptance of institutions and participation in these institutions – a not entirely uncontroversial condition in view of the fact that it was the critical distance to established policies and institutions which made the women’s movement strong as a political force in the first place. It struggles for more scope and for including what has so far been regarded as private in the definition of „political". Women in an institutional setting are certainly not able to create a feminist counter-public. In other words, on the one hand

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mainstreaming adapts its calculations to established solution patterns, and is thus always restricted by them, and on the other it uses these calculations for promoting the gender issue. And new opportunities may result from this. It is by examining existing calculations, in particular, and their gender-specific effects that changes become discernible which, obscured by what is regarded as „normal", would not otherwise be discussed. Such an analysis of the gendering process is very demanding and by no means a simple task.

Mainstreaming is a strategy of gender policy. This strategy does not mean that it is possible to dispense with a political debate and a decision about how to change gender conditions. A quantitative gender balance in many cases is not equivalent to genuine equality of opportunity. Those who use gender as a structural category for an analysis of gender-specific domination must look far beyond the simple proof of statistical gender imbalance. Established differences between men and women in the labour market, health and welfare statistics cannot be interpreted without clearly-defined theories of society and of gender conditions. The simple demand of balancing the number of men and women in any possible context does not achieve much. Even if, for example, equal numbers of women and men occupied top positions, while at the same time the already visible trend of these women sacrificing motherhood is reinforced – while men continue to be fathers – a men-women comparison would be inappropriate: it would have to be supplemented by a comparison of fathers and mothers. Similarly, the limited success in efforts to promote young women into so-called male occupations has so far not been offset by a corresponding strategy of promoting young men into traditionally female occupations. This strategy has even failed in the Nordic countries. But it follows logically that a greater number of women in male occupations is possible only if men in turn move into women’s occupations. But this requires political decisions for which mainstreaming can be helpful as a strategy, but which cannot be replaced by it: criteria for control need to be in place before procedures are to be controlled and target figures established; yet they can be drawn up only by clearly analyzing gender conditions and by developing a visionary gender perspective.

At the same time an effective mainstreaming process needs to meet three important conditions.

It requires

  • subject-specific knowledge,

  • gender competence,

  • power

on the part of all those involved in decisions and processes.

– Subject-specific knowledge

The problem resulting from the difference between experts and laymen – reflected not least in the problem of technical jargon – becomes particularly visible in mainstreaming: the cross-disciplinary task of establishing a gender balance requires both comprehensive knowledge in all disciplines and specific and detailed knowledge from gender research. The more subject-specific knowledge an individual has, the easier it is to contribute to a critical analysis in combination with existing gender information. Subject-specific knowledge from within the various disciplines is absolutely indispensable for establishing a gender balance through mainstreaming, and it should not be taken for granted that such knowledge is found combined in a single individual. Equal opportunity officers, for example, must often assert themselves in the face of superior numbers of experts. On the one hand, equal opportunity officers must be allowed to bring in women experts in order to somehow set off the imbalance; on the other, expert knowledge must open itself up and become transparent, or recognize the deficiencies involved in the gender issue.

Apart from subject-specific knowledge, another type of knowledge is equally necessary, i.e. process or procedural knowledge. The movement of women within institutions clearly demonstrates that women have recognized this for de-

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cades. For example, women trade unionists have first exchanged their experience with and knowledge of the organizational structure of their trade union, assisted and reinforced each other in this field in order to subsequently realize their specific interests (Pilwousek 1998). Women trade unionists who tell the story of the beginnings of the movement knew the rules of the game in their organization, how to use resolutions, how to lobby and the many small tactical manoeuvres which formed part of it. They needed both: on the one hand, the process of exchange and of formulating their objectives within the trade union, on the other, knowledge of the organization, of rules and tactical moves.

– Gender competence

Administrative units need to have available subject-specific knowledge and, to the same extent, gender-specific knowledge: an increasing amount of information about gender-hierarchic conditions is available nowadays and is not limited to what women say they want when asked in polls. Gender studies at the universities consist of a large curriculum and are much further developed in some countries than in the Federal Republic of Germany. It has long since been proved that existing academic disciplines have adopted an androcentric point of view, i.e. exclude women’s situation in life and accept as a norm that of men instead; but there is also a whole wealth of scientific findings established from a critical feminist perspective. Gender competence thus means the ability to respond to the many and varied results of women’s and gender research and of women’s experience. It is, however, necessary to be aware of the fact that the relationship between men and women is a problem requiring a political, not a private individual solution in order for this knowledge to be appropriately used. Gender needs to be understood as a structural category that affects all conditions in society. In addition, gender competence in the process of mainstreaming means to take note of existing gaps in knowledge. The more critically all areas of life are studied from a gender perspective, the more obvious it becomes that very little detailed knowledge has so far been accumulated. With this in mind, new questions must be drawn up for statistical purposes, data analyzed and existing knowledge examined in the light of new questions. If such gaps in knowledge have been identified or data been missing in the process of mainstreaming it is by no means the women in the committees concerned that have to collect these data, but it is the task of the institutions concerned, the departments and administrative units in charge of the project under discussion.

However, gender competence in the mainstreaming process entails not only research results for reference and the ability of identifying gaps, but also competence in handling gender relations. Individuals who are working in mixed-gender groups need to know about gender-hierarchic patterns of relationships, discriminatory manners of speaking about women, verbal and non-verbal forms of interaction, and also to be able to assert themselves in the face of them and to change them. If, for example, the gender problem is moved to the end of the agenda, this is frequently equivalent to non-acceptance of arguments used by women in general, and specifically about the gender issue – or, alternatively, to demonstrative protection of other women who refrain from reacting in this very manner. If male members on a committee build up such concentrated counter-power, women need to stand up to it, recognize it for what it is and oppose it. At the same time, it is important to make men understand their own behaviour so that they become aware of how much it influences the internal politics of a body. Moreover, women must be able to dissociate themselves from the disrespect shown to them as a group and not to take it personally.

– Power

Mainstreaming requires support for the ways in which women cooperate with each other. At the level of the EU, mainstreaming means to make use of the coordination capability at that level, amongst other things. This clearly describes the very essence of mainstreaming: it lives from the sensitivity of women as far as it concerns

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their specific situation, and from reinforcing their networks. Such networking can be handled in very many different ways – what counts is that women are given the locations, the time and the means to exchange views about a women-specific or gender-specific problem and to study it. Without a separate place, the time and the organizational resources for gender-related activities by the organization concerned, mainstreaming policies will lack a legitimizing support structure, and equal opportunity officers remain isolated fighters. The power of defining the problem areas is not automatically granted in the mainstreaming process. Women and men working in this field must have targets which are politically legitimized and which are established in processes other than mainstreaming. Mainstreaming thus means that all operations in the political field are automatically assessed for their impact on gender relations. This inbuilt pressure in fact offers some measure of power – but not in the sense that it ensures a gender balance or abolishes gender-hierarchic conditions as a matter of course.

3.3.3 How to Realize Mainstreaming

Ideal conditions for a mainstreaming policy are far from being political reality, neither at the EU level nor in the Nordic countries, which for some time have been basing their equal opportunity policy on the mainstreaming principle (Laxén 1997). For example, Sweden and Denmark are at present in the process of drawing up projects with the aim of developing mainstreaming methods. It is not possible to systematically analyze what equal opportunity implies without tools adapted to this specific purpose. The collection of special data, the analysis of how funds are allocated and decisions are taken, tests, checklists and seminar concepts must always be consistent with the political measure in question.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, some concepts already exist for in-company staff development programmes which are consistent with the mainstreaming principle, namely within the framework of Total-E-Quality. The objective is clear: women should have as much opportunity of being present in all parts of the corporate system as men. Even such a simple objective cannot be achieved at a stroke or by a particular measure, but requires detailed analyses of many processes, procedures and approaches which in turn vary greatly from company to company. Their aim is to develop specially-designed staff selection and job-placement procedures which benefit women. These practices take different forms and transform conventional procedures which are not gender-sensitive (Krell 1998).

Mainstreaming or gender controlling in resource allocation involves monitoring if half the funds available go to women – a quantity which can be statistically established. If the result does not meet the objective, promotion criteria and allocation practices need to be scrutinized in a next step, and changed if they prevent women from sharing these resources. To earmark specific budgetary funds for women, as intended with 15% of the budget of the European Funds, is a measure in line with mainstreaming – aimed at ensuring equality of opportunity for women. Positive action for women has a place in the mainstreaming strategy provided its role in a policy of equal opportunity is clear. For example, in order to correct conditions of gender-specific violence it is necessary both to change the general conditions, such as the financial dependence of wives, and to provide concrete help for women and their children affected by male violence, including by offering therapy to the perpetrators.

Gender-controlling measures have been formally in place in many local communities and provinces for a long time. Women successfully fought for mandatory assessment of all draft legislation, Cabinet proposals and regulations in how they impact on women. At first glance, it appears to be a concrete form of gender controlling. Yet in practice it does not have the expected result: it is the experience of equal opportunity officers that in 99% of all cases the response is „no effect" (cp. Berlin Government 1998, p. 71). It simply meets formal requirements. The way in which people faithfully go

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through the necessary procedures indicates a great measure of ignorance about the gendering processes and the hidden mechanisms of gender-specific discrimination. The proposal of making it easier to answer the question by listing potential discriminatory mechanisms on a checklist is equally controversial amongst women’s representatives. The fear that new formalized procedure may lead to the same formal responses is not entirely unfounded. Jung (1998) analyzes the efforts undertaken by public administrations to integrate what appears „strange" – in this case the problem of gender-hierarchic conditions – and identifies the mechanisms of formalization and judiciarization. Strategies aimed at equal opportunities, such as establishing quantitative values and standards, the demand for reporting and monitoring non-compliance exactly follow such mechanism. If nothing else is added to them, they will hardly be of resounding success. In order not to remain a „toothless tigeress" (loc. cit p. 202), a policy in favour of equal opportunities must be able to cross the boundaries of public administration: elements of unpredictability and innovation, the presentation of something entirely different are needed in order to change the male-oriented institutions and to open up space which can be shaped by the other half of the population.

Again, it is in the appointment of equal opportunity officers that the dilemma of a policy of equal opportunities manifests itself once again: originally established as a control instance for extensive anti-discrimination legislation, it remained in place even when it became clear that the law could not be enforced. The equal opportunity officers thus serve a dual function: one of checking the so far inadequate equality norms, and one of initiative to be taken if the norms are not effective. In consequence, personal commitment of the officers concerned remains a crucial factor because the system of public administration has not entirely adopted the idea of gender balance. The person mandated to check how much has been implemented may thus easily turn into the scapegoat and find herself denounced instead of those who violate the rules. As part of the administration, she functions as its bad conscience, while as a person she is a visible sign of a democratic deficiency within the institution. She continues to be a necessary admonisher until the systems of public administration will have genuinely adopted gender problems as an idea that guides their actions – mainstreaming strategies may further this process of integration.

3.4 A Space for Women for Communication, Reflection and Autonomous Practice

The women’s movement – as a practical step towards creating a separate space for women in society – has brought to light the fact that women’s thoughts and feelings have so far not played any part and that it is productive and innovative for women to communicate with and refer to each other. The women’s movement has established a pattern which also becomes a critical impulse for those women who are not part of it. In organizations and institutions, women have founded their own groups, departments or committees to discuss their interests and use them as a platform for exerting influence. They are always critical not only about their interests being disregarded, but also about the political culture of the organization concerned if it displays features which are restrictive and disparaging to women. It is the aim of these women who form their own groups to bring to light what has been repressed in male-oriented organizations and to make transparent hierarchic gender conditions. They do not turn their back in bitterness to patriarchal institutions, but gather strength from their own experience and show a great deal of staying power in their pursuit of anti-patriarchal strategies. As has been suggested by the new gender theories, to be a woman is not sufficient ground for formulating women or gender-political objectives. They cannot be simply derived from a global and uniform interest shared by all women. This was more often an idea propagated by self-appointed male feminists. On the contrary, gender discrimination and gender-specific innovation are very diverse, in parts hidden, in parts experienced in

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different ways by the individuals concerned. This is the reason why there must be a separate space for women, and for men if required, in which a consensus can be reached on specific issues. In other words, under existing conditions and on the basis of experience made by the women involved, an agreement must be reached about the objectives of their policy. Such a space is no substitute for a quota-based committee, it is no alternative to mainstreaming, but it ensures support and provides a feedback for women’s and gender policies in other settings. In addition, independent women’s committees provide a place in which to evaluate strategies for the realization of common objectives. They give support, and also form a critical forum for women working in quota-based bodies or in mainstreaming processes. They can reinforce the effect if they have, or can mobilize, their own resources. Women on quota-based committees must come to terms with the existing policy-making rules, opportunities for innovation are more limited in such committees. In contrast, women’s groups are much more imaginative and can, in fact, pursue their own autonomous political practice provided they have the necessary independent resources, such as publicity and financial funds.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Dezember 2001

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