The personal is political yet again: Bringing struggles between gender equality and gendered next of kin onto the feminist agenda
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In spite of feminist criticism of the welfare state, Norwegian society is frequently perceived as gender-equal. As a truism of public discourse, gender equality affirms a neoliberal understanding of individuals as able to act independently and to freely choose their course in life. This article disrupts that truism with an analysis of a transitional process that occurred to a seemingly free and gender-equal married woman whose everyday life took an unexpected turn at the age of 50 when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Using an abductive method, we construct a narrative with this woman as the main character. We then use the narrative as an optical device for scrutinizing encounters between the notions “free and gender-equal woman” and “gendered next of kin”, analysing the situated becoming of gender and understanding the encounters’ potential for agency and resistance. The inquiry brings a pattern of gendered encounters into being, demonstrating how a seemingly free and gender-equal woman’s strength and independence become subordinating weaknesses in encounters with the welfare state. This paradox raises questions about the politics of everyday life in a presumably gender-equal society, brings new struggles onto the feminist agenda, and demands that the personal becomes political yet again.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research on 18 May 2018, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/08038740.2018.1461131.