Over 600 experts in feminist economics gathered in Barcelona for the 8th Congress of Feminist Economics

Claim Clongres Over 600 experts in feminist economics gathered in Barcelona for the 8th Congress of Feminist Economics

The 8th Congress of Feminist Economics, which took place in Barcelona from 16 to 18 March 2023 and was the first major event in this field to be held in person after the COVID-19 pandemic, focused on the digitalization of the economy and life, under the theme #Feminist #Digital #Economy. More than 600 people from over 50 countries participated in the congress either in person or virtually. The event was held at Barcelona’s Nau Bostik cultural centre and implemented a code of conduct to ensure the space was safe and free of sexist, racist, classist, LGBTIphobic and ableist attitudes. Due to the wealth and variety of people attending, the congress offered a broad range of formats and methodologies, including panel discussions, workshops, round tables, and networking and co-creation activities. It was attended by participants representing a variety of universities, social and feminist organizations and public administrations. The atmosphere had a collective and diverse energy, bringing together different pathways, strategies and sensitivities under the common framework of feminist economics.

The congress included two plenary sessions focusing on feminisms and the digital economy, in which the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution were discussed from a feminist perspective. In the two sessions, experts in the field debated, among other issues, the extractive dynamics of capitalism, the need to enrich digital diversity and connect with the idea of the commons, the right to care and the importance of considering the links between digital commons, reproductive commons and natural commons. The participants also addressed feminist data analysis, the challenges of platform cooperativism and how artificial intelligence can be sexist, racist and colonialist, as well as highlighting the importance of promoting the critique of capitalist heteropatriarchal digitalization and feminist initiatives that seek a decreasing digital imaginary aligned with the principles of community and life at the centre.

The narrative of the congress was built on seven lines of discussion: #systemic, #care, #policies, #organizations, #violence, #epistemologies and #digital.

The #systemic line of discussion addressed the problem of the systemic crisis of social reproduction, which is linked to a myriad of current crises. It addressed the need for proposals for alternative indicators and measurements with a gender and non-binary perspective to study the labour market and the distinguishing economic and institutional factors that make it possible to explain discrete situations within the whole. The feminization of poverty in rural areas and the need to develop interdisciplinary analytical frameworks based on feminist theory, geography, agriculture, anthropology, ecology, ecofeminisms and feminist economics were also discussed.

In addition, it was noted that pre-existing gender inequalities are exacerbated during natural disasters and that their socio-emotional impact must be addressed from an intersectional perspective. In order to tackle the systemic crisis generated by a global socio-economic project known to be based on neoliberal capitalism, the current financial and legal architecture has to be rethought. The need for a feminist foreign and international cooperation policy, with an emphasis on critical and proactive processes from a feminist and feminist economics perspective, was also addressed. Finally, there was a reaffirmation of the need to strengthen the vocation of internationalist feminism, overcoming various current neo-colonial positions.

The #care line of discussion addressed the issue of care from different perspectives and contexts, including public policy, parenting, paid home care and health. It highlighted the importance of addressing the care crisis and examining different models, such as self-care, in the home, the community, the workplace, academia and institutions. The need to base work on feminist conceptual frameworks that place the sexual division of labour at the heart of inequality was also discussed. On the subject of paid home care, there were presentations of various research studies that highlight the importance of recognizing the value of domestic work and the need for those involved to have a greater voice in future studies on the subject.

In short, care is a key issue in public policy and in society in general. It is important to link it with other policies, such as mobility, education, health, employment and taxation. It is also essential to base work on feminist conceptual frameworks and intersectional approaches to ensure that inequalities related to care are adequately explored. In the case of childcare and parenting, community-based alternatives can contribute to more horizontal and co-responsible care relationships, normalize support needs and reduce the stigma and marginalization of those with more intense care needs. In the area of health care, it is necessary to pay attention to cost transfers and the additional burden they may place on individuals and their families.

The public #policies line of discussion addressed issues such as gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting, tax policy and transparency of administrations, to name a few. It was suggested that public policies should be co-produced, which means that they should be carried out with the participation and, if possible, with the direct involvement of the people they affect, and that the local sphere is perfect for proposing methodological innovations. The financial independence of women is the central objective of many of the policies presented, especially in the fight against the wage gap, and public care policies were discussed. In addition, several public policy instruments were proposed, such as providing budgets with continuous gender impact analysis, establishing structures and bodies in charge of implementing feminist economics in all policies, and empowering citizens with knowledge of the instruments and their rights.

The #organizations – organizational alternatives and transitions – line of discussion covered the need to promote alternatives to the capitalist model, with a focus on the sustainability of life and the planet, interdependence and eco-dependence, and the recognition of all jobs. Organizational transformation processes such as inter-organizational cooperation and the transformation of organizational culture were mooted as possible means of achieving this. However, organizations also face obstacles such as male hegemony, the lack of female leadership role models and/or role models belonging to other dissident identities, violence in organizations, and lack of time and resources to participate in internal participation spaces. It is important to continue working in these areas in order to promote much more inclusive and effective transformation processes.

The social and solidarity economy, cooperativism and mutual support networks were put forward as organizational alternatives to transition from neoliberal capitalist models. Organizational transformation processes, including the redistribution of power and the generation of spaces for independence, the construction of sustainable organizations and the fight against inequalities, were also debated.

The #violence line of discussion addressed the issue of violence against women in employment and social spheres, and its impact on women’s lives, dignity and educational and economic opportunities. It highlighted that the focus on gender-based violence and violence against women must be broadened to include other forms of violence that affect women in all their diversity, such as racist or ableist violence. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of tackling institutional violence and rethinking strategies that individualize the processes of addressing it, in order to understand that tackling violence is yet another care strategy for our organizations, territories and communities.

The #epistemologies line of discussion dealt with epistemologies and methodologies focused on the creation of situated knowledge, and on the feminist reappropriation and reformulation of social research techniques and methodologies. It addressed different topics related to the need to politicize the processes of illness and end of life, as well as the unique relationship between feminist economics and grassroots feminism. Furthermore, participants reflected on current uses and abuses of the notion of intersectionality – which have helped depoliticize this theoretical-political tool that emerged from black feminism – and on its exploitation in the legal realm, the third sector and public policy. Emphasis was placed on the importance of not reducing its political power to a mere instrument for managing difference/diversity, but instead focusing on the material and legal structures that generate difference and inequality.

The #digital line of discussion covered the hostility that still exists in the digital environment for those bodies and individuals who do not fit into the standard or the norm. This highlights how the group to which white cis-heterosexual men from a high socio-economic class and the global north belong represents the whole of humanity in the digital world and at the same time shapes this environment so that its experiences are generalized for everyone. There was reflection on the need to address the pillars of the internet from a groundbreaking perspective in order to make the internet and the digital world a safe and fair space. A different kind of internet was also called for – the feminist internet – which would be driven by free technology, free knowledge, the common good and the digital commons.

During the congress, a datathon was held with the aim of providing a space for experimentation based on collaborative dynamics and co-creation. The datathon explored topics related to the feminist economy agenda, focusing on the issue of violence against women. In the session, a co-creation initiative was organized to define several thematic categories relating to the possible implementation of a Feminist Economy Index and an analysis was conducted on different types of data, including data provided by the European Institute for Gender Equality. It demonstrated the importance of the complexity of data, the importance of data in influencing all areas and the complexity of creating a Feminist Economy Index. 

Finally, the congress had an open space that served as a repository of visions on feminist economics and as a common pool of resources, and the Nau Bostik historic industrial complex provided a framework for networking and distributed generation of knowledge. There were also poster presentations, feminist book displays, documentary screenings and a closing concert to celebrate the much needed rise of feminist economics, before the final working day focusing on summing up, on which this report is based.
This 8th congress highlighted the value of the previous congresses, creating a space of memory and open publication of the content created during the congress, such as the video library, the photo library, the posters on display and the report document. In sum, the congress served as a platform for exchanging ideas and approaches that enriched the perspective of feminist economics.