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From Women-Friendliness to Child-Friendliness? : Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of Parliamentary Debates on Birthrate and Family Policy in Finland

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Title: From Women-Friendliness to Child-Friendliness? : Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of Parliamentary Debates on Birthrate and Family Policy in Finland
Author(s): Lee, Arim
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in European and Nordic Studies
Specialisation: Social Sciences Study Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
In 2017, the trend of declining birth rates arose as a problem in Finland in comparison to the 1868 Great Famine, as the recent number of live births was decreasing closer to that of the Famine. To correspond to that, family policy was paid attention to as a solution in the Finnish Parliament. The term, child-friendliness, was prevalently used to describe the goal of the family policy reform, which implies that the focus of justification for family policy would move from women-friendliness. It was an intriguing phenomenon to observe given the historical reputation of the Finnish family policy as a women-friendly policy. Motivated by the social phenomenon and following discussions on it, the thesis aims to study different discourses on birth rate and family policy in the Finnish Parliament in 2017 and 2018. The second objective of the thesis is to interpret explicit or implicit gendered implication of the discourses used to problematize birth rates and politicize family policy. To build a contextual foundation, the thesis explores the history of development of the Finnish family policy since the 1970s with reference to the concept of defamilization and refamilization. Also, it elaborates theories and concepts regarding family and family policy and familism in relation to gender. This thesis utilizes feminist critical discourse analysis with the three-dimensional framework of Norman Fairclough on data collected from the database of the Parliament. The data set includes 20 columns from 19 parliamentary minutes recorded in a form of text. The three-dimensional framework enables to examine discourses as text, discursive practice and social practice. The feminist critical discourse analysis helps to discover how gender relations are (re)produced, resisted and transformed in discourses from an overtly gender-sensitive perspective. Based on findings of the thesis, it appears that the justification of gender equality has not been replaced yet by the frame of child-friendliness. Nonetheless, the frame entails normative power to blind the women’s issues related to family policy. With the development of gender sensitivity, the gender issue has become more inclusive, but it is still limited to the hegemonic norms of heterosexuality. Also, the political goal of gender-equal parenthood confronts a threat of backlash that maintains the traditional gender norms in caring and resists gendering the issue of family policy.
Keyword(s): birth rate family policy child-friendly women-friendly gender equality critical discourse analysis feminist discourse analysis Finland

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