Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics

Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics

Edited by Barbara Hobson, Jane Lewis and Birte Siim

An important contribution to the current literature on gender and social politics, this book challenges mainstream thinking on welfare states, citizenship, family, work, and social policy. Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics analyses the corresponding shifts in political discourse, and the changes in socio-political configurations that mirror changing gender relations.

Chapter 7: Representation, agency and empowerment

Bérengère Marques-Pereira and Birte Siim

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, family and gender policy


Bérengère Marques-Pereira and Birte Siim INTRODUCTION Since the French Revolution the women’s movement has demanded the right to vote and to be present in political assemblies as women citizens in order to influence political decisions and place women’s interests, issues and concerns on the political agenda. Second-wave feminism has contributed to politicize women’s interests and to institutionalize gender equality, and the political meaning of gender has changed during the last 30 years. Women have in all Western democracies moved from the right to the left, changing their voting behaviour from support for Conservative parties to Socialist and Social Democratic parties, and women’s issues like abortion, child care institutions, equal pay and sexual harassment have been included on the political agenda. Women are still under-represented in politics in Western democracies, except for Scandinavia. This is the background for the present discussion of strategies to include women in politics through demands for parity and quotas that have also raised new theoretical and political questions about representation. The chapter analyses women’s exclusion and inclusion in politics and the focus is on the feminist rethinking of representation, agency and empowerment. In feminist thought the main emphasis has not been on political representation but rather on women’s participation in politics and on their mobilization and organization in the context of civil society. Representation and participation can be seen as two different perspectives on how to include women in politics. One has focused on women’s participation and empowerment ‘from below’ and the...

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