Feminism and Women’s Political Representation
That women remain under-represented in legislatures across the world is a fact readily acknowledged by popular texts on feminism (Wolf, 1994: 11; Banyard, 2010: 5; Bates, 2014: 48). As a feminist issue, it is usually framed as symptomatic of patriarchal power structures, typically appearing as part of a statistical list of gender inequalities (gender pay gap, number of women on executive boards, and so on); as such, it does not often feature as a main focus of popular feminist analysis. Although the number of elected women legislators in Westminster and Congress is low, it is not clear whether third wave feminist activists prioritise the issue as part of an overarching struggle to resist gender binaries. In part, this is because many within progressive social movements have viewed national legislatures as neoliberal institutions. Furthermore, it is not obvious how an intersectional approach can be applied to campaigns that essentially argue for an increase in the number of female bodies present. The first half of this chapter maps both the under-representation of women, and of groups of women, and explores feminist campaigns to increase the number of women elected. The second half of the chapter analyses the views of the interviewees towards the issue of women’s political representation. The research finds that few of the interviewees were active or particularly interested in campaigns to increase women’s representation; this stems both from disengagement with the formal political process and from a perception that such campaigns only serve to benefit white middle-class women.
KeywordsFeminist Activist National Legislature Woman Candidate Intersectional Approach Wave Feminism
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