Casting the ‘Other’
Gender citizenship in politicians’ narratives
In the past century the presence of women in the “public sphere” has increased considerably as a result of, amongst other things, the rapid increase in their levels of schooling, professional competences and labour market participation. Much more limited and slower, by contrast, has been the entry of women into the centers of decision-making and power.This paper proposes reflection on gender citizenship in political arenas, which are precisely those in which action to sensitize and change the broader social context should be undertaken. In order to understand and change gender models in the political-institutional system, analysis is required of how gender is defined and constructed in the specific arenas in which the political careers of individuals are planned and promoted.The paper presents some findings of qualitative research which collected the narratives of men and women — belonging to different Italian political alignments and occupying different positions and roles — relative to their political career paths and the discourses with which they accounted for female under-representation. The analysis of the texts collected allowed light to be shed on the discursive practices, symbols, meanings and sexed images with which the symbolic gender order is created and reproduced. Highlighted in particular are the gender positioning performed through the narratives, and the tendency to cast women in the role of the “Other” with respect to the political system.Viewed from this perspective, political arenas are theatrical stages on which gendered knowledge is created and disseminated. It is evident in particular that the symbolic order of gender and the models of the discursive construction of gender characteristic of the cultures analyzed tend to reproduce an image of political activity as a male preserve, where otherness entails marginalization and/or subordination.
Keywords: gender, narratives, politics, gender citizenship
Published online: 24 August 2004
Bergvall, Victoria L., Bing, Janet M. and F. Freed, Alice
2002 Politeness and the linguistic construction of gender in parliament: An analysis of transgressions and apology behaviour. Working Papers on the Web, vol. 3, Special issues on Linguistic Politeness and Context. www.shu.ac.uk/wpw.
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