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Gender Quota Discourses - The Norwegian Case
Unformatted Document Text:  political exclusion or marginalization in the public sphere and deliberative bodies at the local level. They are denied full rights and access, and thus equal protection of citizenship. These harms constitute, according to Fraser (2003), injustice and lack of recognition. The formal rules of the gender quota regime in a narrow approach are necessary, but not sufficient to change gender imbalances in local politics. The informal interpretations make it hard to fulfil the aims of the gender quota regime. This broader approach of the gender quota regime, as informal customary and voluntary regulations, reveals that the power to change the regime is limited. The challenge is that the implementation of the quota regime, which was decided by the national authorities, has to take place at the local level where men dominate positions of political power to a large degree. “The probability, then, may be seen as quite high, that men – in the municipalities as well as in other contexts of society – tend to act in ways that prevent or obstruct the implementation of this policy rather than promote it” (Pincus, 2002:195). The Norwegian Parliament developed a quota regime, but they left the responsibility for implementation to the local level. The regime will then be modified on the basis of the actors’ understandings and interpretations. The paradox is that the implementation of gender equality has to take place in institutions where male dominance in senior positions is stronger than in Parliament. Attitudes towards gender quotas in politics are far more positive at the national elite level than among actors at lower levels, and among women than among men (Skjeie and Teigen, 2003). Many of the local level actors in my study did not consider gender to be a relevant political category. Only a minority, mainly women politicians, use arguments of gender equality and social justice as reasons for women’s political representation. Gender and social justice are not central considerations among most of the local actors involved. The concept of state feminism has an important role in the interpretation of women’s representation in politics in Scandinavia (Hernes 1987). That means women’s political mobilization “from below” in social movements, combined with political integration “from above” in political parties and political institutions. During the development and implementation of the gender quotas of the Local Government Act, there were no political mobilisations from below, neither from political parties nor women’s movements. The mobilisation came mainly from actors at the national level – from above. This may influence the lack of success in the implementation process. The implementation of gender quotas is a complicated business. The analyses reveal the struggles that have taken place to establish the meaning of gender quota. The representations vary from considering gender quotas as a just and effective means for women’s political representation to gender quotas as a threat to masculine hegemony and local democracy. The various representations form discourses that try to occupy, or to gain a foothold, in the same discursive terrain. The struggles reflect the fact that the political relevance of gender is at stake. And it is obvious that the multiplicity of discourses has consequences for social practices and the effects of the quota regime. References Bacchi, Carol Lee (1999): Women, Policy and Politics. The Construction of Policy Problems. SAGE Publications 11

Authors: Guldvik, Ingrid.
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political exclusion or marginalization in the public sphere and deliberative bodies at the local level.
They are denied full rights and access, and thus equal protection of citizenship. These harms
constitute, according to Fraser (2003), injustice and lack of recognition. The formal rules of the gender
quota regime in a narrow approach are necessary, but not sufficient to change gender imbalances in
local politics. The informal interpretations make it hard to fulfil the aims of the gender quota regime.
This broader approach of the gender quota regime, as informal customary and voluntary regulations,
reveals that the power to change the regime is limited.
The challenge is that the implementation of the quota regime, which was decided by the national
authorities, has to take place at the local level where men dominate positions of political power to a
large degree. “The probability, then, may be seen as quite high, that men – in the municipalities as
well as in other contexts of society – tend to act in ways that prevent or obstruct the implementation of
this policy rather than promote it” (Pincus, 2002:195). The Norwegian Parliament developed a quota
regime, but they left the responsibility for implementation to the local level. The regime will then be
modified on the basis of the actors’ understandings and interpretations. The paradox is that the
implementation of gender equality has to take place in institutions where male dominance in senior
positions is stronger than in Parliament. Attitudes towards gender quotas in politics are far more
positive at the national elite level than among actors at lower levels, and among women than among
men (Skjeie and Teigen, 2003). Many of the local level actors in my study did not consider gender to
be a relevant political category. Only a minority, mainly women politicians, use arguments of gender
equality and social justice as reasons for women’s political representation. Gender and social justice
are not central considerations among most of the local actors involved.
The concept of state feminism has an important role in the interpretation of women’s representation in
politics in Scandinavia (Hernes 1987). That means women’s political mobilization “from below” in
social movements, combined with political integration “from above” in political parties and political
institutions. During the development and implementation of the gender quotas of the Local
Government Act, there were no political mobilisations from below, neither from political parties nor
women’s movements. The mobilisation came mainly from actors at the national level – from above.
This may influence the lack of success in the implementation process.
The implementation of gender quotas is a complicated business. The analyses reveal the struggles that
have taken place to establish the meaning of gender quota. The representations vary from considering
gender quotas as a just and effective means for women’s political representation to gender quotas as a
threat to masculine hegemony and local democracy. The various representations form discourses that
try to occupy, or to gain a foothold, in the same discursive terrain. The struggles reflect the fact that
the political relevance of gender is at stake. And it is obvious that the multiplicity of discourses has
consequences for social practices and the effects of the quota regime.
References
Bacchi, Carol Lee (1999): Women, Policy and Politics. The Construction of Policy Problems. SAGE
Publications
11


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