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Gender (im)Balances in Local Politics in Norway: Hindrances to Leadership
Unformatted Document Text:  organize and voice one’s claims plays an important part in the possibility of collectives’ formation. For Norwegian women the 1880ies leading to women’s right to vote in local and parliamentary elections in 1913 can be seen as the legitimating phase. The second phase in Rokkan’s perspective is about incorporation: how do the now politically legitimate groups make use of their rights to vote. The third phase in political mobilization processes came around the 1970ies for women: the new women’s movement claiming political representation: from the right to vote to the actual use of the right to represent. The concept (and use) of gender quota is introduced now; in the gender equality legislation from 1978, gender balance in the corporate channel of Norwegian democracy is stated: 40/60 quotas, minimum/maximum ratios for women and men in all publicly appointed committees, advisory groups etc. In the electoral channel, both at national and local level, things go quite a bit slower. Not until 1998, legislation for municipal affairs warrants gender balance in locally elected boards, committees, etc., similar to legislation for the corporate channel. But before this, at the national level, the prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes world known with the first “women’s cabinet” in 1986, that is: a gender balanced cabinet of a 40/60 female/male ratio (Please observe: this so-called women’s cabinet still held a male majority…). This signifies the fourth and final step/phase in Rokkans theory. In our research project, it is this transformation from representation to integration we focus on. We do not consider it as a step/phase, similar to the other ones in Rokkan’s work. We see it as a qualitative different happening, a leap, from representation in elected assemblies to, in Fraser’s terminology, redistribution of power position. The mentioned legislation on gender quotas to ensure gender balance in committees and local boards at municipal level does not, interestingly, involve power positions. Such gender quota measures is thus about representation, not about integration. According to Rokkan whose comparative units were countries, variations in the integration processes must be seen in light of different structures of opportunity in the countries included. Democratization processes have structural, cultural and political dimensions. Additionally, the different strategies from those within the political system and from collectives outside but aiming at integration contribute to explaining failure and success in mobilization processes. Adapting his model to the local political level, we may state the hypothesis that the variety of local political contexts and opportunity structures, contributes to understanding differences in gender ratios in municipal power positions. We will present some results of testing this hypothesis in a while. Fraser’s Representation, recognition and (re)distribution – (or from redistribution to recognition to representation) i According to Fraser, representation is about equal political voice for women and men (Fraser 2007). Gender balance in politics, than, as balanced representation is equal voices to men and women – at least in theory: when listening the voices in a community council, there seems to be an imbalance towards tenors, baritone and bass voices… But nevertheless, women are there and may (or may not) use their voices, may (or may not) be listened to and may (or may not) be heard. Analyses about whose ideas are heard in local politics show that messages from men are more often attended to then issues women bring to the floor (Berglund 2005). If both a woman and a man introduce the same topic, the speakers afterwards tend to refer to the man bringing up the issue, and overlooking the woman: “invisibilizing” (meaning: making invisible) it’s called in Norwegian politics 8 . It is one of five power use techniques a professor in social politics and local councillor herself presented after analysing male behaviour in city 8 In addition to making women’s competence and their contribution invisible, they are made very visible as women – their looks, forms (breasts f.i.), clothes etc. I.e., they are made visible as the sex the are/wear. 10 of 29

Authors: van der Ros, Janneke.
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organize and voice one’s claims plays an important part in the possibility of collectives’
formation. For Norwegian women the 1880ies leading to women’s right to vote in local and
parliamentary elections in 1913 can be seen as the legitimating phase. The second phase in
Rokkan’s perspective is about incorporation: how do the now politically legitimate groups
make use of their rights to vote. The third phase in political mobilization processes came
around the 1970ies for women: the new women’s movement claiming political
representation: from the right to vote to the actual use of the right to represent. The concept
(and use) of gender quota is introduced now; in the gender equality legislation from 1978,
gender balance in the corporate channel of Norwegian democracy is stated: 40/60 quotas,
minimum/maximum ratios for women and men in all publicly appointed committees, advisory
groups etc. In the electoral channel, both at national and local level, things go quite a bit
slower. Not until 1998, legislation for municipal affairs warrants gender balance in locally
elected boards, committees, etc., similar to legislation for the corporate channel. But before
this, at the national level, the prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes world known
with the first “women’s cabinet” in 1986, that is: a gender balanced cabinet of a 40/60
female/male ratio (Please observe: this so-called women’s cabinet still held a male
majority…). This signifies the fourth and final step/phase in Rokkans theory. In our research
project, it is this transformation from representation to integration we focus on. We do not
consider it as a step/phase, similar to the other ones in Rokkan’s work. We see it as a
qualitative different happening, a leap, from representation in elected assemblies to, in
Fraser’s terminology, redistribution of power position. The mentioned legislation on gender
quotas to ensure gender balance in committees and local boards at municipal level does not,
interestingly, involve power positions. Such gender quota measures is thus about
representation, not about integration.
According to Rokkan whose comparative units were countries, variations in the integration
processes must be seen in light of different structures of opportunity in the countries included.
Democratization processes have structural, cultural and political dimensions. Additionally, the
different strategies from those within the political system and from collectives outside but
aiming at integration contribute to explaining failure and success in mobilization processes.
Adapting his model to the local political level, we may state the hypothesis that the variety of
local political contexts and opportunity structures, contributes to understanding differences in
gender ratios in municipal power positions. We will present some results of testing this
hypothesis in a while.
Fraser’s Representation, recognition and (re)distribution – (or from redistribution to
recognition to representation)
According to Fraser, representation is about equal political voice for women and men (Fraser
2007). Gender balance in politics, than, as balanced representation is equal voices to men and
women – at least in theory: when listening the voices in a community council, there seems to
be an imbalance towards tenors, baritone and bass voices… But nevertheless, women are
there and may (or may not) use their voices, may (or may not) be listened to and may (or may
not) be heard. Analyses about whose ideas are heard in local politics show that messages from
men are more often attended to then issues women bring to the floor (Berglund 2005). If both
a woman and a man introduce the same topic, the speakers afterwards tend to refer to the man
bringing up the issue, and overlooking the woman: “invisibilizing” (meaning: making
invisible) it’s called in Norwegian politics
. It is one of five power use techniques a professor
in social politics and local councillor herself presented after analysing male behaviour in city
8
In addition to making women’s competence and their contribution invisible, they are made very visible as
women – their looks, forms (breasts f.i.), clothes etc. I.e., they are made visible as the sex the are/wear.
10 of 29


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