Has 'Parity' Encouraged the Advocacy of Women's Rights in Parliament?
24 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 27 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
In 2007, ‘parity’ led to a 50% increase in the proportion of women in the French parliament, without a change of governing party. Comparing the parliaments before and after 2007 allows us to determine whether and how the influx of women affected parliamentary representation. This paper explores the ways in which various aspects of parliamentary work might reveal gendered issue preferences, supplementing the data analysis with insights from interviews. Four kinds of parliamentary work are analyzed: written questions, oral questions, and private members’ bills, all of which reveal individual deputies’ issue preferences in slightly different ways; and the high-profile questions to the government, which are televised and carefully managed by parties. Two core hypotheses are tested. First, it is expected that we will see “convergence” in men’s and women’s issue preferences as parliament feminizes, because women will no longer be ghettoized within certain policy areas, while men will become more exposed to areas of interest to women. Second, I hypothesize that different gender patterns might emerge in the questions to the government – which might reflect the “assumed” gender preferences of parties – to the other kinds of work, which might reflect the “true” interests of deputies. For most policies, gender differences are more likely to manifest themselves through perspectives rather than issue preferences, and may be secondary to partisan differences, but for those policies most directly affecting women, sex remains the most important explanatory variable. While ‘parity’ may have encouraged parties to exaggerate gender differences in some policy areas, women do appear to be the strongest advocates of women’s interests.
Keywords: Gender quotas, France, parity, parliament, representation
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