768.3 Survey methodology and gender political inequality: Are imported questions undermeasuring women's activism in the global south?

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 4:35 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Solange SIMOES , Sociology and Women and Gender Studies, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti
This paper aims to contribute to a critical assessment of the potential and limitations of one of the most widely used methods -  survey methodology - in the quantitative study of gender political inequality. Instead of merely replicating questions designed for American and European contexts, I developed a theoretical and empirical critique informed by feminist epistemology. I argue that national context, social class and gender shape different modes of informal civic and political activism in the global south that traditional question design - geared to the more formal card-carrying modes of participation - fails to measure. Additionally, drawing on the understanding of the cognitive aspects involved in the construction of shared meanings – the correspondence between the intended meaning (by the investigator) and the interpreted meaning (by the respondent) – I designed, tested and applied questions that allowed the respondent to perceive as legitimate response - and thus report - a wider range of civic and political actions. Feminist epistemology and the cognitive aspects of survey methodology  provided the theoretical and methodological framework for the design of the new questions. The findings, although empirically limited to the universe from which the sample was drawn, have implications for the use of survey methodology in the study of gender political inequality in contexts in which more informal modes of political participation are more prevalent. Since the results show that the social class of the respondent is another factor related to the validity of the measurements, I suggest that the implications of our findings are not limited to the global south, but might apply to the study of women’s political and civic activism, especially among the working class, in the global north as well.