A Biographical Analysis of Women's Political Participation: The Importance of Politicization in Female Legislators' Biographies

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 60
Oral Presentation
Hiromi TANAKA , Meiji University, Japan
Politics as a social institution remains highly gendered in many societies both quantitatively (few politically active women such as legislators) and qualitatively (androcentric political culture). It has been a major area of concern in both theory and practice for feminists and others who want to promote gender equity to change this gendered world of politics. Despite their efforts women are still minorities among those who are in the decision-making positions. This paper applies a biographical approach to a study of women's political participation and explores what promotes their participation in decision-making. Data used were collected in 2010 through qualitative interviews with female legislators in the local Tokyo assemblies. An analysis of the data revealed that women who used to be politically inactive, even uninterested, could be ‘politicized’ in middle adulthood or at a later phase of life. It is argued that this process of politicization can play an important role in women’s decision to run for office. In Japanese society such politicization rarely occurs in women’s lives. Women are traditionally ascribed to the private sphere of domestic work, being excluded from – or discouraging women from being engaged in – public life. Scholars of women’s political participation have stressed the androcentricity of institutional politics and identified institutional and psychological obstacles to women’s political participation, ranging from a lack of money, party support, publicity in running an election to women’s reluctance of engaging herself in institutional politics. Our study looks at opportunities rather than obstacles for women’s political engagement and focuses on how female legislators experienced the process of politicization and transcended the private-pubic divide.