Anette Gustafsson has researched the influence of female and male local politicians, their perception of reality and values in various areas. The study reveals both possibilities and limitations when it comes to the space that women have to act in local politics. The study is based on a questionnaire put to council members in 28 Swedish municipalities.

– Women’s political presence means that specific women’s interests are represented to a greater extent in local government politics. Female politicians represent policies for a greater levelling out of genderised power relations in society, says Anette Gustafsson.
Men dominate local politics

At the same time, the study shows that men dominate local politics in terms of both political activity and political influence. In comparison with men, for women holding a political office is associated with more problems and difficulties.

Furthermore, conflicts of interest between the sexes ”the obligation to give way” articulate left-right based conflicts of interest. Active exercise of male power also occurs, such as men commandeering the most prestigious political offices and women being excluded from positions of power.

– Furthermore, in the arena of local politics, gender relations per se are only politicised to a limited extent, says Anette Gustafsson. There is relatively widespread resistance, primarily among male politicians, to putting issues that concern gender and gender relations onto the political agenda, says Anette Gustafsson.

However, the study also shows that neither women nor men are homogenous groups. For example, some men make common cause to a large extent with women’s interests and actively drive such issues forward politically. Party politics is also of great significance, and parties that are situated on the left are the most favourably inclined and receptive to women’s interests.

The study also indicates that the occurrence of separatist women’s organisations is a further significant factor for women’s prospects of asserting themselves in politics and being able to drive forward women’s interests politically.
– Women’s political representation is a necessary, though not sufficient, prerequisite for issues concerning gender relations to be addressed on the political agenda, says Anette Gustafsson.

Dissertation title: Gender power and gender-based interests. On genderised political representation in Swedish local politics.

Time and location for the disputation: Wednesday 23 April 2008, 13.15, Lecture Theatre Dragonen, Sprängkullsgatan 19, Göteborg.

Dissertation author: Anette Gustafsson, tel +46(0)303-79 88 44 (home), +46(0)31-786 53 29 (work)