Intersecting identities, divergent views: interpreting the experiences of women politicians in the Pacific Islands

Jack Corbett, Asenati Liki

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Anecdotally, it is assumed that the factors that constrain women from entering parliament spill over into the way they experience holding public office, thus limiting their influence. Drawing on in-depth biographical interviews and other publically available materials we test this supposition by investigating the experiences of women who have served in parliament in the Pacific Islands, a region famous for its low levels of women's representation. We ask if and how women see their gender as influencing their parliamentary roles. We identify two narratives. The first aligns with the orthodox assumption where prevailing patriarchal norms stymie the influence of women MPs. The second, however, is a counternarrative that defies the conventional reading and instead posits that gender matters little once inside parliament with MPs, highlighting the importance of other identities - family, community, religious, etc. - to their constituent representation and reelection campaigns. In turn, women MPs who hold to this latter perspective are often critical of what they see as the imposition of gender norms by foreign donors. Employing the concept intersectionality allows us to simultaneously acknowledge and problematize this duality, thus providing a more nuanced reading of the impact of gender on parliamentary life in the Pacific region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-344
Number of pages25
JournalPolitics & Gender
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

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