Communication non publiée
Performing substantive representation in lieu of descriptive representation: gender effects in the French parliament
Nom de la conférence
Congress IPSA, panel The Symbolic, Descriptive, and Substantive Representation of Gender, session Gender Politics and Policy
Date(s) de la conférence
Lieu de la conférence
In the 2007-12 term of the French National Assembly, men still comprise more than 80% of deputies. The low descriptive presence of women has repercussions for women’s substantive and symbolic representation. This paper explores questions of representation through a study of the French parliament, using both quantitative techniques and qualitative interviews with more than fifty members of parliament. Our analysis includes the gendered composition of parliamentary committees and a study of written and spoken contributions, especially the highly visible questions to the government. We find evidence to support the hypothesis that some parliamentary work is divided along gendered lines. Combining cognitive, discursive and institutional approaches, we illustrate how gendered representation has become distorted in the parliamentary context. While men and women are quite comparable on some dimensions, their differences are fore-grounded in those aspects of their work most visible to the public. To compensate for the low descriptive representation of women, female deputies’ role as substantive representatives may have been exaggerated for symbolic purposes.