Why develop a comparative politics of gender? As the critical perspectives in this section demonstrate, there are many answers to this question. I would like to focus here on two reasons: first, for gaining a deeper understanding of the operations of political institutions, and second, for explaining the relationship between these institutions and social actors, including those pursuing a gender equality agenda. To be specific, this essay argues not just for a comparative politics of gender but for a comparative politics of gender and institutions. The discussion focuses on the possibility of using neo-institutionalist theory, especially in relation to its normative and dynamic understanding of institutions, to gain a deeper understanding of the way that gender shapes political institutions and also, through interaction with social actors, including feminists, the way gender norms can be disrupted to open new spaces for these actors.
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