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Revisiting Forms of Representation by Critically Examining Men

  • Elin Bjarnegård (a1) and Rainbow Murray (a2)


Research on gender and politics has made use of Pitkin's (1967) distinction between descriptive, substantive, and symbolic representation to conceptualize and understand the different facets of women's underrepresentation and misrepresentation. The corresponding overrepresentation of men has seldom been explicitly recognized in this literature. We explore what the critical study of men and masculinities could contribute to the study of different forms of representation. Researching the descriptive overrepresentation of men implies recognizing male dominance and turning our attention from the factors that constrain women from entering politics to the factors that enable and reproduce men's presence. Researching the substantive representation of men also implies investigating how men represent men and identifying whether hegemonic masculinities privilege the representation of some men while neglecting others. Finally, a study of the symbolic representation of men implies identifying and describing the masculine signals and symbols that permeate political life but remain largely invisible because they constitute the political norm. Naming them as “masculine” will facilitate a gendered analysis of political institutions, practices, and discourses that are seldom questioned. We also consider the symbolic representation of men who do not conform to hegemonic masculine ideals and are not represented descriptively.



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