Promoters of gender equality? a study of the social construction of specific male parliamentarians as “male champions” in Uganda.
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The study engages with the phenomenon of male politicians speaking to gender equity issues in parliament in Uganda. What is particularly interesting about this is that these politicians are selected by women gender activists to speak on behalf of them in a parliamentary context in which men are taken more seriously than women. In the popular media and in some of the sociological literature, these men are often referred to as ‘male champions’, as if to express gratitude to and celebrate as unexpected, the significant role these men are seen to play in promoting gender equality. In contrast my research raises questions about whether gender equality is promoted through the mediation of particular men or whether their idealisation as champions actually serves to institutionalise gender inequalities. The study provides a recent historical overview of the gendering of parliament and the tabling of gender sensitive motions in Uganda. I proceed to draw on critical observations derived from a contemporary ethnographic study I conducted in the Uganda parliament and in-depth interview conversations with women gender activists in and outside parliament and with some of the men selected to table motions in support of women’s rights. The research is informed by critical masculinity studies and post structuralist and African feminisms which critique patriarchal social institutions but do so in ways that do not reproduce men and women as homogenous and binary opposites. The study engages with parliament, itself, as an important ethnographic site in which gender inequalities are produced through everyday social practices and gendered performances in which women parliamentarians are undermined and infantilised. Study findings further demonstrate how the women who participated in interviews in my study (as well as some men) critiqued discourses that celebrated men as ‘champions’ in ways that erased women’s agency and the role they play in promoting gender equality in legislative debates.
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