Performances of Resistance: Women's Struggle for Political Power in Cambodia

Academic Paper / Article

February 14, 2007

Performances of Resistance: Women's Struggle for Political Power in Cambodia

This paper explores how politically engaged Cambodian women build strategies and perform various types of resistance against the male domination of democratic arenas. It investigates possible ways to eliminate gendered hierarchies of power and how to alter the stereotypes of men and women. Two different processes are discussed: networking - as a factor that enables women’s political participation; and identities - possible ways to change the dominant understandings regarding women, femininity and women’s political identities.

Main conclusions include:

  • networks and networking are used in a number of ways that seemed to remove different obstacles to women’s access to political decision-making
  • women use existing networks to gain positions of power
  • networking was discussed as a phenomenon that has a number of positive effects in terms of creating space for new female political identities
  • making space for women to become politicians through identity politics followed certain patterns - for example, certain women argued that female politicians were better than male ones. It is common that women’s political, work or ethnic identities are developed in relation to, and interact with, their traditional feminine identity. Others emphasised that female leaders make better politicians than men, thus challenging the common leadership identity while imbuing it with “female” characteristics
  • another strategy is related to the organisation of identities, which influenced whether or not women were involved or gained legitimacy within the political field
  • women may have other identities in addition to their feminine identity, which may be more suitable to the political arena than the traditional female identity.

Key policy recommendations include:

  • lobby to make men’s networks accessible to women
  • fund political training workshops for women
  • present women with other possible identities than the stereotypical and traditional feminine one, showing them the possibility of increasing their space of identification
  • it is important for development agencies and governments to organise study tours or exchanges for both men and women to show how women in other countries/contexts act as capable political leaders.
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M. Lilja
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