Can women dynasty politicians disrupt social norms of political leadership? A proposed typology of normative change

Kerryn Baker

Social norms that legitimise men as political leaders, and undervalue women’s leadership, are a tenacious barrier to women’s representation globally. This article explores the circumstances under which women dynasty politicians, whose legacy connections have provided them with an initial pathway into politics, are able to disrupt these norms. We test a proposed typology of normative change – one that progresses from norm acceptance, to norm modification, then norm resistance – among women dynasty politicians in the Pacific Islands. We find that norms of masculinised political leadership are strong, and in many cases the election of wives, widows, daughters and other relatives of male political actors reinforces these norms through their positioning as ‘placeholders’. Yet some women dynasty politicians can, and do, challenge and extend social norms of leadership. This is especially the case when the ‘legacy advantage’ is a springboard from which women demonstrate – and their publics accept – their own articulation of political leadership.

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Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Sonia Palmieri
October 15, 2021
Published in
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