Dissertation Abstracts

State Feminism in Portugal: Mechanisms, Strategies, Policies, and Metamorphoses

Author: Monteiro, Rosa , monteiro.rosa14@gmail.com
Department: Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra and Centre for Social Studies,
University: University of Coimbra, Portugal
Supervisor: Virgínia Ferreira
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Women in Society , Social Classes and Social Movements


In nearly forty years of democracy, Portugal has eliminated sex discrimination from the law, committed itself to the international policies of equality, affirmative action and "gender mainstreaming", and created two equality mechanisms. We have what has been called a good law, which seems to demonstrate the will and action of the Portuguese State in the promotion of gender equality. However, ineffectiveness in the implementation of many policies has been a source of concern in this work, which crosses the fields of sociology of the state and political science, social movements and gender. In this study, I begin by questioning the role that the Portuguese government has played in the promotion of gender equality since 1970, specifically with the creation of the main equality mechanism (CSW/CEWR), currently the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CCGE). This Commission represents what has been regarded as a form of institutional feminism, a phenomenon studied by the state feminism approach. Therefore, it is the main object of this research.
I have used the state feminism approach which advocates the idea that at some point, the State, previously seen by most of the feminist movement as a patriarchal rival, became an ally of the causes of women, including their interests in its political agendas. It is considered that the equality mechanisms have been allies of women's movements in the descriptive and substantive representation of women, their levels of success depending on factors mainly linked to the sociopolitical environment and the characteristics of women's movements.
I have adopted the concept of state feminism because it is a relational concept that captures the strategic inter-influence between women's movements, mechanisms such as the Commission and other State and political actors in the production of policy outcomes, including equality policies. The production of these policies is seen as complex and multidimensional, and not only dependent on the dominant action of major actors (State, political parties or social movements), although in certain contexts one or another of them might prevail.
The central goal of this study is to understand the role and work of the Commission as a pivot actor between women's movements and the state in demanding policies and legislation promoting gender equality. Such action reflects the concept of state feminism. I demonstrate that the role of this equality mechanism is constrained by factors proposed in the literature, such as structures of political opportunities and mobilizing structures.
The empirical research was carried out with a case study of the Commission, which required a qualitative approach that used as sources 53 semi-structured interviews and analysis of archival material, legislation, publications and press articles.
In terms of research outputs the analysis identified four categories of participation and results of state feminism around agendas or specific policy areas - insider, marginal, symbolic, absent (chapter 4); and also four phases in the evolution of state feminism - emerging, powered, formal and challenged (chapter 5). I concluded that the Commission has been, over the years, in Portugal, a decisive carrier of feminist claims, with different impacts depending on factors related primarily to the sociopolitical context, to the characteristics of women’s movements, but also depending on some of their own specific characteristics. It was a feminist core in the state, and an ally of the Portuguese women's movement, an alliance that has evolved over the more than 30 years, during which it has leveraged women's issues and gender equality policies albeit with limited success, what I have appointed as a gap between the real and the possible.