Are Middle Class Women Disconnected Democrats?
A serious question in gender politics is the participation of women in politics and particularly in representative politics. In Zimbabwe, this has been addressed through a proportional representation mechanism that has added 60 women to parliament, but, however, this is due to a quota system, and, the number of women directly elected has dropped significantly. Representation is however not the only issue of importance, and the participation of women in political life generally is equally important.
In Africa, survey research suggests that there are actually few differences between men and women: women are more likely to support one-party states and were generally more ambivalent in their views. In Zimbabwe, research suggests similar attitudes amongst women, but also reveals marked differences between rural and urban women, as well as differences due to age. It may also be that there are differences due to social class, but this is an area that is poorly researched, as Everjoice Win has pointed out (Win. 2004).
It is a conventional position that the middle-classes are the staunchest defenders of democracy, but recent research in Zimbabwe suggests that this is not the case in Zimbabwe. In this study, the educated, employed and urban, who may be crudely described as “middle-class”, were shown to be mostly uninvolved in the socio-political life of the country, and were described as “disconnected democrats” (RAU. 2015). Did this apply equally to men and women, especially as women are frequently argued to exercise less agency than men?