English title: The Gender Gap Reversed: Political Consumerism as a Women-Friendly Form of Civic and Political Engagement

Author(s): Dietlind Stolle - Michele Micheletti -

Language: English

Type: Book chapter

Year: 2013

Abstract

While some authors express concern about the decline of traditional forms of social capital and civic engagement in Western democracies, others are more sanguine about the rise of new forms of participation and social interaction, and about the challenge created by the emergence of a new generation of “critical citizens”. Still others argue that social capital and participation research has missed some important areas of civic engagement in which women have been traditionally very active. Thus far, these new or “undiscovered” forms of civic engagement have been mainly studied as cases and hardly ever utilized survey research. In this paper we focus on a phenomenon that we label ”political consumerism”, i.e. the buying or boycotting of products and services based on political or ethical values. Using a pilot survey among 1,015 Canadian, Swedish and Belgian students and case study material we show that political consumerism is a form of civic engagement that is disproportionally utilized by women, historically as well as amongst young people and young women today. We examine how and why women engage in this form of civic engagement, exploring historical examples, the act of shopping as well as motivations behind this activity. In addition we probe into who these political consumers are. We find that postmaterialists, and those who view political institutions critically are more engaged in political consumer action. There is also a positive relation with generalised trust, and in general political consumers score high on feelings of political efficacy. We strongly suggest including measurements of political consumerism, and other emerging and “unobserved” forms of activism, in future surveys on civic engagement and political participation.

From page no: 45

To page no: 72

Anthology: Gender, Social Capital, and Political Engagement