To read this content please select one of the options below:

The private motivations of public action: Women's associational lives and political activism in Brazil

Perceiving Gender Locally, Globally, and Intersectionally

ISBN: 978-1-84855-752-9, eISBN: 978-1-84855-753-6

Publication date: 11 June 2009


Purpose – To analyze the factors constraining and enabling political activism and associational life among women in a large metropolitan area in Brazil.

Methodology – Our survey drew a probability sample of the Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Area population, and conducted 1,122 face-to-face interviews in 2005.

Findings – Against conventional wisdom, our data showed that women's propensity to participate in associations and engage in political activism was significantly greater than men's. Strikingly, this was the case not just for the more plausible civic activism but for protest activism as well.

Implications/limitations – Although our findings can be seen as consistent with an international trend of a “rising tide” of women's political participation, they are still remarkable in any current comparative approach – especially for women in an emergent country. They invite further analysis to better understand what is being measured and to allow for more informed interpretations. A countrywide survey is needed to verify the extent to which women in our metropolitan area study are representative of Brazilian women.

Originality/value – The theoretical model we drew on from some of the most important studies in the field of political inequality did not predict and did not explain the differences we found in participation between genders. In the analysis of our unexpected empirical findings we argue that public action can be seen as relating to women's family roles. We show evidence of the ways women's position in the private sphere can constrain as well as enable women's presence in the public sphere.


Simões, S., Reis, B.P.W., Biagioni, D., Fialho, F.M. and Bueno, N.S. (2009), "The private motivations of public action: Women's associational lives and political activism in Brazil", Demos, V. and Texler Segal, M. (Ed.) Perceiving Gender Locally, Globally, and Intersectionally (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 203-239.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited