A discursive struggle the Swedish National Federation of Social Democratic Women and gender quotas
In 1993, the Social Democratic Party in Sweden adopted the zipper system, a gender quota system whereby women and men are placed alternately on all party lists. The National Federation of Social Democratic Women had, however, as early as in 1928 proposed that the Social Democratic Party introduce gender quotas so that women would be placed in safe positions on the party lists. In this article, the struggle of The National Federation of Social Democratic Women for an increased parliamentary representation of women and its demand for gender quotas during the period 1970-1993 is analysed. Its strategies to put the issue of women's under-representation on the political agenda are outlined as well as the major discursive frames that the debate was embedded within. The article suggests that the discursive controversies over gender quotas can best be understood in the context of competing conceptions regarding historical development, equal opportunity, local autonomy and cooperation between women and men. One main point is that the zipper system, despite its radical institutional effect, can be seen as a discursive solution to the norm of cooperation.