Hard heads and soft hearts: the gendering of Australian political science

By Carol Johnson


Various Australian politicians have argued for the need to combine ‘hard heads and soft hearts’ in politics. Unfortunately, this article argues that that recognition is not yet fully accepted in Australian political science. While there has been a significant progress, both in terms of the number of senior women in the discipline and the gender content of Australian political science, problems still remain. Unfortunately, some of the issues are still those identified by Carole Pateman in her famous 1981 address as President of the Australian Political Studies Association when she noted both the underrepresentation of women in political science and that there was a tendency to define ‘the political’ in narrow ways that excluded the study of women and issues that were of concern to them. This article will explore why political science has been less open to incorporating feminist insights than some other related disciplines. It will analyse a number of issues regarding the gendering of Australian political science. These include narrow definitions of the ‘political’; a continuing implicit (gendered) prioritising of various fields and approaches as ‘hard’ political science and the denigration of other fields as ‘soft’; and the impact of neo-liberalism and the importance of the ‘political’ as a site for constructions of gender identity. It argues that the continuing resistance to ‘reinventing’ political science to take account of gender is particularly concerning given the potential impact on definitions of research ‘excellence’. The article also identifies some areas where more research needs to be done.

Citation: Johnson, C. (2014). Hard heads and soft hearts: The gendering of Australian political science. Australian Feminist Studies, 29(80), 121-136.

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