Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

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Gender Sensitizing Parliaments: Reflections on Becoming a Feminist Academic Critical Actor

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Abstract:  Informed by my secondment to the UK Parliament in 2015–2016, and the production and reception of The Good Parliament report—which offered a blueprint for a diversity-sensitive House of Commons—this article reflects on my experiences becoming a feminist academic critical actor. This new type of critical actor extends the conceptualization first developed by Childs and Krook (2006, 2008). A distinctiveness vis. Chappell and Mackay’s (2021) concept of the “feminist critical friend” is also drawn: In addition to researching institutional change and supporting others in their reform work, the feminist academic critical actor is essential to instigate and institute institutional change. In this, the feminist academic critical actor is engaged in quotidian persuasion work and is both the agent as well as the analyst of research, critically reflecting on the dynamics and actors of institutional status, change, and resistance, including their own acts, in situ and after. In making the case for the feminist academic critical actor, the academic is recognized as doing something different, begging important questions of responsibility and accountability, and the opportunities and costs of engaging in such acts, particularly for minoritized and/or precarious academics. In the latter part of the article, I sketch out some of the dilemmas located in the questioning of my authority and legitimacy, and concerning the harm that I faced as a relatively privileged aspirant feminist academic critical actor, acting to rework the highly masculinized institution that is the UK House of Commons.

Keywords:  critical actor; feminist academic critical actor; feminist institutionalism; gender‐sensitive parliaments; House of Commons



© Sarah Childs. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.