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Throughout the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, construction of national identity and concepts of citizenship played crucial roles for HongKongers to demand civil rights, freedom, and democracy. However, citizenship is historically gendered. The political sphere usually belongs to men. In contrast, women face significant challenges when engaging in public issues and social movements. With the ideology of liberation and equality in activism, how do female activists perceive, negotiate, and resist the gender inequality they encounter?
This study aims to investigate the gendered dimension in the Umbrella Movement. It first examines the gendered structural constraints on female activists. Second, I explore the cultural toolkits and symbolic meanings women used to gain political legitimacy in participation. Finally, the study looks into the possibilities and challenges of gendered citizenship construction in democratic movements. This project uses qualitative approaches, including interviews, ethnography, and content analysis.
In face of sexual harassment and rape threats, female activists empowered themselves by exercising body politics, transforming images of women’s bodies in the public sphere from the vulnerable to the powerful. The unique characteristics of decentralization, collaboration, and pre-figurative communities in the Occupy Movement provided further opportunities for key social interactions. Gendered issues, including stereotypes and inequality, were brought into discussions about democracy within the movement. Such experiences enabled female activists to eventually construct collective narratives for political legitimacy and participation.
This study contributes to an understanding of the agency of female activists and the possibilities for the integration of gender equality and democratization in pre-figurative social movements.