Feminist Democratic Representation

ISBN : 9780190087722

Karen Celis; Sarah Childs
256 Pages
Pub date
Nov 2020
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  • Remakes the case for and offers an intersectional update of women's group representation in electoral politics
  • Advances feminist democratic design thinking, principles, and practices for parliaments and legislatures, as well as turning political institutions into "women's Houses"
  • Advances second generation feminist design, introduces a new type of representatives (the affected representatives of women), and provides two augmentations to parliamentary processes (group advocacy and account giving)
  • Incentivizes elected political representatives to "know more" and "care more" about women

Popular consensus has long been that if "enough women" are present in political institutions they will represent "women's interests." Yet many believe that differences among women--women disagreeing about what is in "their interest"--fatally undermine both the principle and the practice of women's group representation. In this book, Karen Celis and Sarah Childs redress women's poverty of political representation with a new feminist account of democratic representation. Rather than giving up on women's group representation, Celis and Childs re-think and re-design representative institutions, taking women's differences--both ideological and intersectional--as their starting point.
Feminist Democratic Representation considers a broad spectrum of contemporary problematics--abortion, prostitution/sex work, Muslim women's dress, and Marine Le Pen--to discuss women's under- and misrepresentation and the "good, bad and the ugly" representative. As problem-driven scholars firmly grounded in feminist and democratic empirical and theoretical political science, Celis and Childs imagine what good representation for women in all their diversity could look like--representation as it should be. To realize this ideal in today's established representative democracies, they present a second-generation feminist design for parliaments and legislatures, underpinned by a re-thinking of feminist and democratic principles. 
Celis and Childs conceive of representation as a mélange of dimensions, and they shift the focus in women's group representation from feminist outcome to feminist process. Inclusive, responsive, and egalitarian representation for all women demands a new category of representatives in parliaments: the "affected representatives of women" who are epistemologically and experientially close to differently affected women. Affected representatives passionately advocate within political institutions, and publicly hold elected representatives to account. Feminist processes of representation have wide effects and deepen relationships between women and their democratic institutions. Against the more fashionable tide of post-representative politics, Feminist Democratic Representation argues not simply for more, but significantly better, representation.


An Essay on Women's Political Representation
Chapter 1. Introduction: Reclaiming Representative Democracy For Women 
Chapter 2. When Are Women Well-Represented? The Dimensional Approach 
Chapter 3. The Good Representation of Women: A Procedural Approach
Chapter 4. Designing for Feminist Democratic Representation
Chapter 5. Affected representatives, Group Advocacy, and Account Giving
Chapter 6. The Promise of Feminist Democratic Representation 
Conclusion: A Return to the Vignettes

About the author: 

Karen Celis is Research Professor at the Department of Political Science, and co-director of Research of RHEA Research Centre Gender Diversity Intersectionality of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She conducts theoretical and empirical research on the democratic quality of political representation from the perspective of disadvantaged groups and intersectionality. She is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook on Gender and Politics.
Sarah Childs is Professor of Gender and Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research is centered on the theory and practice of women's representation, gender and political parties, parliaments, and institutional change. She is the author of New Labour's Women MPs and Women and British Party Politics, co-author of Sex, Gender and the Conservative Party with Paul Webb, and author of 2016 The Good Parliament Report on the UK House of Commons.

"Feminist Democratic Representation offers an entirely fresh take on women's civic engagement. Instead of assuming an inevitable march toward gender equality, Karen Celis and Sarah Childs explore how contemporary norms and practices deem some female voices authoritative while dismissing others as narrow or self-interested. They offer an alternative whereby diverse women speak their truths inside responsive democratic societies and institutions. Here at long last is a compelling vision of vibrant and inclusive public representation." -- Sylvia Bashevkin, University of Toronto
"For anyone who worries about the complicated relationship between gendered demands, political institutions, policy formation, and what representation should be, Feminist Democratic Representation is a revelation. Moving beyond women's presence within deliberative bodies to complicate the political misrepresentation of women, Celis and Childs offer an intersectional analysis to feminist claims for democratic politics. This is the kind of critical analysis that is needed to reimagine how elected officials can both institutionally and systemically represent women." -- Nadia E. Brown, author of Sisters in the Statehouse: Black Women and Legislative Decision Making

"Feminist Political Representation presents a transformative blueprint for women's group representation in democratic politics. In this compelling, theoretically sophisticated, and engaging study, Celis and Childs argue for a politics that is inclusive, equitable, and responsive to women and women's interests. This book will fundamentally change the way studies of democratic politics view women's representation. It is a must-read for politics scholars, students, politicians, and for anyone with an interest in the quality of democratic politics." -- Yvonne Galligan, Technological University Dublin
"Feminist Democratic Representation offers a powerful and timely critique of the democratic theory of representation. In this must-read, Celis and Childs offer a feminist corrective to our current representational challenges: inclusiveness, responsiveness, and egalitarianism can undergird a transformation of our institutions of representative democracy improving the political representation of women. The brilliance of their approach is that they have grounded their recommendations, spelling out the processes and procedures necessary to create a new feminist democratic representation." --Magda Hinojosa, Arizona State University

"Celis and Childs have produced an imaginative rereading of feminist scholarship and democratic theory to show how the practices of political representation in modern legislatures fail women. Their proposals for reform amount to nothing less than a feminist reimagining of democracy. This book should be read by anyone who is interested in democracy,Âpolitical representation, and politics." -- Joni Lovenduski, Birkbeck College, University of London

"In their authoritative new book, Celis and Childs focus a sharp critical lens on existing feminist and other thinking about democracy and representation, and devise imaginative new proposals for women's parliamentary representation. Written in a clear and assured style, the book will engage, compel, and provoke in equal measure. A fine example of applied theory and institutional design, it disrupts and emboldens our thinking about representative institutions and the voices and interests that can, and should, animate them." -- Michael Saward, University of Warwick
"Beyond describing the problem of women's under-representation in governing bodies, Celis and Childs argue that in addressing these systems, we must take into account that women cannot be theorized as a homogeneous group and that it is necessary to devise modes that specify what it means to represent women inclusive of differences that exist among women. This is an important read for those who are searching for a more substantive debate on what constitutes women's interests and who is capable of delivering that representation." -- Wendy Smooth, The Ohio State University

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