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Studying Oil, Islam, and Women as if Political Institutions Mattered

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2009

Alice Kang
University of Wisconsin, Madison


By asserting that oil, not Islam, hurts gender equality, Michael Ross (2008) has made an important contribution to the debate on whether Islam bodes ill for women (Fish 2002; Inglehart and Norris 2003; Spierings, Smits, and Verloo 2009). Ross suggests that oil production decreases the number of female workers in countries with occupational segregation. The more women are left out of the formal economy, the fewer opportunities and resources they have for becoming influential political constituencies. According to Ross, “[t]his leaves oil-producing states with atypically strong patriarchal cultures and political institutions” (p. 107). Employing the same set of countries and data used in Ross (2008), I show that the institution of gender quotas, which is omitted from his statistical analyses, offsets the effects of oil rents on women's political representation. Gender quotas increase women's representation in Muslim majority and non-Muslim majority countries and in countries that are oil rich and oil poor. That “petroleum perpetuates patriarchy” (p. 120) is a tendency, not destiny.

Critical Perspectives on Gender and Politics
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2009

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