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Gender Backlash in American Politics?

  • Kira Sanbonmatsu (a1)

In this essay, I start to sketch a research agenda about an electoral backlash against women's descriptive representation. Few scholars have considered the possibility of such a backlash. By “backlash,” I mean resistance to attempts to change the status quo. As Jane Mansbridge and Shauna Shames argue in this issue, when actors disadvantaged by the status quo work to enact change, they may be met by a reaction by those seeking to maintain existing power arrangements. In the following pages, I introduce the idea of a backlash against women's representation, propose several preliminary hypotheses about a backlash, and discuss ways of testing them.

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Kathleen A. Bratton 2002. “The Effect of Legislative Diversity on Agenda-Setting: Evidence from Six State Legislatures.” American Politics Research 30 (2): 115–42.

Barbara C. Burrell 1994. A Woman's Place Is in the House: Campaigning for Congress in the Feminist Era. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Jocelyn Elise. Crowley 2004. “When Tokens Matter.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 29 (1): 109–36.

Alice H. Eagly , and Amanda B. Diekman . 2005. “What Is the Problem? Prejudice as an Attitude-in-Context.” In On the Nature of Prejudice: Fifty Years after Allport, ed. John F. Dovidio , Peter Glick , and Laurie A. Rudman . Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Alice H. Eagly , Mona G. Makhijani , and Bruce G. Klonsky . 1992. “Gender and the Evaluation of Leaders: A Meta-analysis.” Psychological Bulletin 111 (1): 322.

Donald P. Haider-Markel 2007. “Representation and Backlash: The Positive and Negative Influence of Descriptive Representation.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 32 (February): 107–33.

Leonie Huddy , and Nayda Terkildsen . 1993. “Gender Stereotypes and the Perception of Male and Female Candidates.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (1): 119–47.

Rosabeth Moss. Kanter 1977b. “Some Effects of Proportions on Group Life: Skewed Sex Ratios and Responses to Token Women.” American Journal of Sociology 82 (5): 965990.

Laurie A. Rudman 1998. “Self-promotion as a Risk Factor for Women: The Costs and Benefits of Counterstereotypical Impression Management.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74 (3): 629–45.

Laurie A. Rudman , and Kimberly Fairchild . 2004. “Reactions to Counterstereotypic Behavior: The Role of Backlash in Cultural Stereotype Maintenance.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87 (2): 157–76.

Kira. Sanbonmatsu 2006. Where Women Run: Gender and Party in the American States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Ronnee. Schreiber 2008. Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sue. Thomas 1994. How Women Legislate. New York: Oxford University Press.

Janice D. Yoder 1991. “Rethinking Tokenism: Looking Beyond Numbers.” Gender & Society 5 (June): 178–92.

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Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
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