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The Impact of Women in Congress$
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Debra L. Dodson

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198296744

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0198296746.001.0001

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Health Insurance Reform: Institutional Structure, Contingent Meanings

Health Insurance Reform: Institutional Structure, Contingent Meanings

(p.224) 10 Health Insurance Reform: Institutional Structure, Contingent Meanings
The Impact of Women in Congress

Debra L. Dodson

Oxford University Press

The story of health insurance reform in the 104th brings to life many of the contested issues surrounding gender difference in impact. It illustrates the importance of going beyond quantitative evidence of gender difference to look carefully at the substance of those differences that emerge, to understand their relationship to the broader political context, and to explicitly consider the motivations belying difference. That those who were seen as advocates for women in the health care reform battles of the 103rd played little role in health insurance reform, while some of the more visible vocal women critics of the Clinton plan led the effort some saw as ‘radical’, that the prime [female] motivator and facilitator of the effort was not seen as driven by gendered forces or even connected with women’s organizations, and that Republican women who had supported women’s health also supported a measure likely to have reversed state mandates protecting women’s health benefits all make health insurance reform a unique laboratory for addressing the contested issues that surround difference. The conclusions suggest a growing gap between gender difference and the standards of third wave feminism, the need for an active engaged women’s movement to counter the threat posed by essentialist assumptions that grant legitimacy to any pronouncement women make on behalf of women, the contribution differences in the masculinist cultures of parties may make toward partisan differences in the manifestation of feminist protest, and they caution against the gendered consequences of ostensibly gender-neutral institutional procedures.

Keywords:   health insurance reform, descriptive representation, substantive representation, partisanship, extra-institutional environment, institutional environment, gender gap, feminist protest, masculinism, positional power

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