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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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Rethinking Difference

Rethinking Difference

(p.7) 1 Rethinking Difference
The Impact of Women in Congress

Debra L. Dodson

Oxford University Press

This chapter acknowledges the compelling evidence that women in public office make a difference, even as it explores the controversies that often lurk beneath the surface of such assertions: the probabilistic rather than deterministic nature of the relationship between descriptive and substantive representation of women; the contested legitimacy of women representing women; and disagreement about what it means to represent women. To that end, the chapter explores the need to develop theoretical and empirical models that recognize diversity, to take actions out of a contextual vacuum, to re-examine the appropriateness of the empirical models that structure the analysis, to confront (and ultimately counteract) institutional and cultural pressures that call into question the legitimacy of women representing women, and to acknowledge the conceptual weaknesses that belie the tendency to treat gender difference as a synonym for substantive representation of women.

Keywords:   institutional environment, descriptive representation, substantive representation, diversity, extra-institutional environment, feminist consciousness, gender consciousness, minority consciousness, feminist protest

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