Defining Maternal Public Policies

in The Motherless State

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780226514543
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226514567 | DOI:
Defining Maternal Public Policies

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The early 1960s and 70s witnessed a remarkable women's rights movement in the United States. While negative individual rights are vital for women's full inclusion in society, they are not enough. Also needed are government guarantees of positive group rights, that is, policies guaranteeing that the government will offer benefits, protections, and privileges to people. Women's political leadership is promoted in democracies by a political context in which the government's public policies represent both individual equality and the maternal traits voters associate with women. Gender quotas do improve the election of women to national legislatures. State maternalism refers to policies that convey to the state a maternal identity parallel to the maternal identity voters attribute to women. Hybrid states that combine individualism and maternalism generate a political context that defines government as embodying traits voters associate with women's sameness with men and with women's maternal group difference from men.

Keywords: public policies; women's rights movement; United States; positive group rights; political leadership; gender quotas; state maternalism; hybrid states; individualism

Chapter.  12779 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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