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Women and Children First
Feminism, Rhetoric, and Public Policy
Women and Children First
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Sharon M. Meagher - Editor
Patrice DiQuinzio - Editor
SUNY series in Gender Theory
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 271 pages
Release Date: August 2005
ISBN10: 0-7914-6539-X
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6539-4

Price: $32.95 
Paperback - 271 pages
Release Date: August 2005
ISBN10: 0-7914-6540-3
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6540-0

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A critique of public policy rhetoric from multiple feminist perspectives.

This diverse collection explores the rhetoric of a wide range of public policies that propose “to put women and children first,” including homeland security, school violence, gun control, medical intervention of intersex infants, and policies that aim to distinguish “good” from “bad” mothers. Using various feminist philosophical analyses, the contributors uncover a logic of paternalistic treatment of women and children that purports to protect them but almost always also disempowers them and sometimes harms them. This logic is widespread in contemporary popular policy discourse and affects the way that people understand and respond to social and political issues. Contributors rethink basic philosophical assumptions concerning subjectivity, difference, and dualistic logic in order to read the rhetoric of contemporary public policy discourse and develop new ways of talking and acting in the policy domain.

“This book promises an insightful contribution to third-wave feminist scholarship by highlighting the ways in which women are harmed by social policies informed by either horn of the dilemma of difference.” — Philosophy in Review

“This collection of twelve essays is an important contribution to feminist scholarship and contemporary cultural and political discourses shaping how we see mothers and children in the context of citizenship.” — Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering

“…if language reflects and influences the way we define society and our roles in society, then a vital feminist agenda includes analyzing the rhetoric of public policy, psychological research, news reports, police reports, and memoirs. Disclosing the stated and unstated assumptions that constrain and harm women’s lives is a powerful rhetorical project.” — National Women's Studies Association Journal

“It is indeed important, as the editors claim, that social philosophers join the fray as public intellectuals, participating in policy discussions and recommending policy changes. This book does a nice job conveying that ‘politics matter,’ and feminist ethicists and political philosophers will turn to it to receive guidance. Many of us will no doubt use it in our courses because the controversial topics covered will make for great classroom discussion.” — Mechthild Nagel, coeditor of Race, Class, and Community Identity

“This volume offers a highly interesting and provocative look at the complex, often contradictory, relationship of women and public policy. The essays, including an excellent introduction by the editors, reveal the dilemmas inherent in past feminist approaches to this topic and suggest new ways to approach it. Particularly valuable is the book’s discussion of ‘security’ in the post-9/11 world, as an element that now enters such debates.” — Carole E. Joffe, University of California at Davis

Contributors include Norma L. Buydens, Sonya Charles, Patrice DiQuinzio, Ellen K. Feder, Kirsten Isgro, Tina Managhan, Sharon M. Meagher, Kelly Oliver, Elizabeth F. Randol, Jennifer A. Reich, Sally J. Scholz, and Tricha Shivas.

Sharon M. Meagher is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Scranton. Patrice DiQuinzio is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women’s Studies at Muhlenberg College. She is the author of The Impossibility of Motherhood: Feminism, Individualism, and the Problem of Mothering and coeditor (with Iris Marion Young) of Feminist Ethics and Social Policy.

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction: Women and Children First
Patrice DiQuinzio and Sharon M. Meagher

PART I: (Mis)representations of the Domestic Sphere: State Interventions

2. Homeland Security and the Co-optation of Feminist Discourse
Elizabeth F. Randol

3. Unsanctioned (Bedroom) Commitments: The 2000 U.S. Census Discourse Around Cohabitation and Single-Motherhood
Kirsten Isgro

4. Enemies of the State: Poor White Mothers and the Discourse of Universal Human Rights
Jennifer A. Reich

PART II: Medical Discourses and Social Ills

5. Fixing Sex: Medical Discourse and the Management of Intersex
Ellen K. Feder

6. Social Melancholy, Shame, and Sublimation
Kelly Oliver

PART III: Subjects of Violence

7. Predators and Protectors: The Rhetoric of School Violence
Sharon M. Meagher

8. Battered Woman Syndrome: Locating the Subject Amidst the Advocacy
Sally J. Scholz

PART IV: Mothers, Good and Bad: Marginalizing Mothers and Idealizing Children

9. Bad Mothers as "Brown" Mothers in Western Canadian Policy Discourse: Substance-Abusing Mothers and Sexually Exploited Girls
Norma L. Buydens

10. Behind Bars or Up on a Pedestal: Motherhood and Fetal Harm
Tricha Shivas and Sonya Charles

PART V: Protesting Mothers: Politics Under the Sign of Motherhood

11. (M)others, Biopolitics, and the Gulf War
Tina Managhan

12. Love and Reason in the Public Sphere: Maternalist Civic Engagement and the Dilemma of Difference
Patrice DiQuinzio

List of Contributors


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