RNGS Qualitative Phase - Issue Networks and Books

Schedule
Participants
Funding
Qualitative Phase: Issue Networks and Books
Quantitative Phase: Data Set
Capstone Book
RNGS/IWPR Practitioners Conference
Comparative State Feminism II
RNGS Publications
Bibliography
Applications to Non-Western Countries
Measuring Women's Movement Change
Network Meetings
RNGS Chronology, 1995-2011
RNGS Journal
RNGS at the United Nations
Newsletters
Working Papers and Documents
Politics of State Feminism Methods Appendices
Useful Links
Politics, Gender, and Concepts - Appendix

 

General Description

The first phase of the project is the collection and qualitative / descriptive analysis of the findings from research on more than 100 policy debates in 15 countries and at the European Union level, occurring between 1970 and 2000. All data is being collected according to a common research design (see RNGS project description developed in collaboration with scholars in the RNGS network. Six edited books—one on each of the issue areas covered by the project (job training, abortion, prostitution, political representation, and a hot issue)—and a capstone book will present the qualitative form of the information through descriptive analysis of the project's hypotheses. See specific descriptions below for each issue network. Two of these books were published in 2001; one in 2004 and two in 2005-6. The capstone book will appear in 2008. For more on issue network see below under this rubric. For more on the capstone book, go to capstone.

The design of this study purposefully uses the policy debate as the unit of analysis, and not the nation state. This reflects the trend in comparative public policy that identifies sectoral level dynamics as being just as, if not more, important as national determinants in explaining variations in policy formation. The RNGS group conceptualized the universe of policy debates in terms of four policy areas that touch upon major areas of gender relations—work, sexuality, reproduction, and citizenship. Specific policy areas in each of these four sectors were selected to be studied—job training, prostitution, abortion and political representation. The group selected a fifth area to determine whether women's movements and women's policy agencies have any impact on non gendered policy areas of great national significance—the "hot issue."

Country researchers were asked to select three debates in which to study the interface between movement and agency for each of the four gendered areas in their country using sampling criteria determined by the group. For the hot issue, researchers selected one debate. The table below shows the distribution of the qualitative studies that were conducted by country and by policy area. In addition to these, studies were conducted on Israel for prostitution and on Japan for political representation.

Country Abortion Job Training Prostitution Representation Hot Issue
Australia
 
 
X
 
X
Austria
X
 
X
X
X
Belgium
X
 
 
X
X
Canada
X
X
X
 
X
Finland
 
X
X
X
X

France

X
X
X
X
X
Germany
X
 
 
X
X
Ireland
X
X
 
 
 
Italy
X
X
X
X
X
Netherlands
X
 
X
X
X
Spain
X
X
X
X
X
Sweden
 
 
X
X
X
UK
X
 
X
X
X
USA
X
X
X
X
X
Total
11
7
11
11
13

Description of Issue Networks

ABORTION, Director Dorothy McBride (Florida Atlantic University)

This book comprises the results of a cross-national research project. Each of the authors has contributed to all aspects of the research design and its elaboration. The problem for inquiry is state feminism, that is, the role of institutional actors inside the state-women's policy agencies-in relation to efforts by women's movements to affect state action. The authors have elected to examine policy making on the abortion issue in political systems of eleven advanced democratic states. The study is longitudinal and comparative.

The book covers major policy debates on abortion beginning in the 1960s, through to late 1990s. These comprise initial efforts to liberalize historical prohibitions on legal abortion, expanding facilities and services, subsequent campaigns to overturn abortion rights, and effects of debates over new reproductive technologies on definitions of abortion and women's rights.

The chapters describe and classify each policy debate on abortion according to two categories: the impact of the women's movement impact on the state and women's policy agency activities in achieving that impact. To study impact, the authors are interested in the changes in the policy making process, specifically the gendering of policy debates on abortion, the content of policy in relation to movement demands, and the participation of women and women's movement organizations. Information on these topics provide clues to any changes in the political representation of women by the end of the debate. In short, the study focuses on the role and characteristics of women's policy agencies in movement attempts to increase both substantive and descriptive representation of women. Explanations for variations-cross-debate, cross-national and longitudinal-are examined according to variations in two clusters of independent variables: women's movement characteristics and policy environments. The results will contribute to the development of empirically tested theory of state feminism.

Findings from the network are published in: Stetson, Dorothy McBride. Abortion Politics, Women's Movements and the Democratic State: A Comparative Study of State Feminism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, November 2001

JOB TRAINING, Director, Amy Mazur (Washington State University)

RNGS selected job training policy debates as one issue within the larger policy area of the division of labor between home and paid work. Discussions about training issues can be gender and ungendered. Indeed, as the group's research shows debates about training issues in many countries are inextricably linked to mainstream (and ungendered) employment policy issues. Women's access to training is arguably at the center of work and family issues and women's rights. Gender and training issues are also situated within the larger context of globalization. We also selected the issue because there is little comparative research on gender and training issues.

Research was conducted on Austria, France, the USA, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Finland, and Canada and at the EU level. An important contribution of this research, and the first step in the RNGS research design was to map out the complex actors and institution of training systems in all of the countries covered in the book and at the EU level. Understanding the dynamics of the employment-oriented sub-systems was key in whether women's policy offices worked with women and women's movement to produce feminist policy . Indeed, there was a cross-national imperative of resistance of non feminist employment actors to often marginalized and weak demands for a gendered approach to training. The findings of this issue network suggest that more than the type of women's movement, the characteristics of the women's policy offices, or the ideology of the government in power it was the dynamics and approach of the non feminist policy actors that swirled around training issues. In the final analysis, this study indicates that practitioners and activists need to target their action at the rules, actors and parameters that make-up the training policy arena more in order to achieve effective woman-friendly training policies.

Findings from the job training network are published in: Mazur, Amy. Ed. 2001. State Feminism, Women's Movements, and Job Training: Making Democracies Work in the Global Economy. New York and London: Routledge 2001.

PROSTITUTION, Director Joyce Outshoorn (University of Leiden)

Since the re-emergence of feminism in the 1960s, women's movements have raised a wide range of issues about women's status and demanded that states redress their grievances. In this study prostitution and trafficking of women, historically always contested issues in feminism, are examined in the context of twelve democratic states. Debates ranging from 1970 till 2000 are analyzed to assess the impact of women's movements on policy decisions about prostitution and trafficking and to discover if government institutions to advance the status of women – so-called women's policy agencies – have played a key role in achieving policy outcomes favorable to movement demands. All chapters, written by country experts and based on original sources, follow the same framework to ensure comparability. The final analysis offers an overall comparison to identify what makes for successes of women's movements and effective women's policy agencies, making the case for 'state feminism'.

The findings of the prostitution network are published in: Outshoorn, Joyce, ed. The Politics of Prostitution. Women's Movements, Democratic States and the Globalisation of Sex Commerce, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapters in RNGS books on prostitution, abortion, and hot issue.

POLITICAL REPRESENTATION, Director, Joni Lovenduski (Birkbeck College)

The central concern of the political representation issue network is to examine the effects that women's movements in established democracies have had on the way the issue of political representation is treated by policy makers. The issue of women's political representation has been of concern to feminist advocates since the early part of the twentieth century. Until the 1960s the presence of women in legislatures and other decision making structures was only a fraction of that for men. Since then, a movement to increase women's presence in political institutions has grown and spread, generating debates in most political systems and particularly challenging the claims of inclusion that are made by representative democracies.

Women's movements have attempted to influence debates about political representation with varying degrees of success. In some countries, notably the Nordic states, women's claims met with a considerable policy response at an early stage after which their representation steadily rose. In others, such as the UK and France resistance was much greater and success more elusive. Such differences are the result of complex interactions between women's movements, state institutions, political parties and other interest organizations. Some systems are more hospitable to women's claims than others, offering low thresholds of representation, a significant culture of equality, a wide and inclusive notion of citizenship and appropriate and accessible arenas for public debate. Contextual variation helps to explain variations in the remit of women's policy agencies. Set up to secure aspects of women's rights, women's policy agencies are ubiquitous in the systems under study. They potentially play a significant part in bringing women's representation to the political agenda and may be a significant channel for processing women's movement claims. Their role in debate is a focus of the book.

The findings of the PR network will be published in the forthcoming book, Lovenduski, Joni, Ed. State Feminism and Political Representation. Cambridge University Press. Go to RNGS publications for more on ordering and specific references.

HOT ISSUE, Directed by Melissa Haussman (Suffolk University) and Birgit Sauer (University of Vienna)

Forthcoming from Rowman and Littlefield Press: Melissa Haussman and Birgit Sauer, eds., Gendering the State in the Age of Globalization: Women's Movements and State Feminism in Post-Industrial Democracies.

It covers the intersection of women's movement organization-women's policy agency actor efforts to combat globalization's effects in 14 different countries. The types of efforts described cluster along three axes; the first covers women responding to welfare-state shrinkage in Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, and the USA; the second axis covers the expansion of state activity, including funding and/or regulation of policies deemed to be market-related, as in Austria, France, Germany and Sweden. The final trajectory covered in the volume is that of state reorganization as a response to various mandates, such as in the workings of Parliament (UK), devolution in Italy, electoral system reform in Japan, and citizenship requirement changes in Australia and Belgium.

Seven hypotheses were constructed to test the relative degrees of women's movement and women's policy agency strength in influencing the debate and decisions under the hottest issues to face countries since the 1990s.

  1. The first hypothesis, stating that it would be harder for women's movement organizations to gain "inside" access to policy debates under hot issues than the other issues in the RNGS studies (job training, abortion, representation, sex work) had a polarized result. On one hand, women's movements achieved the highest measure of "dual response" in only four of the fourteen cases (28% of the outcome). On the other, there were zero examples of "no response" in this volume, so that none of the worst possible outcomes occurred, either.
  2. The second hypothesis, stating that women's movements are likely to be more successful in cases where women's policy agencies are able to act as policy-process insiders, proves the hypothesis in its converse. In ten of the 14 cases, women's policy machineries were only symbolic in their actions, thus not able to have significant impact on the policy debate or outcome.
  3. The third hypothesis asserts that women's policy agencies with greater administrative capabilities are more effective as linkage-builders between women's movement activists and policy actors. This hypothesis was only weakly proven, first because most wpa's were not insiders to the debate, rather acting symbolically (as shown in Hypothesis 2). Second, of the three wpa's acting as insiders, most did not have a high degree of administrative resources.
  4. Hypothesis 4 looks at whether state response variations to women's movement-women's policy agency efforts to gender the hot-issue debate is linked to characteristics of the movement actors or the policy environment. These elements of hypothesis 4 were consistently proven across eleven of the cases.
  5. Hypothesis 5, expecting that characteristics of women's movements and policy environments were different in the hot issue cases, was not borne out. Importantly, despite initial expectations, there was not a greater incidence of failure on the hot issue cases than in the other RNGS case study volumes.
  6. Hypothesis 6 holds that variation in movement and policy environments were mediated by the intervening variable of women's policy agency characteristics. Like hypothesis 5, no evidence was found to confirm the presuppositions.
  7. Hypothesis 7 holds that women's movement actors would be most successful in debates increasing state action and least successful in the contentious "state shrinkage" arenas. The results of this test were not significant.
 

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Last updated July 14, 2008