Although political scientists have traditionally examined women’s representation by asking whether and how female legislators support or oppose particular policies related to women’s traditional areas of interest, I provide a new, broader understanding of how American women are represented at the rulemaking stage of the policymaking process. Building on the assumption that it is virtually impossible for any one representative to speak on behalf of the diverse group of women who all have their own unique perspectives and experiences as a result of their multiple, intersecting identities, I instead examine how women’s interests are constructed from the ground up as women and their advocates interact during the rulemaking process. More specifically, I ask: (1) how and when do women and their advocates refer to women in their comments?; (2) how do those references to women vary depending on the levels of attention a rule receives and the type of policy it implements?; and (3) how do women’s organizations’ references to women and their interests differ from the references to women that other rulemaking participants use? To answer these questions, I use automated text analysis and qualitative coding to analyze three unique datasets of 8,698 comments that women and their advocates submitted to rulemakers. These comments include all of the comments that women’s organizations submitted between 2007 and 2013; and the comments that women’s organizations, individual women, other organizations, and form letter campaigns submitted during rulemakings on the contraception mandate a proposal collect data on the gender wage gap among federal contractors. In general, women and their advocates most often used their comments to speak on behalf of all women, obscuring the differences between them and leaving out the concerns of intersectionally marginalized women, including women of color, poor women, and LGBTQ women. Rulemakings that receive higher levels of attention and moral controversy exacerbated this tendency. Conversely, low attention rulemakings provided women and their advocates with a unique opportunity to focus on the concerns of particular subsets of women because they received less scrutiny from the public, Congress, and the courts. Finally, women’s organizations served as compensatory representatives for women during the rulemaking process because they made more references to women and subgroups of women than the other interested citizens and organizations that submitted comments.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.July 2016. Major: Political Science. Advisor: Kathryn Pearson. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 339 pages.
Implementing Intersectionality: Creating Women’s Interests in the Rulemaking Process.
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