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(Re)presenting Women: Retooling Women’s Substantive Representation
Unformatted Document Text:  Christina Xydias p.21 Hypothesis 3: Personal experience (A) In advocating women’s interests, female legislators refer specifically to their own personal experiences with the issues at hand in order to underscore the validity of their claims. Hypothesis 4: Personal Experience (B) Even if female and male legislators are vocalizing the same women’s interests within a given debate, female legislators draw upon the language of personal experience as evidence and male legislators do not. The observable implications of these two hypotheses include gendered differences in speech that appear to be justified (in the minds of legislators) by appeals to personal experience. If the previously untested link between descriptive and substantive representation is indeed “special knowledge” based in experience, then one indicator of this will be that women refer to their own personal experiences more frequently. For example, in a debate about child care facilities, women may refer specifically to their own experiences with balancing careers and parenting. If these hypotheses are correct, even male legislators who advocate enhancing the accessibility of child care will refer to the need for such accessibility in abstract, not personal, terms. On the other hand, it may obtain that male legislators also refer to personal experiences, e.g., as parents, in justifying their policy positions. In the above example, men may advocate enhancing the accessibility of child care facilities in terms that explicitly invoke their experiences as fathers. This outcome contradicts the hypothesis that “special knowledge” exclusive to women motivates women’s substantive representation. Why, when, and how we would expect women’s substantive representation I have suggested that women’s descriptive representation may not be the most reliable facilitator of the representation of women’s interests (broadly construed). It is clear that gendered experiences (e.g., as mothers, as wives, as lesbians, etc) do not always motivate female legislators to represent women substantively. Empirically, it is also clear that male legislators may represent women’s interests, as well. For instance, Celis (2006) notes that men actually intervene on behalf of women’s interests in budgetary debates more frequently than women do, though women do so at a higher rate (there are fewer women). Given these arguments and findings, it seems reasonable to reach beyond the usual explanations for why descriptive representation would (uniquely) facilitate substantive representation. In a previous section, I argued for a constructionist approach to gender, in order to accommodate a greater diversity of interests that women may espouse. The constructionist approach I described also applies to the way my project identifies women and their interests. Continuing in this spirit, I employ theories of gender roles (Squires 1999) in order to hypothesize 1) the relative frequency with which legislators (of any gender) will substantively represent women and 2) what might explain the kind of women’s interests they will represent. These hypotheses rest upon several antecedents. First, they apply only to societies where these different notions of women and women’s interests are widely available as

Authors: Xydias, Christina.
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background image
Christina Xydias
p.21
Hypothesis 3: Personal experience (A)
In advocating women’s interests, female legislators refer specifically to their own
personal experiences with the issues at hand in order to underscore the validity of
their claims.

Hypothesis 4: Personal Experience (B)
Even if female and male legislators are vocalizing the same women’s interests
within a given debate, female legislators draw upon the language of personal
experience as evidence and male legislators do not.

The observable implications of these two hypotheses include gendered differences
in speech that appear to be justified (in the minds of legislators) by appeals to personal
experience. If the previously untested link between descriptive and substantive
representation is indeed “special knowledge” based in experience, then one indicator of
this will be that women refer to their own personal experiences more frequently. For
example, in a debate about child care facilities, women may refer specifically to their
own experiences with balancing careers and parenting. If these hypotheses are correct,
even male legislators who advocate enhancing the accessibility of child care will refer to
the need for such accessibility in abstract, not personal, terms.
On the other hand, it may obtain that male legislators also refer to personal
experiences, e.g., as parents, in justifying their policy positions. In the above example,
men may advocate enhancing the accessibility of child care facilities in terms that
explicitly invoke their experiences as fathers. This outcome contradicts the hypothesis
that “special knowledge” exclusive to women motivates women’s substantive
representation.

Why, when, and how we would expect women’s substantive representation
I have suggested that women’s descriptive representation may not be the most
reliable facilitator of the representation of women’s interests (broadly construed). It is
clear that gendered experiences (e.g., as mothers, as wives, as lesbians, etc) do not always
motivate female legislators to represent women substantively. Empirically, it is also clear
that male legislators may represent women’s interests, as well. For instance, Celis (2006)
notes that men actually intervene on behalf of women’s interests in budgetary debates
more frequently than women do, though women do so at a higher rate (there are fewer
women).
Given these arguments and findings, it seems reasonable to reach beyond the
usual explanations for why descriptive representation would (uniquely) facilitate
substantive representation. In a previous section, I argued for a constructionist approach
to gender, in order to accommodate a greater diversity of interests that women may
espouse. The constructionist approach I described also applies to the way my project
identifies women and their interests. Continuing in this spirit, I employ theories of gender
roles (Squires 1999) in order to hypothesize 1) the relative frequency with which
legislators (of any gender) will substantively represent women and 2) what might explain
the kind of women’s interests they will represent.
These hypotheses rest upon several antecedents. First, they apply only to societies
where these different notions of women and women’s interests are widely available as


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