Special Issue "The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict"

A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X). This special issue belongs to the section "Law and Gender Issues".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2021) | Viewed by 26108

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Alison Gash
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Political Science, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA
Interests: legal advocacy; public policy; race; gender; LGBTQ+; disability; family/children

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

This Special Issue centers on the ways in which women's bodies serve as a narrative and frame for contentious politics. Judicial nominations, presidential campaigns, policy debates, and local conflicts—across a wide variety of policy contexts—focus on women's bodies as a platform for political contestation. Yet, despite the centering of politics on the subject of women's bodies, women continue to be deprived of basic protections and liberties. Even as their bodies are used to catalyze political momentum, women face an uncertain, and often hostile, audience from institutions and public officials. This is especially true for poor women, women of color, and women who identify as LGBTQIA. The politics of abortion and reproductive choice provide textbook examples of this relationship. In the United States, for instance, electoral battles and federal court nominations revolve around interpretations of and commitments to Roe v. Wade. Yet, poor women and women of color continue to bear the costs of restrictive reproductive rights policies—and at the same time are maligned by public debate. We see this at play in a range of policy arenas—health care, employment, and family planning to name a few—where women's bodies are the subject of policy campaigns, but where women's welfare is neglected or subverted. 

We are accepting manuscripts that interrogate these kinds of political dynamics in a variety of policy domains and locations. For instance, we are interested in manuscripts that explore the context for these conflicts; the ways in which these debates further exclude and silence minoritized women; the implications for governance, democratic participation, and the "rule of law," to name a few. We are hoping to catalyze important conversations both inside the academy and beyond about the problematic use of women's bodies as a political wedge and the continued erasure of women's experiences—particularly women who are vulnerable to multiple and intersecting forms of exclusion.

Prof. Alison Gash
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Laws is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • women
  • politics
  • policy
  • law
  • race
  • LGBTQIA

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Don’t Read the Comments: Examining Social Media Discourse on Trans Athletes
Laws 2022, 11(4), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws11040053 (registering DOI) - 01 Jul 2022
Viewed by 139
Abstract
How are transgender athletes understood in popular discourse? This paper adapts and merges Glaser and Strauss’ 1967 Grounded Theory Method with computerized Automated Text Analysis to provide clarity on large-n datasets comprised of social media posts made about transgender athletes. After outlining the [...] Read more.
How are transgender athletes understood in popular discourse? This paper adapts and merges Glaser and Strauss’ 1967 Grounded Theory Method with computerized Automated Text Analysis to provide clarity on large-n datasets comprised of social media posts made about transgender athletes. After outlining the procedures of this new approach to social media data, I present findings from a study conducted on comments made in response to YouTube videos reporting transgender athletes. A total of 60,000 comments made on three YouTube videos were scraped for the analysis, which proceeded in two steps. The first was an iterative, grounded analysis of the top 500 “liked” comments to gain insight into the trends that emerged. Automated Text Analysis was then used to explore latent connections amongst the 60,000 comments. This descriptive analysis of thousands of datapoints revealed three dominant ways that people talk about transgender athletes: an attachment to biology as determinative of athletic abilities, a racialized understanding of who constitutes a proper “girl”, and perceptions of sex-segregated sports as the sole way to ensure fairness in athletic opportunities. The paper concludes by drawing out the implications of this research for how scholars understand the obstacles facing transgender political mobilizations, presents strategies for addressing these roadblocks, and underscores the importance of descriptive studies of discourse in political science research concerned with marginalization and inequality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
Article
Women’s Organisations’ Role in (Re)Constructing the Narratives in Femicide Cases: Şule Çet’s Case
Laws 2022, 11(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws11010012 - 07 Feb 2022
Viewed by 1759
Abstract
In 2020, men in Turkey murdered 300 women, and 171 women were found suspiciously dead. The dominant narrative around suspicious death cases involves a faulty assumption that women are prone to committing suicide. Women’s organisations and cause lawyers unite against all kinds of [...] Read more.
In 2020, men in Turkey murdered 300 women, and 171 women were found suspiciously dead. The dominant narrative around suspicious death cases involves a faulty assumption that women are prone to committing suicide. Women’s organisations and cause lawyers unite against all kinds of violence to challenge this dominant narrative, which grants impunity to perpetrators. Drawing on resource mobilisation theory, this article investigates how women’s organisations become involved in femicide and suspicious death cases to articulate counter-narratives and advance women’s access to justice. It focuses on Şule Çet’s case, which raised intense public reactions due to the lack of procedural fairness at the investigation stage. It relies on semi-structured interviews with Şule’s lawyer and the members of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu) and the Gelincik Centre (Gelincik Merkezi) to illustrate how women’s organisations made Şule’s story visible and countered the dominant narrative surrounding suspicious death cases. The findings illustrate that women’s organisations’ ongoing struggle to encourage courts to hear women’s stories demands co-operation between different social and legal mechanisms. It includes a combination of several strategies, such as following femicide cases and forming public opinion through social media. The article concludes by arguing that women’s organisations’ use of counter-narratives transforms femicide cases from being only a statistic to a public cause, contributing to women’s struggle in accessing justice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
Article
A Body Speaks: State, Media, and Public Responses to Femicide in Guatemala
Laws 2021, 10(3), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030073 - 10 Sep 2021
Viewed by 2461
Abstract
In 2008, Guatemala passed the Law against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence against Women, establishing the gender-based killing of women (femicide) as a unique crime. Since then, over 9000 Guatemalan women and girls have died violent deaths. How do Guatemalan institutions and [...] Read more.
In 2008, Guatemala passed the Law against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence against Women, establishing the gender-based killing of women (femicide) as a unique crime. Since then, over 9000 Guatemalan women and girls have died violent deaths. How do Guatemalan institutions and publics react to these women’s murders, and what do these reactions reveal about the impacts of legislative reform for individual victims, Guatemalan society, and criminal justice institutions? To answer these questions, we analyze state, media, and public reactions to three high-profile femicides that took place after the 2008 VAW Law. We trace the criminal justice response and legal developments following each femicide, and couple this with an analysis of newspaper coverage and social media commentary about the case. We find that despite the passage of new legislation and the creation of new institutions, various weaknesses in the Guatemalan criminal justice system undermine the impacts of reforms. These weaknesses in the criminal justice system produce three types of injuries: (1) individual injuries by hurting victims and their families; (2) public injuries by diverting public attention away from reflections about social norms and VAWG; and (3) institutional injuries by reinforcing the public’s distrust of the criminal justice system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
Article
Sports, Transgender Rights and the Bodily Politics of Cisgender Supremacy
Laws 2021, 10(3), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030063 - 31 Jul 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 5791
Abstract
Between 2020 and 2021, one hundred and ten bills in state legislatures across the United States suggested banning the participation of transgender athletes on sports teams for girls and women. As of July 2021, ten such bills have become state law. This paper [...] Read more.
Between 2020 and 2021, one hundred and ten bills in state legislatures across the United States suggested banning the participation of transgender athletes on sports teams for girls and women. As of July 2021, ten such bills have become state law. This paper tracks the political shift towards targeting transgender athletes. Conservative political interests now seek laws that suture biological determinist arguments to civil rights of bodies. Although narrow binary definitions of sex have long operated in the background as a means for policy implementation under Title IX, Republican lawmakers now aim to reframe sex non-discrimination policies as means of gendered exclusion. The content of proposals reveal the centrality of ideas about bodily immutability, and body politics more generally, in shaping the future of American gender politics. My analysis of bills from 2021 argues that legislative proposals advance a logic of “cisgender supremacy” inhering in political claims about normatively gendered bodies. Political institutions are another site for advancing, enshrining, and normalizing cis-supremacist gender orders, explicitly joining cause with medical authorities as arbiters of gender normativity. Characteristics of bodies and their alleged role in evidencing sex itself have fueled the tactics of anti-transgender activists on the political Right. However, the target of their aims is not mere policy change but a state-sanctioned return to a narrowly cis- and heteropatriarchal gender order. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
Article
Retouchée au Féminin: The Gendered Nature of the French Law Mandating Labeling of Digitally Modified Images
Laws 2021, 10(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030062 - 31 Jul 2021
Viewed by 2423
Abstract
The majority of advertisements contain thin-ideal imagery that have been digitally modified. A robust body of research has suggested that exposure to these retouched images has negative effects on body image and increases eating disorder risk. Furthermore, these concerns are known to be [...] Read more.
The majority of advertisements contain thin-ideal imagery that have been digitally modified. A robust body of research has suggested that exposure to these retouched images has negative effects on body image and increases eating disorder risk. Furthermore, these concerns are known to be highly gendered both in nature and in their extent, with women revealing higher levels of concerns predominantly related to thinness. Although not supported as a useful approach by empirical data, in 2017, France introduced a law requiring advertisers to label images featuring models whose weight and/or shape have been altered. These images must bear the label “photographie retouchée”, or “retouched image”. However, this legislation has been difficult to enforce, as unlike other French legislation related to labeling advertising, its lack of specificity makes it difficult to identify violations. Paradoxically, given its intentions, where applied, uses of the label disproportionately focus on women’s bodies in the media, as compared to men’s bodies. These findings highlight the need for legislation that is enforceable and supported by the allocation of sufficient resources. In addition, findings highlight the importance of grounding legislation and policy in the extant relevant data and involving strategic stakeholders in its creation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
Article
Bodies in Confinement: Negotiating Queer, Gender Nonconforming, and Transwomen’s Gender and Sexuality behind Bars
Laws 2021, 10(2), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10020049 - 17 Jun 2021
Viewed by 3012
Abstract
The criminal punishment system plays a critical role in the production of race, gender, and sexuality in the United States. The regulation of marginalized women’s bodies—transwomen, butches, and lesbians—in confinement reproduces cis-heteronormativity. Echoing the paternalistic claims of protection that have inspired “bathroom bills,” [...] Read more.
The criminal punishment system plays a critical role in the production of race, gender, and sexuality in the United States. The regulation of marginalized women’s bodies—transwomen, butches, and lesbians—in confinement reproduces cis-heteronormativity. Echoing the paternalistic claims of protection that have inspired “bathroom bills,” gender-segregated prison facilities have notoriously condemned transwomen prisoners to men’s prisons for the “safety” of women’s prisons, constructing cisgender women as “at risk” of sexual assault and transgender women as “risky”, overlooking the reality of transwomen as the most at risk of experiencing sexual violence in prisons. Prisons use legal and medical constructions of gender that pathologize transgender identity in order to legitimize health concerns; for example, the mutilation of the body in an effort to remove unwanted genitalia as evidence to warrant a diagnosis of gender identity disorder, or later gender dysphoria. This construction of transgender identity as a medical condition that warrants treatment forces prisoners to pathologize their gender identity in order to access adequate gender-affirming care. By exploring the writings of queer and trans prisoners, we can glean how heteronormativity structures gender and sexuality behind bars and discover how trans prisoners work to assemble knowledge, support, and resources toward survival. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
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Article
Just Mothering: Amy Coney Barrett and the Racial Politics of American Motherhood
Laws 2021, 10(2), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10020036 - 13 May 2021
Viewed by 2906
Abstract
Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and confirmation featured frequent references to her role as a mother. This article situates these references within the trajectory of American political development to demonstrate how motherhood operates as a mechanism for enforcing a white-centered racial order. Through [...] Read more.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and confirmation featured frequent references to her role as a mother. This article situates these references within the trajectory of American political development to demonstrate how motherhood operates as a mechanism for enforcing a white-centered racial order. Through a close analysis of both the history of politicized motherhood as well as Barrett’s nomination and confirmation hearings, I make a series of claims about motherhood and contemporary conservatism. First, conservatives stress the virtuousness of motherhood through a division between public and private spheres that valorizes the middle-class white mother. Second, conservatives emphasize certain mothering practices associated with the middle-class white family. Third, conservatives leverage an epistemological claim about the universality of mothering experiences to universalize white motherhood. Finally, this universalism obscures how motherhood operates as a site in which power distinguishes between good and bad mothers and allocates resources accordingly. By attending to what I call the “republican motherhood script” operating in contemporary conservatism, I argue that motherhood is an ideological apparatus for enforcing a racial order premised on white protectionism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
Article
Why We Need a National CROWN Act
Laws 2021, 10(2), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10020026 - 12 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3195
Abstract
Discrimination and intersecting forms of oppression directed at Black women influence how they look, live, work, interact with others, and even view their bodies and identities. Black hair has been and remains a target of this discrimination and oppression by obligating Black women [...] Read more.
Discrimination and intersecting forms of oppression directed at Black women influence how they look, live, work, interact with others, and even view their bodies and identities. Black hair has been and remains a target of this discrimination and oppression by obligating Black women to strive toward White beauty norms. Still under consideration in several states, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act provides a legislative intervention to protect Black women (and men) from hair discrimination at work, during school, and as they go about their daily lives. This article examines the politics affecting Black hair. The data for this study came from semi-structured interviews with 22 Black women who define their hair as natural. The results indicate that racial history and stereotypes continue to create unachievable standards for Black hair; that Black women continue to encounter discrimination when embracing their natural hair; and that wearing Black natural hair is often an uplifting decision for the women who elect to do so. The fact that others continue to challenge and discriminate against Black natural in multiple venues confirms the need for a national CROWN Act. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)

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Commentary
Threats to Women/Women as Threats: Male Supremacy and the Anti-Statist Right
Laws 2021, 10(2), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10020041 - 20 May 2021
Viewed by 3087
Abstract
Throughout the Trump administration, media coverage of extremist factions of the American right grew considerably, as did the actual membership and numbers of those factions. Included among these factions, and operating on a spectrum that ranges from the center-to-fringe right, are white supremacist, [...] Read more.
Throughout the Trump administration, media coverage of extremist factions of the American right grew considerably, as did the actual membership and numbers of those factions. Included among these factions, and operating on a spectrum that ranges from the center-to-fringe right, are white supremacist, Christian nationalist, and militia/patriot/sovereign citizen (broadly termed constitutionalist) movements. While the American right is heterogeneous, most of these groups are composed of white men, and male supremacism is often a common ideological denominator. Based on historical trends, recent activity, and ongoing movement mobilizations, we should anticipate increased recruitment and activism on the part of anti-statist right-wing groups during the Biden administration. While much has been written about the threat of terroristic violence these groups pose and their varying levels of engagement with white supremacist beliefs, examinations of gender have largely focused on masculinity. This note takes up the relationship between anti-statist right-wing movements and women by sketching three key areas that warrant further examination: (1) how collective interpretations of the law leave women vulnerable by refusing the legitimacy of federal legislation; (2) the threat of militia violence against women, particularly those who hold elected office; (3) how racial and gender exclusions preclude women from having their claims to membership in anti-statist right-wing movements be fully recognized. As we take stock of the growing threat posed by these movements, it is incumbent on us to critically examine the threats to women’s rights posed by the anti-statist right. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Body Politic: Women’s Bodies and Political Conflict)
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