When are women well represented politically speaking? The popular consensus has been for some time, when descriptive representatives put women’s issues and feminist interests onto the political agenda. Today, such certainty has been well and truly shaken. Differences amongst women – especially how they conceive of their ‘interests’ – is said to fatally undermine the principle and practice of women’s group representation. There has been a serious loss of faith, too, in legislatures as the site where political representation takes place. Feminist Democratic Representation responds by making a second-generation feminist design intervention. Firmly grounded in feminist empirical political science, our design shows how women’s misrepresentation is best met procedurally. We take women’s differences as our starting point, adopt an indivisible conception of representation, and reclaim the role of legislatures. We introduce a new group of actors - the affected representatives of women – and two new parliamentary practices: group advocacy and account giving. Working with a series of vignettes - abortion, prostitution, Muslim women’s dress, and Marine Le Pen - we explore how these representational problematics might fare were our feminist democratic process of representation in place. The ideal representative effects are broader than simply descriptive or substantive: they include effects relating to affinity, trust, legitimacy, symbolism, and affect. They manifest in stronger representative relationships amongst women in society, between women and their representatives, elected and affective, greater support for the procedures, institutions and substantive outputs of representative politics, and at a higher level, to the idea of representative democracy. Against the more fashionable tide of post-representative politics Feminist Democratic Representation argues for more and better representation.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press, US
Number of pages243
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-008772-2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • political representation


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