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  • Author or Editor: Sarah Childs x
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Since the 1980s, gender and politics scholarship has prospered alongside increases in women’s descriptive representation. If a ‘feminist imperative’ drives us to seek to transform as well as study politics, the potential impact of research and our role as change actors has been little studied. We ask: (1) what effects feminist scholars sought to have; (2) upon whom; (3) when; and (4) through what channels. With two cases – Nordic countries and the UK – we explore the opportunities and dilemmas faced in seeking to enhance descriptive representation and aim to contribute to the development of feminist theories of political change.

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Feminist democratic representation is a new design for women’s group representation in electoral politics. We build on the design principles and practices of the 1990s’ presence theorists, who conceived of political inclusion as the presence of descriptive representatives and advocated for gender quota. Our second-generation design foregrounds women’s ideological and intersectional heterogeneity, and details a representative process that enacts three feminist principles: inclusiveness, responsiveness and egalitarianism. A new set of actors – the affected representatives of women – play formal, institutionalised roles in two new democratic practices: group advocacy and account giving. Together, these augmentations incentivise new attitudes and behaviours among elected representatives, and bring about multiple representational effects that redress the poverty of women’s political representation: elected representatives now know more, care more and are more connected to diverse women, including the most marginalised; and the represented are now more closely connected with, more interested in and better represented through democratic politics.

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