Date Thesis Awarded

4-2017

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Government

Advisor

Jaime Settle

Committee Member

John McGlennon

Committee Member

Leisa Meyer

Abstract

Historically, marginalized groups such as racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women have sought to obtain policy gains by increasing their descriptive representation through the election of officials with similar demographic qualities. Yet, this increased representation may also threaten dominant groups and result in negative responses such as a legislative backlash, wherein opposition legislators introduce proposals counterproductive to the marginalized group’s progress. While this ”offensive” legislative backlash oftentimes occurs in response to the increased presence of Black and queer legislators, scholarship suggests such a backlash towards female legislators may adopt a more “defensive” form, wherein opponents block bills beneficial to women rather than propose bills counterproductive to their interests.

This study analyzes women’s issue bills in six state legislatures to explore whether women’s increased descriptive representation results in a legislative backlash and, if so, how such a backlash may occur. Increased female representation was hypothesized to result in a legislative backlash counterproductive to women’s interests. This backlash was hypothesized to primarily occur in a defensive form. Results suggest that increased female representation triggers a slight offensive backlash as well as a partisan form of a defensive backlash specific to legislative sessions where the Democratic Party has a majority.