Women and Children First: Feminism, Rhetoric and Public Policy
ed. Sharon M. Meagher and Patrice DiQuinzio
State University of New York Press, 2005
The aim of this book is threefold: 1) to develop a better understanding of the ways that mothers and children are invoked in contemporary policy discourse; 2) to unpack moral rhetoric that causes harm to women and children, and 3) to frame strategies to counter this rhetoric with feminist ethical and practical responses. Included papers analyze rhetoric regarding a range of public policy issues, including school violence, gun control, medical intervention of intersexed infants, welfare, reproductive technologies, and domestic violence. Although the rhetoric varies, each discourse proposes to "to put women and children first." Yet feminist philosophical analysis uncovers a logic of paternalistic treatment of women and children that it is almost always combined with their vilification. This logic is widespread in contemporary popular policy discourse, and it affects the way that people understand, and respond to, social and political issues. Women and children pay very dearly for being "put first." Often the challenges to the well-being of all girls, as well as to boys "who do not fit in" is made in what appears to be feminist language of protecting and/or empowering children. We see this, for example, in the rhetoric of political and social conservatives who have gone so far as to blame feminists for school violence and the terrorist attacks of September 11th .
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