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Mapping the Language of Women's Interests: Sex and Party Affiliation in the Bundestag

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Abstract

This study maps the language that legislators use to define women's interests in the context of contemporary Germany. Using party groups' manifestos from the 2005 legislative elections and personal interviews with members of the 16th Bundestag (2005–9), the study compares female and male legislators within parties and female legislators across parties, with particular attention to how these interviewees' language cleaved to and from their party scripts (parties' positions on and language regarding women's interests). The map that emerges from this analysis suggests that legislators' language in talking about women's interests is mediated by sex and party affiliation in combination, such that female and male legislators differ within each party and female legislators differ across parties. The study shows that female legislators across parties share an emphasis on the inadequacy of formal equality in yielding women's equality in practice, but they diverge markedly in the policies that they recommend to address this problem. Much previous research on women's representation has focused on the finding that female legislators advocate for women at higher rates than their male colleagues, underplaying both the significant variation among female legislators as well as the contributions of conservative female legislators.

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