Women and Children First

Feminism, Rhetoric, and Public Policy

Edited by Sharon M. Meagher & Patrice DiQuinzio

Subjects: Women's Studies, Public Policy, Feminist Philosophy, Composition And Rhetoric Studies, Political Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Gender Theory
Paperback : 9780791465400, 271 pages, August 2005
Hardcover : 9780791465394, 271 pages, August 2005

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Table of contents


1. Introduction: Women and Children First
Patrice DiQuinzio and Sharon M. Meagher

PART I: (Mis)representations of the Domestic Sphere: State Interventions

2. Homeland Security and the Co-optation of Feminist Discourse
Elizabeth F. Randol

3. Unsanctioned (Bedroom) Commitments: The 2000 U. S. Census Discourse Around Cohabitation and Single-Motherhood
Kirsten Isgro

4. Enemies of the State: Poor White Mothers and the Discourse of Universal Human Rights
Jennifer A. Reich

PART II: Medical Discourses and Social Ills

5. Fixing Sex: Medical Discourse and the Management of Intersex
Ellen K. Feder

6. Social Melancholy, Shame, and Sublimation
Kelly Oliver

PART III: Subjects of Violence

7. Predators and Protectors: The Rhetoric of School Violence
Sharon M. Meagher

8. Battered Woman Syndrome: Locating the Subject Amidst the Advocacy
Sally J. Scholz

PART IV: Mothers, Good and Bad: Marginalizing Mothers and Idealizing Children

9. Bad Mothers as "Brown" Mothers in Western Canadian Policy Discourse: Substance-Abusing Mothers and Sexually Exploited Girls
Norma L. Buydens

10. Behind Bars or Up on a Pedestal: Motherhood and Fetal Harm
Tricha Shivas and Sonya Charles

PART V: Protesting Mothers: Politics Under the Sign of Motherhood

11. (M)others, Biopolitics, and the Gulf War
Tina Managhan

12. Love and Reason in the Public Sphere: Maternalist Civic Engagement and the Dilemma of Difference
Patrice DiQuinzio

List of Contributors


A critique of public policy rhetoric from multiple feminist perspectives.


This diverse collection explores the rhetoric of a wide range of public policies that propose "to put women and children first," including homeland security, school violence, gun control, medical intervention of intersex infants, and policies that aim to distinguish "good" from "bad" mothers. Using various feminist philosophical analyses, the contributors uncover a logic of paternalistic treatment of women and children that purports to protect them but almost always also disempowers them and sometimes harms them. This logic is widespread in contemporary popular policy discourse and affects the way that people understand and respond to social and political issues. Contributors rethink basic philosophical assumptions concerning subjectivity, difference, and dualistic logic in order to read the rhetoric of contemporary public policy discourse and develop new ways of talking and acting in the policy domain.

Sharon M. Meagher is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women's Studies at the University of Scranton. Patrice DiQuinzio is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women's Studies at Muhlenberg College. She is the author of The Impossibility of Motherhood: Feminism, Individualism, and the Problem of Mothering and coeditor (with Iris Marion Young) of Feminist Ethics and Social Policy.