These essays offer new conceptual resources for theorizing women, gender, and feminism in an era characterized by postmodern and poststructuralist critiques of modernism, by a conservative backlash against many aspects of feminism, and by the claim that the feminist revolution has already succeeded and we are now "postfeminist."
The first pair of essays explores how women's relationship to the political arena differs from men's; at the same time, both illustrate the ultimate breakdown of a distinction between "public" and "private" as the best way to conceptualize that different relationship. Political scientist Rosalind Pollack Petchesky (Chapter 19) shows how motherhood is degendered as the private is made public in political debates over women's reproductive rights (with women granted no special standing in that debate, though they have a special "interest" in it). Political philosopher Holloway Sparks (Chapter 20) recommends gendering citizenship as she shows how women can make some public spaces political through "dissident citizenship," defined as "often creative oppositional practices of citizens who . . . contest current arrangements of power from the margins of the polity." Both essays stress the capacity of women for active political agency despite their collective subordination to men and at the same time point toward differences among women in the situations examined (abortion and reproductive rights and dissent). Both theorize not only the structural context of women's political activity but also important features of women's internal experience as political actors (for Petchesky, the particular relationships pregnant women have to the fetus; for Sparks, the nature of courage). Finally, both incorporate reference to the power of "stories" to personalize, inspire, and inform political debate and political action. (Petchesky alludes to the introduction of women's stories of their abortions in a Supreme Court brief; Sparks notes the power of stories of