W Stands for Women

How the George W. Bush Presidency Shaped a New Politics of Gender

W Stands for Women

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 4 illustrations Published: August 2007

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Politics > Political Theory

Taking seriously the “W Stands for Women” rhetoric of the 2004 Bush–Cheney campaign, the contributors to this collection investigate how “W” stands for women. They argue that George W. Bush has hijacked feminist language toward decidedly antifeminist ends; his use of feminist rhetoric is deeply and problematically connected to a conservative gender ideology. While it is not surprising that conservative views about gender motivate Bush’s stance on so-called “women’s issues” such as abortion, what is surprising—and what this collection demonstrates—is that a conservative gender ideology also underlies a range of policies that do not appear explicitly related to gender, most notably foreign and domestic policies associated with the post-9/11 security state. Any assessment of the lasting consequences of the Bush presidency requires an understanding of the gender conservatism at its core.

In W Stands for Women ten feminist scholars analyze various aspects of Bush’s persona, language, and policy to show how his administration has shaped a new politics of gender. One contributor points out the shortcomings of “compassionate conservatism,” a political philosophy that requires a weaker class to be the subject of compassion. Another examines Lynndie England’s participation in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in relation to the interrogation practices elaborated in the Army Field Manual, practices that often entail “feminizing” detainees by stripping them of their masculine gender identities. Whether investigating the ways that Bush himself performs masculinity or the problems with discourse that positions non-Western women as supplicants in need of saving, these essays highlight the far-reaching consequences of the Bush administration’s conflation of feminist rhetoric, conservative gender ideology, and neoconservative national security policy.

Contributors. Andrew Feffer, Michaele L. Ferguson, David S. Gutterman, Mary Hawkesworth, Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, Lori Jo Marso, Danielle Regan, R. Claire Snyder, Iris Marion Young, Karen Zivi

Michaela Ferguson and Karen Zivi appeared on KPFA’s Against the Grain on September 11, 2007. Listen to the audio.
Michaela Ferguson and Lori Jo Marso appeared on WUNC’s The State of Things on August 30, 2007. Listen to the audio.


W Stands for Women offers a compelling, well-integrated account of ‘the post-September 11 security state’ in the United States.” — Sylvia Bashevkin, Feminist Theory

W Stands for Women provides a critical look at the Bush administration’s rhetoric and record on issues of import to women. It provides a number of theoretical approaches to understanding the development of President Bush’s pro-feminist language.” — Dari E. Sylvester, Politics & Gender

“[An] eye-opening collection of nine essays . . . [that] provide a more complex, interdisciplinary examination of the disconnect between Bush’s rhetoric and his conservative gender ideology.” — Choice

“[T]he essays that make up this book are complex and the authors attack the Bush presidency and its ideology from a variety of directions and are wide-ranging in the lenses they apply to the implications of the security focus of contemporary politics evidenced by the Bush administration. They are all thought-provoking and should move us out of any complacency that we might have about women’s rights being taken seriously in an insecure world. . . . The authors give the readers much to cogitate, responses to
make to this conservative challenge, and material to use in classrooms to shake up students and question their tendency to submit to protection in this insecure world. . . .” — Barbara Burrell, Perspectives on Politics

“As a whole, this collection does an excellent job of presenting critical analyses to untangle the complex web of gender ideologies used by the Bush administration and illustrate the many ways gender shapes politics.” — Heather Ondercin, NWSA Journal

"[A] provocative set of essays. . . ." — Laura K. Landolt, Journal of Church and State

“Full of strikingly original and meticulously theorized readings of contemporary public life, W Stands for Women is one of the most intellectually and politically exciting books that I’ve read in years.” — Catherine A. Holland, author of The Body Politic: Foundings, Citizenship, and Difference in the American Political Imagination

“Making lasting feminist sense of the George W. Bush presidency—long after it’s over—will be a crucial intellectual task. W Stands for Women is going to be essential reading as we all tackle this challenge.” — Cynthia Enloe, author of Globalization and Militarism: Feminists Make the Link


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michaele L. Ferguson is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Lori Jo Marso is Professor of Political Science and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Union College. She is the author of Feminist Thinkers and the Demands of Femininity: The Lives and Work of Intellectual Women.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Feminism, Gender, and Security in the Bush Presidency / Michaele L. Ferguson and Lori J. Marso 1

Part I. Compassionate Patriarchy

The Allure of Authoritarianism: Bush Administration Ideology and the Reconsolidation of Patriarchy / R. Claire Snyder 17

The Politics of Compassion in the Age of AIDS / Karen Zivi 41

Part II. Bush's Masculinities

Straight Eye for the Straight Guy / David S. Gutterman and Danielle Regan 63

W's Masculine Pseudo-Democracy: Brothers-in-Arms, Suicide Bombers, and the Culture of Life / Andrew Feffer 87

Part III. Gendered War Logics at Home and Abroad

The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State / Iris Marion Young 115

Gender Trouble at Abu Ghraib? / Timothy Kaurman-Osborn 141

Feminists versus Feminization: Confronting the War Logics of the George W. Bush Administration / Mary Hawkesworth 163

Part IV. Feminist Responses

Feminism and Security Rhetoric in the Post September-11 Bush Administration / Michaele L. Ferguson 191

Feminism and the Complications of Freeing the Women of Afghanistan and Iraq / Lori J. Marso 221

References 245

Contributors 269

Index 271
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4042-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4064-5
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