The Political Science Department will host its first brown bag lunch event of the semester at noon Friday, Jan. 25, in room 144 of McGannon Hall. Jason Windett, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, will present "Preemptive Masculinity? The Strategic Legislative Behavior of Women in U.S. Congress." All are welcome.
Missing from nearly every analysis on women's legislative agendas is an expectation of diversity in female legislator's agendas. Women cannot merely focus on women's issues when in Congress. A single-issue agenda would not be a feasible course of action, as women in the House of Representatives must face the threat of a challenger every two years. As Palmer and Simon (2008) show, female incumbents face a much more difficult path to reelection compared to male incumbents. Seats that are held by women have increased competition in their opponents primary, as well as the general election. In order to remain competitive in these elections, female legislators cannot narrowly focus their legislative agendas to "women's issues" or they risk backlash from the electorate.
Following the logic of Mayhew, we expect women to diversify their legislative agendas in order to ensure reelection and combat gender stereotypes. As previously noted, women will need to diversify their legislative portfolios in order to appeal to the electoral at a much greater level and perceived policy agenda than on women's issues alone. As Mayhew (1974, 132) notes that "in a large class of legislative undertakings, the electoral payment is for positions rather than for effects.'' This argument applied to women's legislative agendas would show that women will diversify their sponsorship behavior for the electoral benefit of being able to campaign on a multitude of issues, including masculine issues, in the next election cycle. Women may not always be able to campaign on feminine or women's issues alone, and will often times rely on more masculine issue priorities to combat gender stereotypes in the electorate. Diversifying their legislative agenda and sponsorship behavior is one way to insulate themselves from campaign criticisms.