Feminism, Democracy, and the 'War on Women'

31 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2013 Last revised: 28 May 2015

See all articles by Michele E. Gilman

Michele E. Gilman

University of Baltimore - School of Law; Data & Society

Date Written: February 5, 2014


This article analyzes the social conservative attacks on women preceding the 2012 election cycle, known as the War on Women, and the ensuing feminist response. Combat was waged on many fronts, including abortion restrictions, access to contraception, funding for Planned Parenthood, welfare programs, and workplace fairness. The article discusses what this "war" means for the complex relationship between feminism and democracy. American democracy has had both liberating and oppressive effects for women, while feminism has sometimes struggled internally to appropriate the values of democracy and externally to harness its potential. Accordingly, the article explains the major political theories regarding feminism and democracy and reflects on how the War on Women and its after effects impact those theories. The Article concludes that the War on Women reconfigured the relationship between feminism and democracy by reinvigorating the feminist political movement, redefining the scope of women's issues, realigning women voters across interest groups, and spurring a surge of women into office. Still, the War on Women kept feminism on the defensive, thereby draining the movement of the ability to fashion a feminist offensive. Thus, the feminism movement needs to generate an agenda that will wage a war for women.

Keywords: feminism, democracy, voting, gender gap, reproductive rights, workplace fairness, welfare

Suggested Citation

Gilman, Michele E., Feminism, Democracy, and the 'War on Women' (February 5, 2014). Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Vol. 32, 2014, Forthcoming, University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2238115 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2238115

Michele E. Gilman (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

Data & Society ( email )

36 West 20th Street
11th Floor
New York,, NY 10011
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics