As you read this week, the state is “gendered,” meaning that the various institutions providing a system of power and authority are shaped by cultural constructions of gender – that is, definitions of what it means to be a woman or man. One of these gendered institutions is the law. Gender, in particular inequality between women and men, gives rise to some of the issues addressed by legislation (for example, violence against women or unequal pay). Gender also influences the responses to issues – in the form of the bills you are reading. Gender also can produce different consequences of legislation for women and men, with some of these differences quite easy to see and others less visible.
For this discussion, you’ll be examining legislation recently considered by the U.S. Congress. Go to www.congress.gov (Links to an external site.). Search on a topic of interest or just peruse some of the bills, resolutions, or amendments considered by the current (117th) Congress (either the House or the Senate). You’ll find some by searching on obvious topics like contraception, abortion, equal pay, or sexual assault. But you can also look for a bill that doesn’t reference gender so directly. For example, you might find a bill addressing an issue that you see as clearly shaped by gender, but the implications of it haven’t really been dealt with in the bill. Or you might find a bill that could have different effects on the lives of women versus men (or girls versus boys), but this variation isn’t dealt with in the bill. After you select a bill, resolution, or amendment that addresses, in some way, gender inequality, answer these questions.
- (80 points) How does this bill reflect gender in the U.S. in 2021? Here are questions to get you thinking critically. Some may be more relevant to your bill than others.
- What issue does the bill address? Thinking about what you’ve learned about gender’s impact on many realms of social life, why does this issue exist?
- Why is the issue being addressed – and in this way rather than others? What does this explanation say about gender in our society?
- How does the bill reflect assumptions about women and/or men? How explicit are these assumptions in the bill?
- Does the bill have different implications for women and men? If so, describe them.
- Be sure to think about what the bill does, and does not, mention. Your bill might deal with an issue with gender relevance, but it might not be fully appreciated. What are some of the less visible ways that gender is shaping the bill and/or its likely consequences?
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