From womenโ€™s presence to feminist representation: Second-generation design for womenโ€™s group representation

Sarah Childs & Karen Celis, Royal Holloway University of London & Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Feminist democratic representation is a new design for womenโ€™s group representation in electoral politics. We build on the design principles and practices of 1990s presence theorists who conceived of political inclusion as the presence of descriptive representatives and advocated for gender quota. Our second-generation design foregrounds womenโ€™s ideological and intersectional heterogeneity, and advocates for a representative process that enacts three feminist principles โ€“ inclusiveness, responsiveness and egalitarianism. A new set of actors, the affected representatives of women, play institutionalized roles in two new democratic practices, group advocacy and account giving. Together these augmentations incentivize attitudes and behaviours amongst elected representatives and bring about multiple representational effects that redress the poverty of womenโ€™s political representation: elected representatives now know more, care more, and are more connected to diverse women, including the most marginalized; with the represented now more closely connected with, interested in, and better represented through, democratic politics.