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Women and Citizenship$
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Marilyn Friedman

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195175349

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195175344.001.0001

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French Universalism in the Nineties

French Universalism in the Nineties

(p.35) 2 French Universalism in the Nineties
Women and Citizenship

Joan Wallach Scott

Oxford University Press

In 2000, France enacted a parité law that calls for equal numbers of women and men to serve in various elected assemblies at all levels of government. The law challenged a theory of representation, dating to the French Revolution, which construed the citizen as an abstract, neutral individual despite a political practice that both construed citizens as masculine and typically chose men as legislative representatives. To rectify this discrimination against women in political office, the parité movement drew a distinction between anatomical duality (the two sexes of the abstract individual) and sexual difference (the cultural attribution of gendered meaning to sexed bodies). This distinction was lost in the course of the debates about parité, however, and the law that passed seemed to implement an essentialist vision that was not the intention of its first supporters. Scott believes this tension in the support for parité is an unresolvable feature of the nature of representation in liberal or, like France, liberal republican states.

Keywords:   legislative representatives, France, parité (parity), citizenship, universal citizen, essentialism, sex difference, sexed bodies, liberalism

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