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Creating Gender: The Sexual Politics of Welfare Policy

Cathy Marie Johnson, Georgia Duerst-Lahti, and Noelle H. Norton
Creating Gender: The Sexual Politics of Welfare Policy
ISBN: 978-1-58826-488-6
2006/262 pages/LC: 2006022406
"An excellent combination of theorizing and empirical work.... The book represents a significant advance in our understanding of U.S. welfare reform, and its theoretical framework promises to be useful beyond the cases under immediate investigation." —Sarah Elise Wiliatry, Political Science Quarterly

"In this elegantly written book, the authors convincingly demonstrate that gender pervades and influences legislators’ approaches to policy questions, irrespective of their ideological positions. Creating Gender is a significant contribution to the study of political theory, legislative studies, and social policy."—Karen M. Kedrowski, Winthrop University

"An intimate and in-depth exploratory analysis of welfare policy in the United States.... Scholars will discover rich findings in this book."—Luisa S. Deprez, Perspectives on Politics


Seldom do we notice, let alone explicitly acknowledge, that public policies set distinct parameters for gender. But as Creating Gender compellingly demonstrates, in reality governments do use policy—to legitimize and support some gender-based behaviors, while undermining others.

Looking in depth at the case of welfare reform, but considering a wide range of policy arenas, the authors examine how government policymaking in essence defines the "proper" nature of males and females. At the heart of their analysis is an effort to resolve questions about how policies determine what women and men must do to be granted standing as good citizens—and what benefits they can subsequently accrue. The result is a clear yet sophisticated exploration of the troublesome, sometimes insidious, ways in which gender ideology works in tandem with conventional political ideologies in the United States today.


Cathy Marie Johnson is professor of political science and W. Ford Schumann Faculty Fellow in Democratic Studies at Williams College. Her publications include The Dynamics of Conflict Between Bureaucrats and Legislators. Georgia Duerst-Lahti is professor of political science at Beloit College. She is author of Gender Power, Leadership, and Government. Noelle H. Norton is professor of political science at the University of San Diego. She has written extensively on women in US politics.


  • Making Policy, Making Gender.
  • On Creating Gender.
  • Toward a Suitably Complex Framework for Analysis.
  • Unfolding Gender Paradigms: A History of Sexual Politics in Welfare Policy.
  • Making Masculine Mothers: Vanquishing Feminality.
  • Policy Casts Fathers: Deadbeats and Scofflaws, Good Guys and Promise Keepers.
  • Gender Ideology Reflected in Practice: The Case of Wisconsin's Legislature.
  • Measuring Gender's Influence in Congressional Policymaking.
  • Recognizing the Sexual Politics of Public Policy.