In the United States, social movements represent a major means by which unrepresented or underrepresented groups gain access to decision making or achieve social change. Womenare among the many groups that have stood outside politics, needing social movements to acquire change. Although women face the same problems as all outsiders, the gendered nature of politics and women's oppression also creates problems unique to women. In this chapter, I examine what we know about the role of u.S. women's movements in American democracy. How have women's movements contributed to women's representation and shaped American democracy? What factors influence their mobilization, actions, and outcomes? These questions are central to our understanding of women and American politics and to the larger field of social movements, which seeks to understand the causes of movements and their effects on the political process.My discussion addresses both literatures.I begin by critically analyzing the definition ofwomen's movements, showing the problems and inherent contradictions in the conceptualizationof these movements within the wider field. I then provide a short description of the majorconcepts in the study of social movements as background for the discussion to follow. Third, I focus on the political development of women's movements, examining both the conditionsthat foster women's movements and the factors that have shaped their evolution over time. A fourthsection discusses the complexity of the concept of activism, which occurs at multiplelevels and in a variety of arenas.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Social Sciences