Senior Fellow Amaney Jamal: Does Western Pressure for Gender Equality Help?

Writing in the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog, Nonresident Senior Fellow Amaney Jamal and Sarah Bush look at polling data to determine whether Western support for gender quotas affect regional attitudes toward them. 

Although some analysts have criticized the focus of Western governments and NGOs on goals such as trying to increase the number of women in parliaments, enhancing women’s representation remains a central objective of many international democracy promotion efforts in the Arab world. But the impacts of these efforts are more complex than they might appear. Lila Abu Lughod’s provocative recent book, “Do Muslim Women Need Saving?” challenges what she refers to as a Western “moral crusade to rescue oppressed Muslim women from their cultures and their religion [that] has swept the public sphere.” She notes that international, and especially U.S., pressure on Muslim governments to improve on certain measures of gender equality could actually undermine the local legitimacy of feminist causes.

Is she right? In “Anti-Americanism, Authoritarian Politics, and Attitudes about Women’s Representation: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Jordan,” an article published by International Studies Quarterly in July, we report on a unique experimental study that examines how U.S. and domestic endorsements of women in politics affect local attitudes about women’s representation in Jordan.

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