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Gender & Society


This paper uses a materialist feminist discourse analysis to examine how women’s movement organizations, liberal Democrats, and conservative Republican legislators shaped the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the consequences for intersectional and carceral feminism. Drawing on qualitative analysis of Congressional hearings, published feminist and conservative discussion of VAWA, and accounts of feminist mobilization around VAWA, I first show how a multi-issue coalition led by feminists shaped VAWA. Second, I show how discourses of crime intermixed with feminism into a polysemic gendered crime frame that facilitated cross-ideological support. Third, I show how, in contrast, intersectional issues that activists understood as central to violence against women were discursively and structurally separated from gendered crime in Congress. Although a multi-issue movement coalition advocated for expansions in VAWA dealing with immigrants, unmarried partners, same-sex partners, transgender people, and Native Americans, these issues were understood in Congress through more controversial single-issue discourses and often considered in administratively separate Congressional committees. Fourth, I show how VAWA’s outcomes played out in terms of carceral and intersectional feminist goals.


violence against women, women’s movements, intersectional feminism, carceral feminism, Violence Against Women Act





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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.

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Sociology Commons



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