Social Movements as Women’s Political Empowerment: The Case for Measurement

  • Kathleen M. Fallon
  • Heidi E. Rademacher
Part of the Gender and Politics book series (GAP)


This chapter explores how to quantitatively measure women’s social movements: women who draw on their identities as women and engage in collective action to target national governments and their laws and policies. Drawing on previous qualitative and quantitative studies of politically influential social movements addressing women’s rights across developing countries, the authors examine what aspects of women’s collective action must be addressed to create a meaningful variable. The chapter concludes with a call for new methods to measure women’s movements, which can provide a more meaningful way to quantify the circumstances that lead to mobilization, the intricacies of women’s movements, and the ways women’s collective action leads to women’s political empowerment and gender equality in both the developing world and a global context.


  1. Akchurin, M., & Lee, C. S. (2013). Pathways to Empowerment: Repertoires of Women’s Activism and Gender Earnings Equality. American Sociological Review, 78(4), 679–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvarez, S. E. (1990). Engendering Democracy in Brazil: Women’s Movements in Transition Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arfaoui, K., & Moghadam, V. M. (2016). Violence Against Women and Tunisian Feminism: Advocacy, Policy, and Politics in an Arab Context. Current Sociology, 64(4), 637–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bauer, G. (2012). ‘Let There Be a Balance’: Women in African Parliaments. Political Studies Review, 10(3), 370–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beckwith, K. (2001). Women’s Movements at Century’s End: Excavation and Advances in Political Science. Annual Review of Political Science, 4(1), 371–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berkovitch, N. (1999). From Motherhood to Citizenship: Women’s Rights and International Organizations. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Borland, E. (2004a). Cultural Opportunities and Tactical Choice in the Argentine and Chilean Reproductive Rights Movements. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 9(3), 327–339.Google Scholar
  8. Borland, E. L. (2004b). Growth, Decay, and Change: Organizations in the Contemporary Women’s Movement in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Arizona, Tucson.Google Scholar
  9. Britton, H. E. (2006). Organizing Against Gender Violence. Journal of Southern African Studies, 32, 145–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brownhill, L. (2007). Gendered Struggles for the Commons-Food Sovereignty, Tree-Planting and Climate Change. Women and Environments International Magazine, 74, 34.Google Scholar
  11. Carroll, W. K., & Ratner, R. S. (1996). Master Framing and Cross-Movement Networking in Contemporary Social Movements. The Sociological Quarterly, 37(4), 601–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caul, M. (1999). Women’s Representation in Parliament: The Role of Political Parties. Party Politics, 5(1), 79–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chaudhuri, S. (2010). The Fight for Property Rights: How Changes in Movement Actors and History Brought about the Changes in Frames in a Single Movement. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 30(3), 633–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chowdhury, E. H. (2009). ‘Transnationalism Reversed’: Engaging Religion, Development and Women’s Organizing in Bangladesh. Women’s Studies International Forum, 32(6), 414–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crocker, A. (2007). Gender Quota Laws in Latin America: Innovation, Diffusion, and the End of a Wave. Cena Internacional, 9(2), 95–124.Google Scholar
  16. El-Bushra, J. (2007). Feminism, Gender, and Women’s Peace Activism. Development and Change, 38(1), 131–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fallon, K. M., Swiss, L., & Viterna, J. (2012). Resolving the Democracy Paradox Democratization and Women’s Legislative Representation in Developing Nations, 1975–2009. American Sociological Review, 77(3), 380–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feijoó, M. D. C., & Nari, M. M. A. (1994). Women and Democracy in Argentina. In J. S. Jaquette (Ed.), The Women’s Movement in Latin America: Participation and Democracy (pp. 109–129). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  19. Franceschet, S. (2010). Explaining Domestic Violence Policy Outcomes in Chile and Argentina. Latin American Politics and Society, 52(3), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gbowee, L. (2011). Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. New York: Beast Books.Google Scholar
  21. Geisler, G. (2006). ‘A Second Liberation’: Lobbying for Women’s Political Representation in Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. Journal of Southern African Studies, 32(1), 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goetz, A. M., & Hassim, S. (2003). No Shortcuts to Power: African Women in Politics and Policy Making. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  23. Gouws, A. (2014). Recognition and Redistribution: State of the Women’s Movement in South Africa 20 Years After Democratic Transition. Agenda, 28(2), 19–32.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, T. (2003). Electoral Gender Quotas: Lessons from Argentina and Chile. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 21(1), 52–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guzmán, V., Seibert, U., & Staab, S. (2010). Democracy in the Country but Not in the Home? Religion, Politics and Women’s Rights in Chile. Third World Quarterly, 31(6), 971–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hassim, S. (2002). “A conspiracy of women”: The Women’s Movement in South Africa’s Transition to Democracy. Social Research, 69, 693–732.Google Scholar
  27. Hassim, S. (2006). Women’s Organizations and Democracy in South Africa: Contesting Authority. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hewitt, L., & McCammon, H. (2004). Explaining Suffrage Mobilization: Balance, Neutralization, and Range in Collective Action Frames, 1892–1919. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 9(2), 149–166.Google Scholar
  29. Htun, M., & Weldon, S. L. (2012). The Civic Origins of Progressive Policy Change: Combating Violence Against Women in Global Perspective, 1975–2005. American Political Science Review, 106(3), 548–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Htun, M. N., & Jones, M. P. (2002). Engendering the Right to Participate in Decision-Making: Electoral Quotas and Women’s Leadership in Latin America. In M. Molyneux & N. Craske (Eds.), Gender and the Politics of Rights and Democracy in Latin America (pp. 32–56). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hughes, M. M., Krook, M. L., & Paxton, P. (2015). Transnational Women’s Activism and the Global Diffusion of Gender Quotas. International Studies Quarterly, 59(2), 357–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jaquette, J. S., & Wolchik, S. L. (1998). Women and Democracy: Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  33. King, B. G., Cornwall, M., & Dahlin, E. C. (2005). Winning Woman Suffrage One Step at a Time: Social Movements and the Logic of the Legislative Process. Social Forces, 83(3), 1211–1234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lind, A. (2003). Feminist Post-development Thought: “Women in Development” and the Gendered Paradoxes of Survival in Bolivia. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 31(3/4), 227–246.Google Scholar
  35. Lovenduski, J. (2008). State Feminism and Women’s Movements. West European Politics, 31(1-2), 169–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Maathai, W. (2004). The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience. New York: Lantern Books.Google Scholar
  37. McCammon, H. J. (2003). “Out of the Parlors and into the Streets”: The Changing Tactical Repertoire of the US Women’s Suffrage Movements. Social Forces, 81(3), 787–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCammon, H. J., Campbell, K. E., Granberg, E. M., & Mowery, C. (2001). How Movements Win: Gendered Opportunity Structures and US Women’s Suffrage Movements, 1866–1919. American Sociological Review, 66(1), 49–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McEwan, C. (2000). Engendering Citizenship: Gendered Spaces of Democracy in South Africa. Political Geography, 19(5), 627–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Meer, S. (2005). Freedom for Women: Mainstreaming Gender in the South African Liberation Struggle and Beyond. Gender & Development, 13(2), 36–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Merry, S. E. (2009). Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  42. Milić, A. (2004). The Women’s Movement in Serbia and Montenegro at the Turn of the Millennium: A Sociological Study of Women’s Groups. Feminist Review, 76(1), 65–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Minkoff, D. C. (1997). The Sequencing of Social Movements. American Sociological Review, 62(5), 779–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moghadam, V. (2005). Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks. The Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Mukenge, M. (2013). The Role of Grassroots Women’s Groups in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Response: Examples of Practice in Post-Conflict Settings. International Peacekeeping, 20(4), 469–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Murdie, A., & Peksen, D. (2015). Women and Contentious Politics: A Global Event-Data Approach to Understanding Women’s Protest. Political Research Quarterly, 68(1), 180–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Noonan, R. K. (1995). Women Against the State: Political Opportunities and Collective Action Frames in Chile’s Transition to Democracy. Sociological Forum, 10(1), 81–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Paxton, P., & Hughes, M. M. (2015). The Increasing Effectiveness of National Gender Quotas, 1990–2010. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 40(3), 331–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Paxton, P., Hughes, M. M., & Green, J. L. (2006). The International Women’s Movement and Women’s Political Representation, 1893–2003. American Sociological Review, 71(6), 898–920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Phillips, L., & Cole, S. (2009). Feminist Flows, Feminist Fault Lines: Women’s Machineries and Women’s Movements in Latin America. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 35(1), 185–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Phillips, S. D. (1991). Meaning and Structure in Social Movements: Mapping the Network of National Canadian Women’s Organizations. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 24(4), 755–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Piatti-Crocker, A. (Ed.). (2011). Diffusion of Gender Quotas in Latin America and Beyond: Advances and Setbacks in the Last Two Decades. New York: Peter Lang Publishers.Google Scholar
  53. Ramirez, F. O., Soysal, Y., & Shanahan, S. (1997). The Changing Logic of Political Citizenship: Cross-national Acquisition of Women’s Suffrage Rights, 1890–1990. American Sociological Review, 62(5), 735–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ray, R., & Korteweg, A. C. (1999). Women’s Movements in the Third World: Identity, Mobilization, and Autonomy. Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 47–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rinaldo, R. (2013). Mobilizing Piety: Islam and Feminism in Indonesia. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rosenthal, N., Fingrutd, M., Ethier, M., Karant, R., & McDonald, D. (1985). Social Movements and Network Analysis: A Case Study of Nineteenth-Century Women’s Reform in New York State. American Journal of Sociology, 90(5), 1022–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Salime, Z. (2011). Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shandra, J. M., Shandra, C. L., & London, B. (2008). Women, Non-governmental Organizations, and Deforestation: A Cross-national Study. Population and Environment, 30(1-2), 48–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith, J., & Wiest, D. (2005). The Uneven Geography of Global Civic Society: National and Global Influences on Transnational Association. Social Forces, 84(2), 621–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Soule, S., McAdam, D., McCarthy, J., & Su, Y. (1999). Protest Events: Cause or Consequence of State Action? The US Women’s Movement and Federal Congressional Activities, 1956–1979. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 4(2), 239–256.Google Scholar
  61. Soule, S. A., & Olzak, S. (2004). When Do Movements Matter? The Politics of Contingency and the Equal Rights Amendment. American Sociological Review, 69(4), 473–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Steady, F. (2006). Women and Collective Action in Africa: Development, Democratization and Empowerment. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Subramaniam, M. (2014). Resisting Gendered Religious Nationalism: The Case of Religious-Based Violence in Gujarat, India. Advances in Gender Research, 18, 73–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sundstrom, A., Paxton, P., Wang, Y. T., & Lindberg, S. I. (2017). Women’s Political Empowerment: A New Global Index, 1900–2012. World Development, 94, 321–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Swiss, L. (2012). The Adoption of Women and Gender as Development Assistance Priorities: An Event History Analysis of World Polity Effects. International Sociology, 27(1), 96–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Swiss, L., & Fallon, K. M. (2016). Understanding Transnational Influences on Electoral Quota Adoption in the Developing World. Politics and Gender, 1–30. doi: 10.1017/S1743923X16000477
  67. Tamang, S. (2009). The Politics of Conflict and Difference or the Difference of Conflict in Politics: The Women’s Movement in Nepal. Feminist Review, 91(1), 61–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Towns, A. E. (2012). Norms and Social Hierarchies: Understanding International Policy Diffusion “From Below”. International Organization, 66(2), 179–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tripp, A. M., Casimiro, I., Kwesiga, J., & Mungwa, A. (2009). African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  70. True, J., & Mintrom, M. (2001). Transnational Networks and Policy Diffusion: The Case of Gender Mainstreaming. International Studies Quarterly, 45(1), 27–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vargas, V. (1991). The Women’s Movement in Peru Streams, Spaces and Knots. Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe (European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies), 50, 7–50.Google Scholar
  72. Viterna, J. (2013). Women in War: The Micro-processes of Moblization in El Salvador. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Viterna, J., & Fallon, K. M. (2008). Democratization, Women’s Movements, and Gender-Equitable States: A Framework for Comparison. American Sociological Review, 73(4), 668–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Walsh, D. (2006). The Liberal Moment: Women and Just Debate in South Africa, 1994–1996. Journal of Southern African Studies, 32(1), 85–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Waylen, G. (2000). Gender and Democratic Politics: A Comparative Analysis of Consolidation in Argentina and Chile. Journal of Latin American Studies, 32, 765–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Whitehead, A., & Tsikata, D. (2003). Policy Discourses on Women’s Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Implications of the Return to the Customary. Journal of Agrarian Change, 3(1-2), 67–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Women, A., & Support, P. (2004). Liberian Women Peacemakers: Fighting for the Right to Be Seen, Heard, and Counted. Trenton, NJ: African World Press.Google Scholar
  78. Wotipka, C. M., & Ramirez, F. O. (2008). World Society and Human Rights: An Event History Analysis of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In B. A. Simmons, F. Dobbin, & G. Garnett (Eds.), Gender and the Politics of Rights and Democracy in Latin America (pp. 303–343). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Yoo, E. (2011). International Human Rights Regime, Neoliberalism, and Women’s Social Rights, 1984–2004. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 52(6), 503–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen M. Fallon
    • 1
  • Heidi E. Rademacher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

Personalised recommendations