Is Citizenship Gender-Specific?

  • Ursula Vogel


The statements quoted above range across a period of nearly two centuries. Despite their very different historical contexts, they share a common perception: that the domain of citizenship is properly the preserve of men. They also suggest, however, that women, without being citizens themselves, are somewhere present and, indeed, assumed in the understanding of citizenship. And it is the peculiar form of their presence — as ‘indirect citizens’ — that rules out any simple and unequivocal answer to the title question of this chapter. The first example will remind us that even the most egalitarian visions among the classical formulations of democratic participation conferred citizen status not upon individuals as such, but upon men in their capacity as members and representatives of a family (i.e. a group of non-citizens). The second statement invokes the indivisible unity of marriage — a magic formula which still in the twentieth century served as the most common justification for opposing women’s suffrage: women did not need the formal affirmation of political rights since they exercised them already — through men. To concede to such demands would, in fact, give them two votes and disenfranchise men! It is a general observation that in the case of women numbers, i.e. simple numerical accuracy, never seem to have counted for much.


Married Woman Political Participation Citizen Participation Democratic Citizenship Marriage Contract 
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© Ursula Vogel and Michael Moran 1991

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  • Ursula Vogel

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