Gender inequality in political representation is a long-standing social problem that is shaped by parties and partisanship. My dissertation, Gender Polarization: The Institutional and Discursive Roots of Gendered Partisanship in U.S. State Legislatures, examines when, where, and how gender polarization developed in sub-national politics between 1975 and 2020. I advance a multi-level explanation for this phenomenon based on a quantitative national study and a series of case studies drawing on textual data. First, gender polarization is produced at the structural level as competing state parties fought for legislative power in a context of shifting political opportunity structures. Second, gender and partisanship are co-constructed discursively by state party leaders in the practice of governance. The overlapping polarizations of party and gender work against women’s empowerment even when their legislative representation increases.
My earlier research theorizes legislatures as workplaces where relations of power are reproduced in the process of governance. I draw on interviews with state legislators to analyze how partisan practices in the legislature create barriers to women’s political leadership. I also examine the competing demands on state legislators' time, how they manage those conflicts, and how their coping strategies reproduce gender inequalities in political institutions.
Since 2019, I have been part of an ongoing NSF-supported project collecting and coding Black protest events in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010. This data collection effort draws on over 3000 mainstream newswires and over 8000 Black newspaper articles as sources. The product of this project is a novel relational database of Black protest events that covers a historical period for which no consistent record of Black protest has been kept after the Dynamics of Collective Action (DCA) project ended.