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Choices Women Make

Agency in Domestic Violence, Assisted Reproduction, and Sex Work

2011
Author:

Carisa R. Showden

Choices Women Make

An inquiry into women’s agency—how it is developed and deployed and how it can be increased

Combining theoretical and empirical perspectives, Carisa R. Showden investigates what exactly makes an agent and how that agency influences the ways women make inherently sensitive and difficult choices. Showden reviews possible policy and legal interventions that could improve the conditions within which agency develops and positively enhance women’s ability to increase and exercise their political and personal options.

Choices Women Make is one of the best treatments of agency and its relation to women and feminism that I have seen. It is a superb book.

Kathryn Abrams, University of California, Berkeley

Women’s agency: Is it a matter of an individual’s capacity for autonomy? Or of the social conditions that facilitate freedom? Combining theoretical and empirical perspectives, Carisa R. Showden investigates what exactly makes an agent and how that agency influences the ways women make inherently sensitive and difficult choices—specifically in instances of domestic violence, assisted reproduction, and sex work.

In Showden’s analysis, women’s agency emerges as an individual and social construct, rooted in concrete experience, complex and changing over time. She traces the development and deployment of agency, illustrating how it plays out in the messy workings of imperfect lives. In a series of case studies, she considers women within situations of intimate partner violence, reproductive decision making, and sex work such as prostitution and pornography. Each narrative offers insight into how women articulate their self-understanding and political needs in relation to the pressures they confront.

Showden’s understanding of women’s agency ultimately leads her to review possible policy and legal interventions that could improve the conditions within which agency develops and that could positively enhance women’s ability to increase and exercise their political and personal options.

Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Choices Women Make

Carisa R. Showden is assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Choices Women Make

Choices Women Make is one of the best treatments of agency and its relation to women and feminism that I have seen. It is a superb book.

Kathryn Abrams, University of California, Berkeley

In this work Carisa R. Showden accomplishes an unusual feat for a political theorist: combining theoretical and empirical analyses. By interweaving both elements she is able to present a distinctive and persuasive argument.

Susan Hekman, University of Texas, Arlington

Showden's arguments and theories are interesting and well-thought through.

The F-Word

An impressive work contributing to feminist and political theory.

Choice

Showden’s book is an ambitious and innovative feminist project that draws upon multiple theoretical frameworks... to move feminist understandings of women’s agency beyond the modern/postmodern debate over subjectivity as either self-determined or socially constructed.

Perspectives on Politics

Choices Women Make

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Conceiving Agency: Autonomy, Freedom, and the Creation of the Embodied Subject
2. Should I Stay or Should I Go? Intimate Partner Violence and the Agency in “Victim”
3. Mum’s the Word: Assisted Reproduction and the Ideology of Motherhood
4. Working It: Prostitution and the Social Construction of Sexual Desire
5. Agency and Feminist Politics: The Role of Democratic Coalitions
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Choices Women Make

UMP blog - Taking agency as a victim

In its May 2011 issue, Glamour magazine ran the article “Relationship Violence: The Secret that Kills 4 Women a Day.” The article combined well-sourced, hard-hitting statistics with stories from many young women who had experienced often quite serious relationship violence, or from family members and friends of women who were killed by husbands or boyfriends. I do commend Glamour for running no-nonsense stories on important issues like this that affect its readers, and I don’t mean to criticize necessarily for how this reporter framed the article. At the same time, I think the way the magazine phrased questions delving into this story is telling, and is representative of a sort of “mainstream” view of the problem of domestic violence in 21st America.

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