Representative claims and beyond : a study of Muslim women's inclusion in the Flemish headscarf debate
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Politics, groups and identities
, p. 433-450
University of Antwerp
In this article, we take a stand against the relativism of contemporary claim-based approaches to the study of the substantive representation of women (SRW), and argue for on-going evaluation of the responsiveness of actors claims to speak for women. We advance the concept of responsiveness as a criterion for evaluating the quality of SRW. We define such quality in a relational manner; implying the inclusion of women's judgment in the representation process. We demonstrate the relevance of the concept of responsiveness by a study of Muslim women's substantive representation in the Flemish headscarf debate. Based upon Severs' [2010. Representation as Claims-Making: Quid Responsiveness? Representation 46 (4): 411423] work, we examine the congruence between the claims to speak for Muslim women formulated by, on the one hand, political parties and, on the other, Muslim women. The important incongruence found between the claims formulated by right-wing and liberal parties and those of Muslim women showcases that representative claims do not unequivocally serve to include Muslim women's voices in the representation process. Right-wing and liberal parties' claims served to exclude, delegitimize, and otherwise marginalize Muslim women's voices; evoking concerns for the gendered and racial inequalities in representative systems and Muslim women's capacity for democratic inclusion within them.