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Sylvia Bashevkin's Books

What difference does gender make to foreign policy? What do we know about women's participation as decision-makers in international affairs? Is it fair to assume, as many observers do, that female elites will mirror the relatively pacifist preferences of women in the general public as well as the claims of progressive feminist movements? And, of particular importance to this book, what consequences follow from the appointment of "firsts" to these posts? Inspired by recent work in the field of feminist diplomatic history, this book offers the first comparative examination of women's presence in senior national security positions in the United States executive branch. 

Sylvia Bashevkin looks at four high-profile appointees in the United States since 1980: Jeane Kirkpatrick during the Reagan years, Madeleine Albright in the Clinton era, Condoleezza Rice during the George W. Bush presidency, and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the first Obama mandate. Bashevkin explores the extent to which each of these women was able to fully participate in a domain long dominated by men, focusing in particular on the extent to which each shaped foreign policy in meaningful ways. She looks particularly at two specific phenomena: first, the influence of female decision-makers, notably their ability to make measurable difference to the understanding and practice of national security policy; and second, leaders' actions with respect to matters of war and women's rights. The track records of these four women reveal not just a consistent willingness to pursue muscular, aggressive approaches to international relations, but also widely divergent views about feminism. Women as Foreign Policy Leaders shows how Kirkpatrick, Albright, Rice, and Clinton staked out their presence on the international scene and provided a crucial antidote to the silencing of women's voices in global politics.

Women as Foreign Policy Leaders won the 2019 Canadian Political Science Association Prize in International Relations. The award recognizes the best book published in English or French in the field of international relations in 2017 or 2018. Full details of the jury citation can be found here. [Click the '2019 CPSA Prize in International Relations' link on the left navigation panel] 

Sylvia Bashevkin - Women as Foreign Policy Leaders

National Security and Gender Politics in Superpower America


What reviewers are saying about Women as Foreign Policy Leaders

"In Women as Foreign Policy Leaders, Sylvia Bashevkin centers the four women who have held the most senior foreign policy posts in US administrations to date: Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton. Bashevkin offers not only detailed accounts of what the women did in office, but also explores how scholars might judge these four women. This book should be read across political science and IR, feminist and non-feminist to empirical and theoretical scholars: Bashevkin's book is rich in detail and engagingly so, but it is also conceptually sharp, provoking scholars to rethink how we study gender, foreign policy, leadership, and representation."

—  Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender, Birkbeck, University of London 


Women as Foreign Policy Leaders

Sylvia Bashevkin - Women as Foreign Policy Leaders


Women’s participation in politics matters very much.

Yet in Canada, women’s representation in politics seems decidedly stalled. We hear little about issues of particular interest to women—breast cancer, violence against women, the poverty of single mothers.


In this engaging, no-nonsense and witty book, Sylvia Bashevkin argues that Canadians have a profound unease with women in positions of political authority—what she calls the “women plus power equals discomfort” equation. She explores why this discomfort is often so extreme in Canada. Bashevkin also evaluates a range of barriers faced by women who enter politics, including the media’s role in assessing the leadership styles, personal appearances and private lives of women politicians. In clear, accessible terms, Bashevkin explains concepts such as “gender schemas” and “media framing” with key examples, including Belinda Stronach and Hillary Clinton.  


Finally, Bashevkin outlines some compelling solutions to address the stalemate facing women in Canadian politics. 


The Hidden Story of Canada’s Unfinished Democracy

Women’s Political Engagement in Canada


From the days of the fur trade through the contemporary period, women have played important roles in the public life of Canada. Until the 1970s, however, these contributions were generally overlooked. Opening Doors Wider looks at the progress made in the last forty years to raise the profile of women’s involvement in public life.

The contributors focus on two questions with reference to community activism, the politics of feminist organizing, parties and elections, and the communications environment in which politicians operate. First, are the doors to participation presently open wider than they were in the past? Second, how can these doors be opened wider, both in terms of real-world participation and our scholarly understanding of public engagement?


These tightly argued essays shed new light on the quality of public involvement of women in one of the world’s most stable democracies. The nuanced discussion of solutions as well as problems makes it an indispensable resource for students and practitioners of politics at all levels.


Women and Municipal Restructuring in London and Toronto

Tales of Two Cities explores the impact of disparate political institutions and leaders on the lives of women citizens in London, England, and Toronto, Ontario. Sylvia Bashevkin examines three dimensions of urban citizenship before and after the creation of the Greater London Authority, and before and after the forced amalgamation of local boroughs in Toronto. Although citizen engagement is relatively robust during periods of institutional decentralization and progressive urban leadership, it has generally been weaker when senior governments centralized power and conservative mayors held office.

Tales of Two Cities will attract readers who are concerned about cities and their citizens. The book challenges prevailing emphases on the economic and cultural contributions of cities, arguing that the crucial role of urban institutions and leaders in shaping the democratic experiences of local citizens cannot be ignored.

Clear, insightful, and prescient, Tales of Two Cities will appeal to those interested in civic affairs, political inclusion, and the future of democracy in major urban centres.

Opening Doors Wider: Women’s Political Engagement in Canada was published in spring 2009 by UBC Press

Welfare Hot Buttons: Women, Work, and Social Policy Reform provides one of the first comparative assessments of contemporary social policy changes in the United States, Canada and Great Britain.


The study probes the fate of single mothers on social assistance during the period when three Third Way political executives were in office -- Bill Clinton (US), Jean Chrétien (Canada) and Tony Blair (Great Britain). Welfare Hot Buttons argues that despite their seemingly progressive rhetoric, Third Way leaders introduced social policies that were in crucial respects more punitive than those of their conservative predecessors.


The book concludes by questioning whether Anglo-American welfare states are being eclipsed by what the author views as newly emergent duty states. In her comparative approach and substantive analysis, Sylvia Bashevkin makes an original and critical contribution to the social policy field.

Women, Work, and Social Policy Reform


Published in cloth and paperback editions in the fall of 2002, in Canada by the University of Toronto Press and in the United States by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Reviewed by Judith Garber in Politics & Gender, 2008


Comparative Studies in Care-Giving, Employment, and Social Policy Reform

Women's Work is Never Done: Comparative Studies in Care-Giving, Employment, and Social Policy Reform addresses the crucial status of women as welfare state clients, and as the main providers of paid and unpaid care in West European and Anglo-American countries. In comparing across a range of nations and among varied groups of women, the authors address how changes in welfare policy have affected single mothers, frail elderly women and members of racial and ethnic minorities. Taken together, the chapters indicate welfare states in advanced industrial systems were far less resilient through the 1990s than the conventional literature on this subject would suggest.

An edited collection of essays, the book opens with an introductory overview by Sylvia Bashevkin. The substantive chapters are written by Selma Sevenhuijsen (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands), Dionne Bensonsmith (Syracuse University, USA), Jane Jenson (Université de Montréal, Canada), Maureen Baker (University of Auckland, New Zealand), Sylvia Bashevkin (University of Toronto, Canada), Gwendolyn Mink (Smith College, USA), and Leah Vosko (York University, Canada). 

Women's Work is Never Done was published in cloth and paperback editions in the fall of 2002 by Routledge.


Living Through Conservative Times

Women on the Defensive: Living Through Conservative Times explodes some widely-held beliefs about women and women's movements under Conservative and Republican leaders. Feminism underwent perhaps its most difficult challenges in the 1980s, when conservatism reached the height of its influence in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Prevailing accounts of the fate of women's movements in that decade ascribe their hardships to a postfeminist ideology or the result of a "backlash" against women, particularly in the US. Sylvia Bashevkin's study excavates, however, a much more complex situation. By identifying the policies and goals held in common by feminists in all three countries and tracing their collision course with the conservative policies of the three governments, she is able to document setbacks but also some progress, despite the right-of-centre leaders. She also challenges the assumption that organized interests in the United States are less vulnerable in hard times than those in parliamentary systems, finding that the elections of Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney and Margaret Thatcher had similar effects on both sides of the Atlantic. Her comparative analysis reveals that the policies of current leaders, while marginally better than those of their predecessors, will not allow women and women's movements to regain lost ground.

Organized thematically, rather than by country, Women on the Defensive describes the difficult relationship between feminists and conservatives during a time of bitter ideological and policy battles when the vibrant social movements of the 1960s and 1970s were seriously threatened.

Women on the Defensive: Living Through Conservative Times was published in 1998 by the University of Chicago Press and, in Canada, by the University of Toronto Press.

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