A groundbreaking study of how concepts of virtue and vice are used to deny American women full political membership
Women, Virtue, and Vice in Backlash Politics
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Jocelyn M. Boryczka
What drives the cycle of backlashes against women's ongoing struggle for equality, freedom, and inclusion in American politics? In her innovative and provocative book, Suspect Citizens, Jocelyn Boryczka presents a feminist conceptual history that shows how American politics have largely defined women in terms of their reproductive and socializing functions. This framework not only denies women full citizenship, but also devalues the active political engagement of all citizens who place each other and their government under suspicion.
Developing the gendered dynamics of virtue and vice, Boryczka exposes the paradox of how women are perceived as both virtuous moral guardians and vice-ridden suspect citizens capable of jeopardizing the entire nation's exceptional future. She uses wide-ranging examples from the Puritans and contemporary debates over sex education to S&M lesbian feminists and the ethics of care to show how to move beyond virtue and vice to a democratic feminist ethics.
Suspect Citizens advances a politics of collective responsibility and belonging.
"Using examples from ancient, modern, and contemporary political and feminist theory and practice, Boryczka thoughtfully and critically examines the shifting moral boundaries between virtue and vice in order to understand and expose how gendered notions of morality have constructed women as suspect citizens: unequal, constrained, and excluded from full citizenship within American democracy. By adopting a conceptual histories approach that reexamines the dualism of virtue and vice in the American political script, Boryczka provides an original, powerful, and compelling argument that contemporary political and feminist theorists must engage. Her work constitutes essential reading for students of political theory, feminist theory, and anyone interested in advancing a democratic feminist ethics."
"Boryczka addresses categories of virtue and vice that operate to render women 'suspect citizens' in the American political script.... The book contains many interesting and provocative juxtapositions. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"Boryczka skillfully examines those intersections where women, who made an attempt at full citizenry, were chastised by the broader public and literally blamed for national upheavals and crises.... This book uses the concepts of virtue and vice to frame women’s relationship to political power offering a fresh perspective on the political landscape available to women who dare to enter the public eye.... While engaging the broad and continuing debates in philosophy, religious studies, political science, and history, this book also provides deep insight into specific turning points in the women’s movement and women’s political involvement in struggle for equality and freedom."
"Suspect Citizens is a rich conceptual history tracing the binary opposition between virtue and vice that has structured the gendered nature of citizenship in American political thought.... The book successfully weaves together contemporary political issues with their deep and direct roots in historical political ideas and debates."
"Throughout her analysis the author succeeds in identifying the emergence of the virtue and vice concept, its relation to other theoretical concepts and political arguments, and how the concept is used by political actors to achieve their political goals. This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in political and feminist theories."
"Suspect Citizens offers an extremely interesting account of the ways female morality has been constructed in American history and will interest anyone interested in feminist theory and research.... [I]ts empirical accounts are important in their own right and will be of value to feminist scholars working outside the field of ethics."
"Suspect Citizens provides an original and important contribution to contemporary political theory, especially democratic theory and feminist ethics. The author moves with ease and erudition through the history of Western political thought and American political discourse, advancing a narrative that is complex and full of unfamiliar characters and unexpected affinities."
Jocelyn M. Boryczka is Associate Professor of Politics at Fairfield University.