The thematic research question in The Inclusion Calculation: Why Men Appropriate Women’s Representation (Oxford UP, 2019) is whether there is a distinction between women’s power itself and the strategic value of having women in power, and, within this distinction, what is it that men get out of women in power. This is a fascinating interrogation because it approaches the idea of women’s power – particularly what we consider to be political power – from a somewhat novel perspective, the rational calculus of those in power (not women) about what this might mean and how it might impact those in power. Melody Valdini considers the question of the “inclusion calculation” by asking how men might benefit from including women in elected political or appointed office. From a rational choice perspective, this makes sense: what are the trade-offs for including women, for allocating power to women, for advocating for the election or appointment of women? What benefit does this bring to men—this is the calculation that has been made in the United States and around the world by politicians and those in power as the advocacy for greater female representation has been made in quite a few different ways and by different constituent groups. Valdini notes in her research that this is a kind of fascinating blind spot in the literature and research on women and politics and power.
The Inclusion Calculation fills in this space in our understanding not so much of men and how they react to women, but in terms of considering how and where this idea of inclusion finds purchase. There is a great deal of important and diverse research on women in politics, and on women and power, but Valdini notes that there is this kind of cost/benefit analysis that was never really evaluated in terms of the give and take of power as women have moved into politics and into power. The Inclusion Calculation outlines a clear calculus to evaluate the various dimensions of the costs and benefits in terms of integrating women, and also sheds light on the side of the equation that just keeps admonishing women to work and try harder in order to achieve the same political outcomes or achievements as men. The Inclusion Calculation looks at this issue quite broadly, and notes some patterns in various political systems, especially in response to corruption, when women candidates are recruited to “clean things up.” This is a fascinating and important addition to the literature on women and politics, keeping the focus on women and power, and analyzing how and where women do and don’t fit into the political landscape and why.
Stayed tuned to the interview to also learn a bit about the cover art for the book, which helps to tell the story about why men appropriate women’s representation.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.