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Using a Feminist Paradigm (Intersectionality) to Study Conservative Women: The Case of Pro-life Activists in Italy

  • Martina Avanza (a1)


This article builds on ethnographic research concerning the Italian pro-life movement and argues for the use of intersectionality theory in studying conservative women. The article suggests, first, that understanding conservative movements necessitates linking their political claims to the social identities of their activists, as would be the case for any other social movement (e.g., feminism). These social identities are as complex and intersectional as any other: a white, upper-class pro-life activist is no less intersectional than a black feminist from a poor background. Concomitantly, there is no unique feminism, but rather a plurality of feminisms, a diversity that intersectionality facilitates the identification of. The same is true for pro-life movements, but scholars tend to use the singular form to talk about conservatism; in this article, I explore the use of the plural to show that pro-life women do not constitute a monolithic group. On the contrary, these women are diverse in terms of their reproductive stories, their working status, and their class, race, and sexual practices, and this diversity translates into different ways of being pro-life. Second, recognizing this complexity does not suggest a natural link between feminism and conservatism. Alternatively, I suggest that a better understanding of conservative women can only be reached if they are studied on their own terms.

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Special thanks to Karen Celis, Sarah Childs, Xavier Dunezat, Eléonore Lépinard, Camille Masclet, and Francesca Scrinzi for their insightful comments on various drafts of this article. My gratitude goes also to the members of the Berkeley Center for Right Wing Studies working group where I presented and discussed a version of this paper. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the journal's editor in chief, Mary Caputi, for their work and very useful suggestions. The first stage of the fieldwork that allowed me to gather my initial data has been fund by the Bureau of Equal Opportunity of the University of Lausanne (Tremplin funding). I want to thank them here for their support.



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