ABSTRACT. Since the 1960’s women have frequently participated in politics. From environmentalism to drunk driving, women have utilized their unique positions in society to speak out. The discourse utilized by women in the political sphere has often framed their participation as legitimate because of their status as mothers or nurturers. Such discourse has been criticized by numerous feminist scholars over the years because of its reductionist and gender-reinforcing norms. Nonetheless, the power of the “personal is political” is strong, calling on emotion to connect the speaker to a broad audience. Yet, recent debates at both the national and local level demonstrate that women may be retreating from the traditional public performance of self as mother in certain political arenas. This article describes this reversal of identity performance as displayed during testimony on health insurance reform. Review of federal congressional hearings and state policy board meetings in Oregon demonstrates that most people, and women in particular, now choose to speak from a position of professional authority rather than personal experience. Such a trend raises new questions about modern identity performance and how media and institutional factors might influence the reflection of personal experience in the public sphere. The trend raises concerns about institutional capture and inappropriate policy formulation as a result of the silenced feminine experience. pp. 54–70

Keywords: political identity; public engagement; motherhood; health care; policy; professionalism

How to cite: Howe, Samantha (2015), “The Professional Is Political: The Absence of Motherhood Identity in Modern US Health Policy Discourse,” Journal of Research in Gender Studies 5(2): 54–70.

Received 17 October 2014 • Received in revised form 16 June 2015
Accepted 18 June 2015 • Available online 1 August 2015

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