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Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society

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Politics and government, Women -- Political activity


Governments promote gender-sensitive policies, yet little is known about why reform campaigns evoke backlash. Drawing on social position theory, we test whether marginalized (women’s organizations) or intrusive (Western donors) messengers cause resistance across public rights (quotas) and private rights (land reform). Using a framing experiment implemented among 1,704 Malawians, we find that females’ attitudes are unaffected by campaigns, while backlash occurs among patrilineal and matrilineal males. Backlash among men is more common for sensitive private rights (land reform) than public rights (quotas) and Western donors than women’s organizations, suggesting complex effects generally more consistent with the intrusiveness hypothesis.


#The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (, which permits noncommercial reproduction and distribution of the work, in any medium, provided the original work is not altered or transformed in any way, and that the work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact


Includes: Attitudes toward Public and Private Rights among Malawians (LGPI)



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