Perspectives on Politics

Research Article

Organizing Women as Women: Hybridity and Grassroots Collective Action in the 21st Century

Kristin A. Gossa1 and Michael T. Heaneya2

a1 Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. E-mail:

a2 University of Michigan. E-mail:


The Million Mom March (favoring gun control) and Code Pink: Women for Peace (focusing on foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq) are organizations that have mobilized women as women in an era when other women's groups struggled to maintain critical mass and turned away from non-gender-specific public issues. This article addresses how these organizations fostered collective consciousness among women, a large and diverse group, while confronting the echoes of backlash against previous mobilization efforts by women. We argue that the March and Code Pink achieved mobilization success by creating hybrid organizations that blended elements of three major collective action frames: maternalism, egalitarianism, and feminine expression. These innovative organizations invented hybrid forms that cut across movements, constituencies, and political institutions. Using surveys, interviews, and content analysis of organizational documents, this article explains how the March and Code Pink met the contemporary challenges facing women's collective action in similar yet distinct ways. It highlights the role of feminine expression and concerns about the intersectional marginalization of women in resolving the historic tensions between maternalism and egalitarianism. It demonstrates hybridity as a useful analytical lens to understand gendered organizing and other forms of grassroots collective action.

Kristin A. Goss is Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University (

Michael T. Heaney is Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and Political Science, University of Michigan (


The authors' names are listed alphabetically to reflect their equal contributions to this manuscript.

For research support, Goss acknowledges the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University; the Ford Foundation; the Center for the Study of Philanthropy and Voluntarism at Duke University; the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society, also at Duke; and the Nonprofit Studies Program at George Mason University. Heaney acknowledges financial support from an APSA Congressional Fellowship and the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida, which jointly enabled his fieldwork on Code Pink during the 2007–2008 academic year. The authors recognize Fabio Rojas for his role in collecting 138 surveys of Code Pink participants in 2007. Melody Weinstein assisted in conducting several personal interviews with Code Pink leaders in 2008. We also thank the following people for assisting with the Million Mom March surveys: Grant Williams, Kristin Amerling, Anne Bailey, Beth Blaufuss, Eva Jacobs, Jennier Marien, Jessica Marien, Kiki McGrath, Bruce Millar, Brent Mitchell, Lew Pulley, Kristin Smith, Liz Stanley, and Lisa Zimmer-Chu. Finally, we extend deep gratitude to the following people for insightful comments and support: Rae Abileah, Alan Abramson, Medea Benjamin, Charles Clotfelter, John Berg, Donna Dees, Joel Fleishman, Jeffrey Isaac, Eileen McDonagh, Sahana Rajan, Fabio Rojas, Laura Sjoberg, Theda Skocpol, Dara Strolovitch, participants in the Sanford School's faculty-doctoral workshop, and four anonymous reviewers. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA, August 28–31, 2008.