Gender & Politics

Discursive Inequity and the Internal Exclusion of Women

In today’s democracies, disempowered group members are no longer formally barred from the political arena. However, there is a concern that the historical memory of political inequality and exclusion remains as internalized cognitive dispositions, shaping behavior even after laws are changed. Focusing on the legacy of women’s political exclusion from the public sphere, I consider whether internal exclusions undermine women’s ability to influence political discourse even under conditions of formal political equality. All else being equal, do women and men in Western democracies have the same discursive influence? Are women particularly sensitive to men’s discursive authority? I help answer these questions using an experimental research design. The results of my study offer evidence that people are more willing to revise their opinions after hearing a man’s counterargument than after

hearing a woman’s identical counterargument. This pattern appears to be driven by the way women respond to a man’s counterclaim. I discuss how gendered discursive inequities reinforce existing patriarchal structures, and the role that women inadvertently play in their own subjugation. I conclude by offering suggestions for better approximating the ideal of discursive gender equality.

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The Gender Gap in Political Discussion Group Attendance

Although women and men enjoy formally equal political rights in today’s democracies, there are ongoing gaps in the extent to which they make use of these rights, with women underrepresented in many political practices. The gender gap in democratic participation is problematic because gendered asymmetries in participation entail collective outcomes that are less attentive to women’s needs, interests, and preferences. Existing studies consider gender gaps in voting behavior and in certain forms of nonelectoral politics such as boycotting, signings a petition, or joining a protest. However, almost no work considers gendered variation in discursive politics. Do women participate in small, faceto-face political discussion groups at the same rate as men? And does gender intersect with other identities—such as ethnicity—to impact attendance at political discussion groups? I use data from the Canadian Election Study 2015 Web Survey to answer these questions. I find that women are significantly less likely to attend small-group discussions than men and that ethnicity intersects with gender in some important ways. However, I find no evidence that other social attributes—poverty or the presence of young children in the home—suppress women’s participation in political discussion groups more than men’s.

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