Discursive Inequity and the Internal Exclusion of Women Speakers

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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.




Beauvais, E. (2021). Discursive Inequity and the Internal Exclusion of Women Speakers. Political Research Quarterly, 74(1), 103–116. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912919870605

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