The Question of Equality

in Real Democracy

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780226077963
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226077987 | DOI:
The Question of Equality

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The heart of the town meeting is the public talk that takes place there. Yet speaking in public often tops the list of human fears. If this is especially true for minority groups and women (as many say it is), doesn't it compromise real democracy's pretension to equality? “Feeling conspicuous” contributes importantly to speech anxiety. Men may feel conspicuous when they stand to speak at a town meeting, but not because they are men. For women, however, gender has provided an additional reason to feel conspicuous. Even more than attendance at the town meeting, therefore, verbal participation offers a poignant test of the degree to which real, face-to-face talk democracy discriminates against American democracy's most wronged groups—women and (by extension) minorities. True, some of the deficit in women's speech reflects their lower attendance, and even more of the deficit in women's talk reflects their lower speech. The public character of verbal participation has seriously inhibited women's role in the real democracy of the town meeting. This chapter focuses on one of Vermont's smallest towns, where women's involvement is perfectly visible to the naked eye, even though (in this case) it is far from good.

Keywords: women's participation; equality; verbal participation; American democracy; women's talk; public character

Chapter.  8229 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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