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Gender and Public Talk: Accounting for Women's Variable Participation in the Public Sphere

Francesca Polletta and Pang Ching Bobby Chen
Sociological Theory
Vol. 31, No. 4 (DECEMBER 2013), pp. 291-317
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187342
Page Count: 27
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Abstract

This article develops a theory of the gendered character of public talk as a way to account for women's variable participation in the settings that make up the public sphere. Public settings for citizen talk such as radio call-in shows, social networking sites, letters to the editor, and town hall meetings are culturally coded female or male. In feminized settings, where the people who organize public talk are from feminized professions and where the favored modes of talk and action emphasize stereotypically feminine values, women are likely to be as active and influential participants as men. We test this proposition by way of an examination of the organized public deliberative forums in which many Americans today discuss policy issues. We show that women truly are equal participants in these forums. We account for this surprising development by demonstrating the female gendered character of the contemporary field of organized public deliberation.

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