Introduction. Does Participatory Democracy Have a Sex?

Special Report: Does Participatory Democracy Have a Sex?
By Marion Paoletti, Sandrine Rui

Thinking about participation through the prism of gender supposes both examining theoretical and pragmatic perspectives that link women and participation on the one hand, and questioning the effects of women’s presence in participatory processes and the impact on participatory democracy of its relative feminization on the other. Although the participation of women is ordinary and common, it is not completely obvious whether it comes about in a mixed or nonmixed participatory process. This status produces a certain underestimation of their public stances, which depend not only on social relations of sex but also on relations of power. Women are still obliged to solve a dilemma between their supposed specificity and universalism, something that men have the privilege of ignoring. The strategies for dealing with this dilemma, whether they are conscious or unconscious ones, suppose a double logic of regrouping and withdrawal, such as the constitution of “feminist subaltern counterpublics.” Although this logic produces splits between activists and nonactivists, it also appears as a condition that encourages parity in participation.

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