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date: 26 March 2023


The Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History
Jocelyn M. BoryczkaJocelyn M. Boryczka

The term “democracy” derives from its Greek origins in demos (the people) and kratos (rule) and refers to a form of government based on rule by the people with popular sovereignty as its defining feature. A paradox in democracy between its ideological commitment to the people's inclusion and the actual exclusion of many from the political arena becomes evident when looking at this governing system through a gendered lens. Women's ongoing local, national, and international struggles for freedom, equality, and inclusion push democracies toward these goals that represent standards against which to measure their development. Women effectively leverage political power by exposing this gap between democracy's ideals and reality, transforming the meaning of popular sovereignty, citizenship, and democratic values to include diversity and tolerance. Women, rendered politically invisible throughout much of political history, now play a key role in it as symbols of democratic freedom and equality on a global stage where democracy overshadows alternative forms of government and extends into the process of democratization. Democracy, as women's experience with it reveals, is a concept constantly under construction, reflecting a political system that should respond to dynamic historical contexts and pressures from different groups claiming their right to participate in governing.... ...

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