Eastern Michigan University (EMU) hosted a panel titled “Gender in the 2016 Elections” on Oct.27, 2016. The discussion was sponsored by the Political Science department and Women's and Gender Studies. The list of panelists included special guest Debbie Dingell, EMU provost Rhonda Longworth, as well as faculty members Judith Kullberg, Beth Henschel, Suzanne Gray, Janine Driver.
Students were able to voice their opinions about gender in politics and question the panelists.
Panel moderator Solange Simões is an EMU Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. She had the idea to organize the event because she believes in the importance of student participation in engaging conversations.
“We need to have a better conversation on gender in the elections. I think we have talked a lot about sexism, which is very important. But we also need to talk about the historic character of the first women, and feminist candidate running for president of the United States,” Simões said.
Suzanne Gray is an Associate Professor at EMU. She teaches Gender in a Transitional World and Introduction to Women’s Studies.
“I think this conversation is really important because we’ve certainly seen in this election a big focus on issues of misogyny and sexism,” said Gray.
She said many of the panelists were engaged in studying the topic.
“I think it’s a great conversation with so many esteemed political scientists on the panel, I think it’ll be really interesting to see what they have to say from a scholars perspective on the issues surrounding this race,” she said.
Annie Somerville is EMU’s Student Government Director of Governmental Affairs.
She believes it’s interesting to talk about women in the current election.
“I think it’s nice that the departments are coming together to make sense of it all. There are gender differences in this election that we are seeing for the first time because we do finally have a female candidate potentially being the next president.”
Michigan’s 12 District US Representative Debbie Dingell was a special guest at the panel.
“I think Michelle Obama said it perfectly when she said we are looking forward to the day that when our sons and daughters never have to wonder if someone can be president again,” she said. “I”m not voting for Hillary because she’s a woman, I’m voting for Hillary because she’s the most qualified person for the job.”
“I actually think gender has become a more significant issue in this election because of the way that Donald Trump treats women,” Dingell said. “I think it’s very complicated, and I think a lot of women who had mixed feelings about this election can identify with many other women—we’ve all been treated that way by somebody, and it’s not okay.”
Dingell expressed that she’s excited to see students and all people getting involved in the conversation.
“In terms of gender in politics, I think it’s something that deserves to be acknowledged and we should continue to stay in conversation with it or problems persist.” said Janine Driver. Driver holds a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies.
Driver is the Graduate Assistant in the Higher Education Student Affairs program, as well as a Graduate Assistant on campus at the Honors College, operating also as Social Media Director for a non-profit. She believes topics like these are often neglected.
“I think it’s important that people become educated on the issue because most people don’t even know that a wage gap exists,” said Amanda Conley, a student in attendance. “They’re just like, ‘Oh of course have the vote, so they’re equal,’ when really it’s a lot bigger issue than that, it’s about treatment of women, and people need to just… learn that,” she continued.