Fireside chat to talk women’s suffrage, #MeToo

Logan Raschke, Managing Editor

Tuesday’s fireside chat will discuss the 19th Amendment, the #MeToo Movement and the importance of women running for office.

Beth Gillespie, director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said the talk will go over the history of women’s suffrage.

Illustration by Logan Raschke

She said learning about that history is necessary to give everyone a broader perspective on the significance of the 19th Amendment.

What is especially startling, when one thinks about it, is how recently women got the right to vote, Gillespie said. It is sometimes hard to believe that women earned that right just 100 years ago.

A great way to exercise that right is to go out and vote in the presidential election, she said.

Crystal Brown, assistant director of the office, said the #MeToo Movement has created an online community for survivors of sexual assault.

Something the social media movement did was help the population realize the number of sexual assault survivors is actually quite high, she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of sexual violence via physical contact during their lives.

Gillespie said the important fact to note is this statistic is just reported cases. Many survivors do not ever report their assaults for a variety of possible reasons. In the case of women survivors, Brown said this stems from a systematic disregarding of their voice.

“Society as a whole still doesn’t believe women when they come forward,” Brown said. “It’s a he-said-she-said, and they don’t take us seriously.”

Gillespie said a recent case that can attest to this grim reality for survivors is the recent Harvey Weinstein case.

On Feb. 24, the Associated Press reported while Weinstein was convicted on charges from a 2006 sexual assault and a 2013 rape, the jury did not find him guilty for the charge of predatory sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Gillespie said it is disturbing that 90 women came forward with sexual assault allegations against Weinstein, but the court only found him guilty in two of those women’s cases.

Gillespie said it comes down to that systematic silencing of women’s voices.

“Historically, women’s voices haven’t been valued, haven’t mattered, aren’t held with equal weight, and when you look at this whole electability argument about female candidates running for president, when we just have men, electability is never part of that conversation,” Gillespie said.

Another important issue speakers and attendees will explore at the chat is women running for office.

Gillespie said it is necessary for people to support women in office in the pursuit of fair representation within the federal government. About half of the human population is female, yet males have been exclusively elected for president.

Something the country needs to start doing more is having women running for office, Gillespie said. This helps break down the unfair stigmas and judgements surrounding women presidents.

She said despite a person’s political beliefs of Hillary Clinton, when she ran and made serious headway as a candidate in the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections, it was actually revolutionary because the U.S. just had not seen a woman get that far before.

When people support women who run for office, they help put an end to the false, negative stereotype that women do not have the same electability as men, Gillespie said.

Three speakers will present at the fireside chat: Donna Hudson, from the Sexual Assault Counseling and Information Services, Erin Walters, also from SACIS, and Priscilla Joyn, from the League of Women Voters.

Students can register for the fireside chat on Eastern’s website by searching for the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism’s information.

The chat will kick off at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the University Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].