Bridging the Divide 2020 – The 19th Amendment and the Myth that All Women Vote the Same

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Featured Speakers:

  • Dianne Pinderhughes is a Notre Dame Presidential Faculty Fellow, and Professor in the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of Political Science. 
  • Christina Wolbrecht is professor of political science, director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, and C. Robert and Margaret Hanley Family Director of the Notre Dame Washington Program. 
  • Kenya Young ’94 is the executive producer of “Morning Edition” at National Public Radio (NPR).

The fourth session of the Bridging the Divide series focused on the women’s suffrage movement and misconceptions around the movement. The session was moderated by Kenya Young ’94, Executive Producer of Morning Edition at National Public Radio (NPR) and included speakers Dianne Pinderhughes, Notre Dame Presidential Faculty Fellow, and Professor in the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of Political Science and Christina Wolbrecht, Professor of Political Science, Director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, and C. Robert and Margaret Hanley Family Director of the Notre Dame Washington Program. The discussion aimed to explore the diverse identities of women, and how this diversity is reflected in their voting patterns. 

The first topic of discussion focused on expectations regarding women’s vote in the 2020 election and assumptions of suburban women. Wolbrecht explained how, in reality, there is not a “women’s vote” as women are diverse in their interests and identities, and that is reflected in their voting behavior. Both Wolbrecht and Pinderhughes emphasized how the idea of suburban women does not represent the majority of women, and it is important to think about who women really are as the female population in America has very diverse identities and perspectives. Furthermore, Pinderhughes highlighted the issue of narrowing the scope in terms of what people think is important to women. She explained how women care about many more political issues than generally expected of them such as education, employment issues, public transportation, the economy, and many more. Wolbrecht built on this idea by sharing how women are more likely to be care workers and have less wealth in today’s society, so their evaluation of the economy or what they want to see the government do is slightly different than men’s. That is generally where gender differences are seen. 

Another key topic discussed regarded the gender gap and why women tend to vote more Democratically than men. It was shared that the gender gap originated in the 1980s when parties initially polarized on women’s rights issues; Republicans took a pro-life position and removed the equal rights amendment from their platform, while Democrats supported the equal rights movement and took a strong pro-choice position. Although it is a general tendency for women to vote blue, the speakers reminded us that gender gaps change between demographics, and it is important to realize how groups of women in various communities differ. 

The discussion ended with an important conversation around voting rights for women and in general. Pinderhughes highlighted how access to voting is an issue for black voters and people of color, but if the barriers are complex enough it can affect the entire population. She also explained how there are still high tensions between women of color, and these women need to talk with each other about these issues and challenges still being faced. The powerful discussion finished up with an emphasis on the need for respectful and open-minded discussions about important topics, such as the 19th Amendment and myths around the women’s vote in America. 

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  • Women have diverse interests and identities just like men, and this is reflected in their votes despite there being persistent expectations regarding what women care about and how they vote. 
  • The idea of “suburban women” as a voting bloc does not reflect the majority of women or consider all diverse identities of women. 
  • The willingness of women to run for office depends on how welcoming that community is. Since Democrats tend to elect more women, more Democratic women run for office than Republican women. 
  • For there to be a gender gap, men and women have to have somewhat different opinions or attitudes on some sort of an issue, and parties have to be distinct on those issues.
  • Access to voting rights is a major issue in America and has been historically, particularly for people of color. 

  • “There isn’t really a women’s vote. Women are as diverse in their interests and their identities as men are and that’s reflected in their voting behavior.” — Christina Wolbrecht, 3:57
  • “With narratives being one dimensional in earning the women’s vote, you could argue that it has something to do with expectations of how women function in the society and what their interests are, that women’s interests are about reproductive issues, about childcare issues, and that’s kinda it. When, in fact, there’s a whole range of issues that have to be important whenever you think about the women’s vote: education, advancement, employment issues, how you’re able to take care of your family in terms of what kinds of nutrition is available to them and what’s appropriate, what appropriate kinds of nutrition is made available based on what kinds of policies are implemented in government agencies, environmental issues, clear air, how much does it for you to get to work, can you do it by driving, does it have to be by driving, can you do it by public transportation? There’s a whole range of things that are policy issues that affect the ways in which women function, and it tends to be the case that we tend to narrow the orientation in terms of what it is that people think is important to women.” — Dianne Pinderhughes, 38:36
  • “I don’t think I’m talking out of turn for women to say that we care about the economy, we care about healthcare, we care about the same issues that affect daily life, I believe, that men do. I think there’s this misnomer about what women’s issues are and what men’s issues are and the truth of the matter is, certainly the largest ones right now, COVID and the pandemic, these are vastly important to women and it may be underestimated.” — Kenya Young, 40:39
  • “Women are differently placed in the economy, they are more likely to be unemployed, they are more likely to have fewer resources, less wealth, they’re more likely to bear the demands of care work, children, sick relatives, elderly parents. They are not evenly distributed across all professions and all sorts of levels of education, except now women on average are more likely to be college educated than men, and so because those are differently situated, their evaluation of the economy or what’s best for their family or where they want to see the government do more or less or what rights they want to see the government protect or not is on average slightly different than men’s and that’s really where we see sort of the gender differences.” — Christina Wolbrecht, 42:55
  • “Access to voting rights is an issue, it’s an issue in the sense of its impact on black voters, and it affects black women voters. It doesn’t necessarily affect white women voters, but if the barriers are complex enough, it affects the entire population, and so it’s not as if it’s something that you could sort of say, ‘Well it’s only affecting Black or Latino or Asian American voters.’ I think it’s a broader problem.” — Dianne Pinderhughes, 52:52

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