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Experimental College

First-Year Students Explore Gender Inequities in Global Politics

September 20, 2019

With "Good As Hell" by Lizzo playing in the prelude before class, Women in Global Politics seems to have their fair share of fun conversations and activities – ranging from viewings of SNL skits to a political fashion show. But when the last person walks in and the clock hits 6:30, this Explorations first-year advising seminar led by seniors Dorothy Neher and Francesca (Fran) Rubinson jumps right into the difficult topic of gender inequalities and disparities within global politics.

First-Year Students Explore Gender Inequities in Global PoliticsAs part of a political fashion show assignment, students were asked to bring an outfit they would wear to a debate and justify their choice. They then had the opportunity to discuss the implications of their choices. Photo provided by Dorothy Neher, Class of 2020

There aren't many environments where the episode "C**tgate" from HBO's Veep and controversies or policies related to the world's foremost leaders can be discussed with equal political validity. But when it comes to understanding the harassment and discriminatory treatment women politicians face day after day, the experiences of Selina Meyer and Hillary Clinton aren't that different.

Instructors Dorothy and Fran spent their junior year studying abroad together in Chile and became interested in "the role that gender played in politics in Latin America." Both are double majors, with Dorothy majoring in International Relations and Spanish and Fran majoring in Political Science and Religion. Over time, that interest grew and the duo began to investigate gender in politics on a global scale. As they created the course, Dorothy and Fran were clear on the direction they wanted to go – addressing why, in such a progressive country, the U.S. has significantly fewer women in office than a number of other nations. For example, the U.S. only has around 20% of offices filled by women, while Rwanda and Sweden have about 63% and 47% respectively.

Women in Global Politics explores a different concept surrounding gender in politics each week, with assignments ranging from published journals to episodes of Parks and Rec or SNL. Within the first week, the class was instructed to reflect on four distinct labels often placed upon women politicians: Iron Maiden, Mother Figure, Child or Pet Figure, and Sex Object. Students analyzed how clothing choices or certain behaviors reinforced these stereotypes and how the media further scrutinizes women on the national and global stage. With the extensive research done by Fran and Dorothy and the passion they have for both politics and women's rights, it's clear the class is bound to take a deep dive into the sometimes uncomfortable but ever fascinating world of women in power.

For both instructors, it seems like the choice to teach an ExCollege course wasn't a hard one at all. Fran had taken an ExCollege course during her first year at Tufts, and it made an impression. "I felt very supported by the sense of community we had," she explained, "so I wanted to be part of paying that forward."

First-year Nicole Setow expressed her interest in the class, and how Women in Global Politics is something she looks forward to in the middle of her week. "We spend Wednesday night exploring ‘why' and ‘how' gender shapes global politics," she says, "I love my peers and my instructors. Discussing politics in a classroom full of women from all different walks of life is so empowering." Whether discussing a tv show or a source from a quantitative research journal, there's always something new to learn from this Explorations seminar. As one student put it, it's evident that "Women in Global Politics is a badass course for badass women."
 


 
About the Author:

Grace Prendergast is a first-year from Evanston, Illinois studying Biology. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and hanging out with friends in her free time.