There’s More to Women’s Political Participation than Voting

Check out my post for undergraduates on women’s political participation in the U.S. here on the Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions blog.


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Constructing Narratives about the Political Fortunes of Women in 2018

Check out my post on the Mobilizing Ideas blog.

Mobilizing Ideas

By Deana A. Rohlinger, Ph.D.

Journalists and data junkies alike are gleefully dissecting the gender gap and what it potentially means for the mid-term elections generally and the political fortunes of women specifically. Number-cruncher extraordinaire, FiveThirtyEight, labelled the 2018 midterm election as “potentially record-breaking,” noting that women are poised to gain 100 Congressional seats this year. If they win, there will be 100 women in the House, and 24 in the Senate come January 2019.

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From the Washington Post.

Let’s put this figure into context. According to the Washington Post, there are 1,977 women in power across governorships, congressional seats, and state legislative seats. This means that 2,006 more women would need to win races for them to reach equal representation in political offices. There’s a long way to go before we see anything close to gender parity in American politics.

If we recognize that this yawning gender gap…

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Teacher Strikes: Why Now?

In February 2018, 34,000 West Virginia teachers went on strike and shut down every school in the state. The strike lasted nine days and ended when Governor Jim Justice committed to veto all the anti-union legislation and gave teachers a 5% pay raise. The governor also agreed that teachers could form a health care task force to help manage the costs of benefits. The West Virginia strike was just the beginning. Teachers are striking in Oklahoma and Kentucky – and Arizona teachers may join them on the picket line. On April 11, 2018, Arizona teachers staged a statewide “walk-in” before school demanding higher pay and more funding for public education.

Why are teachers striking now?

There are several reasons. First, the competition for funds is fierce and public school teachers are tired of dealing with the financial pinch in the classroom. That’s right. The wave of strikes is about more than teacher pay. Teachers are pushing back against dilapidated schools, outdated teaching materials, and four-day weeks – all of which are a result of reduced funds flowing into public schools.

Continue reading here.

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Galentine’s Day: What It Tells Us About Our Changing Society

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Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas. – Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation


Galentine’s Day began as a fictional celebration in the popular sitcom, Parks and Recreation. In it, Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) celebrates the women in her life on February 13th with waffles and fizzy, alcoholic drinks. This “holiday,” however, quickly found feet in the real world. Female friends began sending one another messages on the 13th and sharing party ideas on Pinterest. February 13th, once commonly referred to as “Mistress Day” (the day married men celebrate with their mistresses), was reclaimed and rebranded.

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So why does Galentine’s Day matter? Because what we choose to celebrate tells us a lot about American society and how it’s changing. Here’s what Galentine’s Day tells us:

  • The importance of friendship in our society continues to grow. This makes a lot of sense. As the structure of families have continued to change (including an increase in the geographic distance among children, grandchildren and siblings), Americans have become more reliant on their friendship networks for emotional and physical support. This shift is evident not just in Galentine’s Day, but also the now popular Friendsgiving.


  • Women are rewriting gender scripts that cast females as constant competitors for, among other things, male attention. Girls are taught to be nice and to be good friends. They also learn that friendship has limits, and that they ultimately might be competitors for men, power, or occupational success. While Galentine’s Day doesn’t mean that competition – or its nasty side effects – are completely gone. It does offer a girls an alternative narrative; one that focuses on women’s empowerment and community.


  • Women are drawing on these communities to change popular understandings of appropriate male-female relationships. It is not a coincidence that the #MeToo hashtag found its feet during a political moment where women (globally) have been pushing back against a culture that trivializes sexual assault and abuse. Likewise, it is not a fluke that a record number of women are running for political office – everything from school board to Senate – in 2018. Women like Kelly Smith, who is running for county commission in Florida, see Galentine’s Day as a celebration of women’s solidarity, as an opportunity to “protest with love,” and a chance to turn the tide in women’s political favor.

Whether or not Galentine’s Day has staying power remains to be seen. In the end, it doesn’t matter much. Social change is already happening.

The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet. – Adrienne Rich

rohlinger pic2 Deana A. Rohlinger is a professor of Sociology. She studies social movements, mass media, and American politics. 

The featured image is from




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The Take A Knee Movement: A Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

Originally posted on the Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions blog.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letter from Birmingham jail).

Today, we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his life in the fight against injustice. He, along with thousands of other Americans, used peaceful protest and civil disobedience in an effort to secure African-American’s equal access to the vote, education, work, transportation, and housing.

Dr. King may be gone, but the fight for equality rages on. In the 21st century, advocates of social justice fight against institutional racism, which refers to institutional practices that negatively affect a group of people based on their race or ethnicity. In the last several years, we have seen Americans push back against institutional racism in our criminal justice system.

Consider the following tables from Slate, which highlight racial inequalities in the American criminal justice system.

African-Americans are 3x as likely to have their cars searched by police.



Continue reading here.

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The Failure of the #MeToo Movement

Time Magazine declared the “silence breakers” of the #MeToo movement the Time Person of the Year. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, honored the courage of “hundreds of others, and of many men as well, [who] have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s” in a statement on the Today Show.

The sheer number of women who have pushed back against a culture that often devalues them and their expertise is impressive. Likewise, the number of men who have actually lost their jobs as a result of their bad behavior is a step in the right direction. But, have we really seen a shift in America culture?

While time will tell, I am not very optimistic about the future of the #MeToo movement. Here’s why.

Continue reading here. 

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The Rise of the Alt-Right – Why Now?

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For many Americans, the rise of the alt-right is distressing. We are not accustomed to white supremacists marching down our streets, advocating for the preservation of “white identity.” So, why is it happening now?

There are a lot of reasons actually. Here are four.

Let’s start with the reason that gets discussed most often in the news — We have a president who has not condemned white supremacy.It’s true. Donald Trump’s unwillingness to distance himself from extreme racism, even after the firing of Steve Bannon, matters. Presidents set the national tone and send signals to groups of all political stripes regarding what is acceptable and what is not. While some might argue that Trump hasn’t exactly supported groups touting this far-right ideology, he hasn’t disavowed them either. Social science research, including my own, finds that silence matters. In fact, if silence is the primary response by a politician or interest group, it often is interpreted as support for a cause.

Groups promoting “white identity” have been organizing online for decades and waiting for their moment to act. Forums promoting white identity such as Stormfront literally attract millions of people, hundreds of thousands of whom register and share their racist points of view. If you navigate to the forum, you will see hundreds of ongoing discussions. The most popular of which feature the “crimes” of ethnic minorities, Muslims, and Jews. Anyone can read the public conversations, and those who have accounts can post and eventually participate in private forums, where they can discuss issues and plan actions with other true believers outside the view of the public. Stormfront is the biggest, but far from the only, forum promoting racist ideologies and actions.

White supremacists and other hate groups have been testing the boundaries of their free speech and right to organize for decades – and have repeatedly won. Westboro Baptist Church is a good example in this regard. Since 1991, the group has organized 60,683 demonstrations outside of everything from military funerals to community theatre productions. The church argues that America is being punished for its support of homosexuality. In their view, the deaths of military personnel and civilians in church shootings are proof of “God’s wrath” on this point. Westboro Baptist churchgoers travel around the country, waving upsetting signs, and chanting about God’s wrath. The church sues anyone who tries to prevent them from sharing their point of view. In 1995,the group won more than $100,000 in a lawsuit opposing the Kansas Funeral Picketing Act, successfully arguing it violated its First Amendment Rights. More recently, Albert Snyder, father of a deceased marine, paid the church $16,510 after unsuccessful litigation. Snyder sued the church in hopes of stopping the funeral protests. He lost and, eventually, the Supreme Court weighed in on the case, determining that the churchgoers’ speech was protected. These tests take place at the state level as well. Just last year the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan sued the state of Georgia for not allowing the group to participate in the adopt-a-highway program – and won.

Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with the Republican and Democratic Parties and are turning to (extreme) groups in order to affect change. Donald Trump’s win, among other things, illustrated just how fed up many citizens are with career politicians and American politics. Many Americans do not feel like the political system works on their behalf and they have tried different ways of expressing discontent and affecting change. The Tea Party Movement represented one attempt to change the Republican Party – and it succeeded to some extent. There are certainly still politicians in office, such as Rand Paul, who uphold many of the Tea Party values, particularly as they relate to smaller government. Institutional change, however, is slow and difficult, and some citizens are tired of waiting. Extreme ideologies – such as those represented by the alt-right and antifa – promise action, and, in the case of the alt-right, political influence.

The question I get asked a lot is: How long until the alt-right disappears?

It is not an easy question to answer because, as I noted before, extreme points of view and people who buy into them never completely disappear. I can tell you that there are a lot of organizations that are grouped under the alt-right and they are not working together nearly as closely together as pundits and media outlets let on. To get a good sense of the groups that are currently lumped into the alt-right category check out the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists and summarizes far-right groups and their ideologies. Some of these differences are highlighted below in a chart made by Quartz. Notice that these different groups broadly share hatred for Non-whites, Blacks, and Jews, but little else.


Why does this matter?

Because coalitions, particularly ones where diverse groups don’t have a lot in common, are difficult to sustain. Sure, these groups are currently united in their general hostility toward racial and ethnic minorities- and their right to share their concerns over an increasingly diverse country. But, as with other movements, these groups will find that more divides them then binds them together. Factions will rise and the loose coalition of groups will fall.

Dr. rohlinger.jpg  Deana A. Rohlinger is a Professor of Sociology and a Research Associate in the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy. Rohlinger studies social movements, political participation, and mass media. Her new book, Digital Media and American Society, will be published in spring 2018.

Feature picture taken by Fibonacci Blue and posted on Flickr.

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