Chatham University students Michelle Jones, Jenna McGreevy and Maria Taylor.

Chatham University students Michelle Jones, Jenna McGreevy and Maria Taylor.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Hillary Clinton is a ‘case study’ for gender bias, something these Chatham students think about daily

It’s a reaction to the election from a family member. A joke about Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit on Twitter. Or even the dreaded “boys will be boys” defense.

For three women who attend Chatham University and work in the on-campus and non–partisan Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, gender bias is something they think about — a lot.

As Election Day neared and with Clinton in Pittsburgh again todayThe Incline went to Chatham, a former women’s college, to talk about gender bias, both in the presidential campaign and daily life.

Sometimes, there can be a disconnect between the gender bias happening in the presidential campaigns and gender bias in daily life, said Dana Brown, the center’s executive director. She said it can be easier for people to identify bias when it’s not happening to them. 

But when you go to Chatham, it’s easier to pick up on micro-aggressions, because it’s not the norm, said Maria Taylor, a 19-year-old sophomore from Ambridge.

On the presidential stage

When Michelle Jones, 19, looks at social media, she sees a lot of jokes about Clinton’s pantsuits or kitten heels, especially from her friends back home in Toronto, Canada.

There’s less about what Clinton’s saying and her policies. And the sophomore said she knows she’s guilty, too.

“I’m like, wow, is she really almost 70? She looks really good for 70. And then I’m like, wait, I should be paying attention to things other than that.”

This election asks everyone to reflect on gender, Brown added.

“If Hillary has a great hair day, I think that’s great,” she said. “But I don’t think we should just mention this. It shouldn’t be the only thing reported on.”

Meanwhile, because of masculine gender roles, Donald Trump can talk loudly and with his hands or take up extra space when he speaks, Taylor said.

And the way Trump circles the stage, Taylor said, “It’s very predatory.”

During debate watch parties at the center, Brown said students were asked to pay attention for instances of gender bias.

gender-lens
Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics

Bias, off stage

One night, Taylor was at dinner with a male friend who was telling her he wanted to live in North Carolina.

She told him she wasn’t so sure she could live in that state because of its strict LGBTQ laws. His response was, “You politicize everything,” and “Why should it even matter to you? You’re straight.”

Taylor, Jones and Jenna McGreevy, a 19-year-old sophomore from Kittanning, talked together with The Incline on Monday, and that story sparked a conversation between the women.

“I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if people feel like I’m politicizing everything because of this election and because of how its so far reaching and all the people it affects.”

“I just think you’re educated. I hear that all the time, ‘You politicize everything,’ ” Jones chimed in.

“Everything’s political,” McGreevy said.

“It’s being educated. If you’re not politicizing everything, you kind of are ignorant at this point,” Jones said.

“It’s respecting other people and their rights,” Taylor added.

McGreevy and Jones also added their own stories about times they’d faced gender bias.

For Jones, it was in class when a male classmate said rapper Dr. Dre beat women, but “his headphones are the dopest in the business.”

“Did you hear that? Did you hear what you just kinda said was, ‘[It’s] OK, because he makes headphones?’ ” she said.

And for McGreevy, it was a conversation with her uncle, who said he didn’t care what Donald Trump said about women, because it wasn’t important. She was in shock.

“My reaction is still that I don’t even have words, because you don’t like thinking about people that you know and love as having this — deep-seeded disrespect is really putting it mildly, but — deep-seeded hatred, really, for women,” she said.

So, what happens after Tuesday?

Clinton has become a “case study” for gender bias, McGreevy said. She’s unsure if personally, she already was noticing sexism more, or if she notices it more because of the election.

But, she said, even if Clinton is elected, that won’t be the end of sexism and bias. It won’t automatically be a post-sexist world, she said.

The first step is acknowledging an instance of gender bias or sexism, Brown said.

Then she said to look at it from a cognitive behavioral therapy point of view and ask yourself: “Why it is that I believe a certain thing? Why is it that Clinton doesn’t have a presidential look?”

Next: Challenge yourself and and talk it out, Brown said.

The trio of students said they are hopeful about change and agreed that talking it out and education are helpful for them and their classmates across campus.

“Progress is slow, you know what I mean? But we got to stay hopeful about it,” Taylor said. “We need to be able to identify and address it and figure out where the root of it is coming from.”

Jones said she’s realizing the gender bias she grew up with as a female athlete, and it’s something she doesn’t want for her future or for any young girl. And she’s working to be more vocal about it.

“I would love to be that really strong confident courageous person to call someone out on it,” she said.

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