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FREE Center hosts feminist panel discussion on upcoming elections

April 2, 2024

FREE Center hosts feminist panel discussion on upcoming elections

Five panelists sit at table and converse with each other

On April 1, more than 50 faculty, staff, students and community members attended the FREE Center’s inaugural event, “WTF (What the Feminist) is Happening in Ohio Politics?! Feminists Engage with Electoral Politics, Policy and Freedom.”  

The panel discussion, moderated by Senior Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Professor Dr. Wendy Smooth, included four expert panelists:  

  • Maria Bruno, Public Policy Director, Equality Ohio 
  • Jessie Hill, Judge Ben C. Green Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University 
  • Barbara Palmer, Professor of Political Science, Baldwin Wallace University  
  • Emily Quick Schriver '05, CEO, The Matriots 

The panel discussed a variety of political issues impacting Ohio and beyond, from reproductive justice to gerrymandering to gender-affirming care. Panelists also discussed how to identify credible news sources, as well as the challenges that women candidates face in the contemporary political context.  

While Ohio voters recently approved a constitutional amendment that ensures access to abortion, Hill emphasized that the fight for reproductive freedom continues, as courts will interpret the amendment. For Hill, democracy and reproductive freedom are intertwined, and abortion should continue to be top of mind for voters.  

Bruno discussed the impacts of gerrymandering in Ohio and explored the connections between attacks on reproductive justice, gender-affirming care and critical race theory. Ultimately, Bruno encouraged voters to reflect on the role of government and whether politicians should be making decisions regarding school curricula, health care and reproduction.  

As CEO of the Matriots, Quick Schriver '05 works to elect more Ohio women to public office. She discussed many of the challenges that women candidates face, including financial and time constraints. A successful campaign requires significant financial support, and men typically have larger donors. Additionally, it can be challenging for women to find the time to run for office, as they tend to do more work both inside and outside of the home. 

Throughout the conversation, Palmer provided important historical context as we try to understand the contemporary moment. She stressed that the polarization we see today has always been a part of American politics. Similarly, Quick Schriver '05 emphasized that our democracy is young. Our political system is still an experiment, which is why voter turnout — participation in this experiment — is so critical.    

Ultimately, for the panelists, the importance of this year’s elections, both at the federal level and here in Ohio, cannot be overstated. They encouraged attendees to make a voting plan and to look to community organizations and trusted, credible news sources to help make informed decisions. 

The hybrid event was accessible to folks on campus as well as individuals participating online. A recording of the conversation will be made available in the coming weeks.  

The FREE Center, housed in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, is a hub for community-engaged feminist research and teaching that brings together individuals from across the university and Columbus community. 

To learn more about the FREE Center and upcoming events, visit the FREE Center website.