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Symposium 2020

#Feminism: Gender & the 2020 Election

The 2020 Symposium has been indefinitely postponed due to the ongoing health situation regarding COVID-19. We will reschedule this event for the fall or spring semester. Check this page for updates on rescheduling. 

Gender & the 2020 Election

The Seventh Annual Women’s History Month Symposium

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Cabral Center at the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute
Northeastern University
40 Leon Street, Boston, MA 02115
10:00 am – 4:45 pm

Check in begins at 9:00 am
Breakfast and lunch will be served
Reception to Follow

Presented by the Northeastern Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program
Sponsored by the Northeastern Humanities Center

Contact wgss@northeastern.edu to request accommodations and for further information.
Free Registration required by March 12, 2020.  

About the Symposium

Here we are: 100 years after women gained the right to vote and decades after second wave feminism exploded on the scene, and still sexist double standards are applied to candidates, still nowhere near equal representation in local and national government, and still no woman president. Feminism is seemingly everywhere – from the Women’s Marches to the righteous rage of #MeToo and #TimesUp – and yet gender inequity and hate continue to pervade civic life.

This upcoming election is arguably the most consequential in recent memory. Following on the heels of the election of Trump and his reign of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, the stakes couldn’t be much higher. Basic civil rights are on the ballot as, indeed, is the future of democratic governance and the rule of law.  But there are signs of hope amidst the wreckage: the 2018 midterm elections ushered in the most diverse group of congresspeople in US history, and strides were made in local races across the country. On-the-ground activism is energized, and women are leading the resistance: registering voters, running candidates, fighting voter suppression, knocking on doors, and tweeting up a firestorm of protest. Social media itself has been both a site of subversion (e.g. digital feminist hashtags) and a tool of authority (e.g. Trump’s tweets).

Expert panelists and participants in this interdisciplinary symposium will consider how gender and feminist activism should inform our thinking about the upcoming elections. We will look at how feminists might engage social movements, digital spaces, and broader communities in trying to effect social change. Panels will invite conversations about new forms of media in the hands of feminist activists, historical perspectives on gender and electoral politics (in celebration of the anniversary of suffrage), mainstream media coverage of elections through the lens of gender, and leveraging the unprecedented visibility of women (particularly women of color) in both electoral and grassroots politics. Throughout the day, we will promote an active dialogue among scholars, activists, journalists, and community organizers in a broad discussion of both the limitations and potentials of electoral politics for enacting substantive feminist transformations.

This is the seventh annual Women’s History Month Symposium presented by the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University, supported by the Northeastern Humanities Center.


Zerlina Maxwell, MSNBC commentator, Senior Director of Political Programming at Sirius XM, and co-host of the Sirius XM show Signal Boost, will present the keynote address to kick off the day (10:00 am – 11:45 am). Maxwell is a political commentator and an activist who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.  Her Twitter feed has been recognized as a voice to follow by various media outlets.

Zerlina Maxwell

Zerlina Maxwell, political commentator for MSNBC and Sirius XM

Other panelists include:


Panels on #MakingFeminisms: Organizing Resistance on the Hill and IRL and #StillWePersist: Organizing Resistance in the Streets and on the Hill will take place in the afternoon.

1:00 pm – 2:45 pm
#MakingFeminisms: Organizing Resistance Online and In Real Life
Moderator: Moya Bailey, Northeastern University

The internet has forever changed the way that feminists organize both online and IRL. In the wake of the misleading poll numbers of the 2016 presidential election, how can we balance the possibilities of digital media with the realities of organizing for feminist electoral politics? Our panelists are experts in the rise of digital media making and fomenting feminist resistance. In this panel, we dive deeply into the way #MakingFeminisms can expand networks, educate communities on important issues, and shape our democracy both on and offline. We consider the promise and limitations of digital and IRL feminist organizing for the 2020 election and beyond.


3:00 pm – 4:45 pm
#StillWePersist: Organizing Resistance in the Streets and On the Hill
Moderator: Libby Adler, Northeastern University

What is unique about this historical political juncture, and what—crucially—must we bear in mind in order to rise to its challenges as feminists?  For our final panel, we bring together three ideally suited speakers to guide us through this current moment with the benefit of deep historical understanding.  The resistance has been led, indeed created, by women, especially women of color, who have organized and run for office at every level.  How can we build on these achievements to ensure an inclusive and sustained feminist force, whether we win or lose elections in 2020?  What have we learned about mobilization and resistance?  What might we have neglected or forgotten?  What should we appreciate about the relationship between local and national politics, between issue organizing and electoral action?  What have been the best practices, and what have been the blind spots, of undertakings such as #metoo, #timesup, and the women’s marches?  How can we support feminist candidates and marshal the feminist vote?


Lunch will follow the keynote address and Q&A at 11:45 am – 1:00 pm. We will host informal conversations at several tables around running for office (with Northeastern alum (MPA ’15) and Sharon select board member Hanna Sitlekowski), organizing a successful Get Out the Vote campaign, and writing postcards to voters. A reception will follow the final panel.

Contact wgss@northeastern.edu for more information and if you need accommodations for the day.

Support for the Symposium

The Symposium is presented by the Northeastern University Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Northeastern Humanities Center. We appreciate the support of our generous co-sponsors: College of Arts, Media, & Design; School of Law; School of Public Policy & Administration; John D. O’Bryant African American Institute; Programs in Africana Studies, Human Services, and Politics, Philosophy, & Ethics; Departments of Communication, English, History, Journalism, Political Science, and Sociology & Anthropology

Click here to view the full program.

Register by March 12, 2020 to reserve your spot!