Millennial women discuss feminism, sexual misconduct and the divide in politics

Millennial divide in America

"CBS This Morning" teamed up with digital media company Refinery29 this week for M(Y) Vote, a series that explores millennial women's impact on the upcoming midterm elections. 

CBS News' Alex Wagner met with a group of six millennial women from Pennsylvania at Frankford Hall in Philadelphia. Their discussion touched on feminism and sexual misconduct.

Below are excerpts from the conversation. 

From top left to right: Brittany Christiansen, Jessica Barnett, Colette Forster. From bottom left to right: Lauren Hughes, Jami Amo, and Melissa Alam. CBS News


ALEX WAGNER: We're all women here. Who among us considers herself a feminist? Raise your hand. Halfway up. Why are you a feminist? What does that mean?

MELISSA ALAM: To me it means that I fight for the equality of women, when it comes to equal pay, equal rights, and especially respect.

COLETTE FORSTER: When I think of a feminist I definitely don't picture myself. I don't feel like I need to go fight for rights that I already have. There's not a war on women right now.

BRITNEY CHRISTIANSEN: Yeah, I think feminism is cancer. ... What right does a woman not have in America today? When you look at, the pay, the gender wage gap, it's a complete myth.

WAGNER: You think the wage gap is a myth.

CHRISTIANSEN: Oh, it's an absolute myth. When you look at, statistically broken down, there is no wage gap. The problem is women typically go into fields that are lower earning than men.

WAGNER: Lauren, are you a feminist?

LAUREN HUGHES: No. When I hear the word feminist, I, from what I see in the media, I kinda look at as a victim kind of mentality. ... I am all about women's rights, women's equality, and more so equality of opportunity. I I do believe there is a gap in wages. I've seen it.

Sexual misconduct

WAGNER: Jessica, when we talk about politicians who have been accused of sexual misconduct, does that matter when you are making your vote?

JESSICA BARNETT: I think it's a good indicator of their morals and of their values, and so it does matter to me. Because you can't, you can only know so many victims of sexual assault before you, you have to care. I think it points to a bigger ethical issue, better, bigger moral issue. Because if you can look at someone and view them as less than you and devalue them, then you're gonna treat everybody that way.

WAGNER: You think it's an indicator.


CHRISTIANSEN: If they're true.

FORSTER: Right, it's an allegation. That's not a conviction, they're innocent until proven guilty.

CHRISTIANSEN: There's a lot of women that say that they were assaulted that weren't actually assaulted, and it takes away from the women that were assaulted. It's, we have men literally having to go to court with pulling out text messages from women who claim that they were raped when they really just regretted having sex with that man. That is just so repulsive, that women are lying about being raped. Regret is not rape.

America divided

WAGNER: These are tough conversations to have, and they're, it feels like there's a real steep divide in this country between the left and the right. How many of you have friends who are from opposite parties? You're still friends with them?

VOICES: Right. Oh yeah.

WAGNER: Tell me about those conversations that you have with them.

JAMI AMO: Some of 'em are really enlightening ... because it helps push me, like, I'm an experienced debater, so I can see both sides, but to really, really draw me in has been helpful to help me wrap my mind around what is the argument that's, that's missing from this to bring people together on that common, okay, let's we all agree on this one minimal feature, so let's start there and build very, very slowly from that. So I love those conversations, even if they make my blood pressure, you know, go really high for a while, it comes back down.

WAGNER: You're laughing Colette.

FORSTER: Well, because it's, it's so polarized right now. I hear my husband angry typing, you know, in the next room…

WAGNER: Angry, hate-- hate-typing?

FORSTER: Yeah, exactly… I mean, people are getting very, very worked up.