With Donald Trump quickly transitioning from presidential candidate to actual president, there’s been a focus away from one of the most contentious aspects of his campaign for president — Trump’s history of behavior and comments about women. Running against the first female nominee of a major party, the 2016 election often felt like a referendum on gender equality itself.
Now that he’s setting up a cabinet and preparing to move into the Oval Office, to a certain degree, I would argue that concerns about Trump’s sexist rhetoric are getting shunted to the side as we focus more on what he’s actually going to do as president. But based on an email questionnaire to employees of the State Department obtained by The New York Times, some fear Trump’s presidency could turn his problems with women into problems for women worldwide.
According to the Times report, the document asked State Department employees for information regarding “existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.,” as well as “positions whose primary function are to promote such issues.”
We cannot say for certain what the purpose of this email is. For all we know, it could be an innocuous survey, and that is well worth noting. When asked in Thursday’s press conference, John Kirby, the State Department’s press secretary, downplayed the questionnaire, and reiterated the department’s commitment to work with the incoming administration. “It is normal, it is usual, it is typical, it is expected,” Kirby said. The Trump transition has not yet responded to request for comment from Bustle and other media outlets.
However, it is also worth noting that it has been interpreted by some inside and outside the State Department as a forerunner to a purge of such programs, likening it to a similar questionnaire sent to the Department of Energy to identify employees involved with Climate Change issues, which the transition walked back after public outcry. “People are freaked out,” an unidentified State Department employee told the Los Angeles Times about the questionnaire. And Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, the highest-ranking woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed concern.