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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Fighting political fallacies

    Former State Senator Toni Hellon, right, speaks about the issues of women in politics alongside, from left to right, head of Womans studies Laura Briggs, author Sheila Tobias, and political activist Donna Alu Wednesday evening at the  Womens Studies Department.
    Former State Senator Toni Hellon, right, speaks about the issues of women in politics alongside, from left to right, head of Woman’s studies Laura Briggs, author Sheila Tobias, and political activist Donna Alu Wednesday evening at the Women’s Studies Department.

    In the wake of this year’s presidential election, new historical precedents have been set, particularly concerning the role of women in politics. The Women’s Resource Center hosted the forum “”Women in Politics,”” Wednesday night to discuss the issue among students and staff.

    Several lecturers, including former Arizona Senator Toni Hellon, UA professor and head of women’s studies Laura Briggs and prominent women’s studies speaker Sheila Tobias, discussed the current political situation, the struggles and misconceptions women face in the world of politics.

    “”I don’t support women candidates. I support feminist candidates, I support anti-racist candidates and I support progressive candidates,”” Briggs said, in reference to the misconception that women voters only support women candidates. That is a story and misconception that many people hold, when in reality many women support feminists, male or female, Briggs said.

    While the audience was a female majority, several men attended the forum interested in the discussion, and the current political situation.

    “”(The forum) has definitely sparked my interest to learn more about (women in politics),”” said Jai Smith, undecided sophomore. Smith, who is a health and sexuality intern at the Women’s Resource Center, attended the forum in an effort to explore issues to study at UA.

    “”Being able to see these different opinions has given me a lot to think about, and I think I’m going to take those thoughts and push to learn more about it,”” Smith said.

    The forum focused mostly on contemporary politics, with an emphasis on the roles of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Sarah Palin. Though the lecture briefly descended into a political stance debate, the focus remained on the expansion of women in the political environment, with the lecturers paying tribute to both Palin and Clinton.

    “”Nothing will ever be the same,”” Tobias said. “”These are remarkable candidacies for the future. Truly, no women ever has to apologize for seeking an executive office.””

    Whether or not the discussion was contemporarythe discussion always returned to the discrimination of women and the impediments those discriminations create.

    “”Women are still perceived as kinder and gentler, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing,”” Hellon said. “”They are perceived as more honest and believable … we take things too personally, and too seriously … we never forget and we can be a little bit vengeful. The perception is, we are not tough enough; we are, in fact, but the perception is that we are not.””

    In addition, much of the discussion at the forum explored how the political life of Hillary Clinton, and more recently Palin, has opened up opportunities for women, and paved the way for the elimination of discrimination. Hellon and Tobias spoke of their own political experiences and their feeling of relief over the achievements of Sen. Clinton and Palin.

    “”Palin is a wonderful, strong woman,”” said Donna Alu, lecturer and contributor to the Pima County Republican Party. “”I am very proud of her standing up for women and you can disagree politically, but you have to respect the fact that she stands up there and she will say what she believes and she will say it forthrightly.””

    Students at the forum were given the opportunity to discuss their opinions during a question and answer session with the lecturers, and in reception that followed afterwards.

    “”The most valuable thing I took from this … was to focus on candidates issues rather than bodies,”” said Kaylee Farnolli, a studio arts junior. “”Professor Briggs sounded the most informed, and she knew what was going on in all the situations. Hopefully one day I can sound as eloquent and educated as her.””

    The Women’s Resource Center is a new building, and Wednesday’s forum was the largest event hosted in the building so far. The “”Women in Politics”” discussion will not be an ongoing event; however, the center will be hosting more events in the future to increase student involvement. Next week, a film screening of “”Lesbian Grandmothers are From Mars”” will take place in Gallagher Theater and will be sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center.

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