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Panel of women discuss gender’s role in politics

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As part of a series of educational programs in the “United States of Gender, 2016: Insight and Experiences” program at Clarion University, a wide range of politically active women participated in a panel in which the obstacles women have to overcome in politics and beyond was the main focus.

The panel headed by two Clarion University students, two faculty members and two local politicians was the first in a yearlong Mary L. Seifert cultural series regarding “Gender and Politics.”  The panelists fielded questions from the audience that packed inside Hart Chapel on campus Tuesday evening.

Democratic candidate running to represent the fifth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kerith Strano Taylor brought up a lack of understanding on the part of some men in politics when referencing women’s healthcare needs.  

She spoke of how her opponent in the race for U.S. House Glenn Thompson mistakenly thought mammograms were free in the state of Pennsylvania.  Topics like this, including luxury taxes on feminine hygiene products, were debated facets of the panel discussion.

Taylor enjoyed talking about these types of issues with students of all kinds at Clarion University.  She mentioned how exciting it was for young people to be engaging in politics and the particular discussion of the evening.

“It’s our duty to encourage more people to [get involved],” said Taylor.  Volunteering or gaining an understanding of political positions not just on the national scale is important, said Taylor.  

“Run to fix what makes you angry,” said Taylor.

From the mass of questions asked by the audience, it seemed there was a lot of issues regarding gender in society and politics that concerned Clarion students.

Subjects that ranged from rape culture and treatment of female figures in the media were the main talking points.  Dr. Kathleen Welsch, professor in English, and Dr. Kathleen McIntyre, assistant professor of history, explained how trends in how women are treated can cause women to be less likely to report violent sexual crimes or stand up against stereotypes on television.

Republican Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Oberlander also highlighted the panel.  She offered a different perspective, mentioning throughout her additions to the discussion how she remained confident in pursuing a career in politics despite the typical obstacles of her gender.  Instead, she said she never let it get to her; she focused on overcoming the age gap between her and her opponents in her state.

Clarion students Kara Sorenson and Elizabeth Williams visited the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention respectively this past summer.  Williams, a sophomore political science major, said attending the DNC was “worthwhile but a little overwhelming.”

Williams shared work space with many politicians she considers her heroes, and seeing the convention live helped inspire her to pursue her own career in politics in the near future.

Sorenson reported how she was given the chance to research women in politics as part of her time at the RNC.

As women are challenged to face the obstacles ahead and society is likewise charged to change to accommodate women in politics and other fields, equality remained a steady theme throughout the Seifert series panel, informing students and other community members of gender’s role in politics.