Panel hashes out women's issues for upcoming election

BY JENNA SKOLLER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 30, 2008

During a panel discussion Thursday night, a trio of University faculty members debated the role of women's rights in the upcoming election.

SAM WOLSON/Daily
Jennet Kirkpatrick from the political science department sat on a panel that discussed women's issues in the upcoming election.

The panelists — Prof. Helen Levy of the Ford School of Public Policy, Prof. Paula Lantz of the School of Public Health and Political Science lecturer Jennet Kirkpatrick — said they considered Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's approach toward women's issues superior to that of Republican nominee John McCain's. They cited Obama's pro-choice stance as a large factor in their support.

Though the event was billed as one that would pit McCain and Obama's views on women's issues against each other, the conversation also focused on Clinton and Palin, both of whom had history-making campaigns this year.

Panelists fielded numerous questions about Palin, Clinton and what their candidacies would mean for women seeking political office in the future.

The panelists also gave their thoughts on which campaign issue was most pressing for women. The responses included Supreme Court appointments, which could potentially alter abortion rights laid forth in Roe v. Wade, and the financial crisis' impact on women and children — an issue Lantz said hits those groups harder.

The crowd of about 40 seemed to be heavily Democratic, as evidenced by the dinner table. By the end of the event, about a quarter of the napkins with Democratic-symbolizing donkeys remained, while the napkins featuring elephants, the Republicans' party symbol, were hardly touched.

Public Policy student Amanda Jones, who helped organize the event, said more conversations like last night's need to take place.

“It is a huge issue that we have a female candidate in the upcoming election but that female issues have not been mentioned at all,” she said.

Zara Ahmed, a Policy and Public Health graduate student, agreed.

“Large discussions about female rights is something that doesn’t get talked about enough,” she said. “We talk about Sarah Palin’s shoes, but we don’t talk about what Sarah Palin’s shoes mean.”