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Women advancing in politics, Malveaux says

Alicia Smith | Monday, March 23, 2009

Women’s political roles have been elevated following Hillary Clinton’s historic primary run, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, the president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., said Friday at the Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference held on Saint Mary’s campus

Malveaux was the keynote speaker at the three-day conference, which included workshops on issues of class, politics of difference, feminism, sexual orientation and cultural and religious diversity.

“We’re living in an extraordinary moment, where we have seen women’s leadership in fascinating ways, and have had the opportunity to understand that women in politics will never be seen the same way again,” Malveaux said.

Although Hillary Clinton made great strides for women in politics, she said, women have still not succeeded fully, and need to continue to work towards equality between women and men in politics.

“We still don’t have a woman as president of the United Sates, and it will be some time, I think, before we do,” Malveaux said. “Still we have this role model, and this opportunity to think about the way that we can rethink gender stereotypes.”

She discussed how gender stereotypes degrade women, and how women allow them to do so.

“How we use these gender stereotypes to talk about a woman, who was at the pinnacle of her game, a senator from New York who has been distinguished and accomplished, who remained the last one standing in a whirlwind race against the eventual winner, Barack Obama,” she said.

Malveaux urged women to be more aggressive and to not allow the use of gender stereotypes. She pointed out that men’s attire is rarely noticed in politics, but when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was running for the vice presidency with Sen. John McCain, the media constantly held discourse over her apparel.

“When you talk about men you very rarely describe what they have on. A man is just there,” she said. “We pay a lot more attention to women’s attire than men’s attire.”

Malveaux also discussed what she called “fair-share-thinking.” Every time you walk into a room, she said, half of the occupants should be men, and half should be women.

“Some women are ambivalent about women’s equality,” she said. “We women have been so trained to think about the men, that many of us will ask, well what about the men. It’s not really fair.”

Malveaux challenged women to continue to fight for their equality.

“We should not be so charmed by the progressive nature by the Barack Obama administration that we think that things will simply come to women,” she said. “Women will get our share when we fight for it. The fact is that the struggle for women’s equality is not over.”