The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 23, 1992- Page 5
'Anita Hill started women thinking what politics is really like.
as long as
we let it
You've read so many stories
and statistics on sexual assault that
the shock value is now gone.
How one in four women will
be raped in their lifetime.
by Henry Goldblatt
Daily News Editor
State Rep. Mary Brown faced an un-
usual problem when beginning her new
"When I was first elected (to the state
House), there was no women's restroom in
the chambers," said Brown, a Democrat
who was elected in 1976 and is the longest-
serving woman in the House.
"There was one upstairs that you would
need to have a key for. They put one in ...
within the last four years. They didn't have
very good foresight. After all, the capitol
was builtbefore women had the vote. It was
a very concrete reminder and a nuisance."
Brown, seeking re-election for a ninth
term, said along with the installation of a
women's bathroom has come an increased
acceptance of women in politics during the
"There is less sexism in language at the
capitol than there used to be," said Brown,
who represents Michigan's 60th district,
covering the cities of Kalamazoo and Parch-
ment and outlying areas in southwestern
"There is more acceptance of women
... I suspect that there is individual sexism,
but institutionalized sexism is less overt in
society when you go out and campaign. No
one asks you, 'Who is going to cook for the
kids?' or 'Who is going to take care of the
family?' or 'Aren't you worried about your
kids becoming druggies?' They realize
women work outside the home."
However, many women, including
State Sen.LanaPollack, feel
that despite these strides,
societal sexist attitudes
must change in or-
der for women to
become an equal
of the political
"There are still spe-
cial expectations ofme. I
stillbelieve there are some
men who resent
they have moved onto become treasurers.
I've seen people that were local that moved
up into county, state and then onto na-
tional," Hammerstrom said.
U-M Director of Planning and Commu-
nications Shirley Clarkson, who took a
month off from her duties at the university
to work with the Clinton/Gore campaign in
Little Rock, Ark., said this trend is a na-
"'There seem to be a number of women
working their way up through the ranks.
The Hill/Thomas hearings helped a bit. It
seemed to motivate women to run for office
... and to become active in the campaign,"
Both nationally and locally, some
women said they see the abortion issue as a
call to arms when they consider running for
"In the last 8 or 10 years, women started
to write checks for women. Women gener-
ally write checks for women candidates. As
well the issue of choicehas come toa head,"
While this may be true on the national
level, HammerstromsaidMichigan women
have not been motivated to run as a result of
the abortion issue.
"People assume that because you are a
woman you must be pro-choice,"
Hammerstrom said. "I am not seeing any
spill over with what's happening on the
national level with what's happening here."
While many women said being am
to young children prevented them
seeking political posts, most agreed
raising children has had a lasting effa
their policy-making and political ideo
Schroer said motherhood respons
ties often prevent women from enterin
political arena due to the -fear of 1
labeled a bad mother.
"It is real hard for women to tak
leap. It is a real time-consuming job 1
involved in politics. My house hasn't'
cleaned in a long time," Schroer said
"Everything you do changes you
nothing changes you more like be
mother. I can't separate out being a m
from being a teacher, wife or bus
person," said Republican state repres
five candidate' Jackie Morrison fron
Coping with barriers
Elected female officials say the
often forced into taking on a defensiv
toprotect women's rights, rather thana
active stance to promote legislation.
"Women feel stretched very thin
spend far more time protecting wha
have in terms of reproductive freedon
we're less able to work on other iss
"The first 40 years of my lifeI
comfortable with who I was. When I
to the Senate I was made to feelI
"Most people have an idea that Repub-
licans are anti-feminist, pro life and against
minorities. I consider myself a feminist and
I am pro-choice. A lot of people do not
know that ... they are making assumptions
that are not correct," Westbrook said.
Beyond the campaign trail
The fight against sexism for female
legislators does not end with the campaign
legislature reflect on
:i:.r :r: r:"ii r }":v.: ?vi .% '.i .._.. .
been While women continue to fight the ste-
1. reotype that they are better suited for social
u and service issues, Fuller said that women do
ing a bring a humane point of view to debate, an
other element that is often omitted in an all-male
senta- "I hear women talking more about the
m the human side and human value in programs
- what it is for a person to be homeless as
opposed to the ambiance of a street when
you're trying to run a business," Fuller said.
y are However, 53rdDistrictRepublican State
e role Representative CandidateTerrenceBertram
apro- disagreed with the assessment that women
are better able to deal with legislative issues
a. We because of their life experiences.
at we "I'm a strong believer in individualism.
m that The idea that males are best apt to deal with
sues." crime and justice and women are best able
to deal with social concerns does not wash
I was with me," Bertram said.
went Bertram did acknowledge that women
like a have a greater investment in the issue of
no way I'll
have to face
Homewn: Bedford that issue. It is
Township certainly dif-
Affiliation: Republican ferenywhen
On the national ferent when
election: "I'm not competing
seeing any spill-over against some-
with what's happening one who
on the national level happens tobe
with what's happening a woman ...
gitimacy to be
said. "I appre-
ciate and acknowledge
the struggle. Itis easier
for me because I am a
man and it is an ab-
Schroer said that
women's role in the
home spills directly
into their political
women view is differ-
ent because of life
the fact I speak
I say - it's that
"It's a fine line
ing on eggshells
still." - 1
lack and other
tors said they
feel resented for
On sexism: "I can't
separate out being a
mother from being a
teacher, wife or
businessperson. I guess
I've never gotten upset
of rape were
month at a
rate of nearly every other day.
And according to the FBI, only
10 percent of the rapes that are
committed nationally ever get
All this should be enough to
make you both frightened and sick
to your stomach. Unfortunately, it
probably does neither, because
you've heard it all before.
And still it goes on.
We try to educate through
programs and seminars, but
usually the people who show up
are not the people who need help.
And those who do need help only
want to know "how far they can
go" before they can get into
trouble with the law.
Those in the legal system who
care enough try to get laws passed
that are tougher on sex offenders.
But while it is a step in the right
direction, stricter law enforcement
doesn't change the fact that some
men think it's OK to force sexual
intercourse on women.
At best, laws can intimidate.
They can't change attitudes. And
they can't do anything for the
millions of women who are
permanently scarred by sexual
"You have to do it on two
levels," said Debi Cain, the
director of the U-M Sexual
Assault Prevention and Awareness
Center (SAPAC). "The only way
to eliminate the problem entirely
is through attitude change and
through values change. But it's a
lot easier to change behavior than
it is to change values."
So we try to intimidate through
laws and we end up with people
learning the loopholes and getting
around them. And women don't
want to prosecute because,
understandably, they don't want to
live through the experience again.
This is not a town where
women can feel safe to walk home
alone at night. At the same time,
though, women have a better
chance of being raped by their
male friend who offers to walk
them home than by some psycho
lurking in the bushes.
Damned if you do. Damned if
Some say that's ridiculous.
They say you should always look
for someone to walk you home at
night. You can't simply fear all
men, they say. Then, they're the
same people who look at a date
rape survivor and say, "Well,
you're the one who went up to his
room. What did you expect?"
Damned if you do. Damned if
Let's be clear about one thing
- most men are not rapists. Most
men would not think of commit-
ting sexual assault. But at the
same time, most of these men do
not take the issue seriously
enough to worry about it.
Until they do, we will live in a
society where half the population
lives in fear of the other half.
This isn't an issue of women's
rights. It's an issue of human
So what can we do?
We can learn. We can educate.
We can prosecute offenders. We
can help victims recover. And as
long as women are being raped on
this campus, we can never, never
manner, some people such
as LSA senior and College
Democrats Co-Chair Rachel
Blum said this year's elec-
tions may prove to be key in
breaking the silencing of
"There is no mistake that
this is the year of the woman
On campaigning: "I
suspect that there is
is less overt in society
when you go out and
o u s 1 y ,"
make a dif-
fe re n ce
the same old
they think an
in the beginning
While many people ac-
knowledge that the U.S.
Senate confirmation hear-
ings on the Clarence Thomas
Supreme Courtnomination sparked
the media to pay attention to the lac
women in politics, women disagree
whether the year of the woman has t
hold - or even exists.
"I have had people say they go dov
talk issues and have had a very posi
response. People .open the door and
'Hey we've had a lot of men (in Lans
for a long time. It's time for a woma
said Republican Beverly Hammerstr
state representative candidate for the:
district, which covers parts of Monroe
Hammerstrom attributed the poss
success of greater numbers of Mich
femalecandidates to ananti-incumbent]f
ing in the state.
"Change is the focus of this year's c
paign all over the state. Even incumb
are using change. More women go al
with the theme of change ... it goes h,-
in-hand with the climate," Hammerst
However, some women see the gre
numbers of female candidates as a "tric
up effect" - women reaching state-s
posts by first serving in lower munic
positions or by working their way up
ranks of campaign staffs.
"I think what you're seeing is a nal
evolution, women working in volur
roles, as campaign managers, and put
networks together. It got to the point
women were saying, 'I can do that,"'
Barbara Fuller, campaign manager for 5
The November election may bring a
larger number of female representatives
and senators to the national legislative
branches, but statistically speaking, Michi-
gan women seem to have been left behind.
The 110-member state House is cur-
rently 14 percent female - while only
three women serve in the 38 member state
Senate. Pollack, one of these three women,
said she does not expect significant gains
for women in the state House of Represen-
Schroer said the dearth of female state
representatives and senators could be at-
tributed to the lack of encouragement and
support potential candidates receive. .
"We have nothad areal training ground
for women. Mid-level women are not en-
couraged tojump into high offices," Schroer
Brown attributed the shortage of women
to the full-time calendar of the Michigan
legislative bodies - increasing the post's
attractiveness to potential male candidates.
"In Michigan, we have a full-time legis-
lature and it pays areasonable salary. There
is more competition and interest. There are
more men who are interested in running,"
Brown said, adding that the full-time posi-
tion alsoshuts outmothersofyoung children
as potential candidates.
"When the job is a part-time public
service such as in Maine where you only
serve a few days ... it is an option for
women who work or who are at home with
novelty. All explanations about gen-
dermakemefeel self-conscious," she added.
Carol Kooistra, Democratic candidate
for 3rd district U.S. House seat, said that
when she was the first woman elected to the
Kent County Department of Social Ser-
vices Board in 1979 as a Republican, she.
tried to overcompensate for the perception
Pollack explained many men are com-
fortable with her role as a female politician,
but are reluctant to criticize her.
"One of the hardest things is for a man
to feel comfortable enough with a woman.
Men are extremely uncomfortable arguing
with a woman, listening to us, or disagree-
ingrwith us. I don't know if men thought I
was going to cry or what."
She added that women walk a fine line
between being too passive and subservient
or too aggressive and outspoken.
"I think a forceful woman has a harder
time and a quiet woman has no impact.
You're damned if you do and damned if,
you don't," Pollack said.,
'Women have to be very careful not to
come across as shrill and strident. On the
other hand, people use things as 'assertive'
and 'vocal' to describe men. With women
that's being a 'bitch,"' Schroer agreed.
However, Morrison said she has not
encountered these types of sentiments while
serving on the Kalamazoo School Board.
She said her meetings are shaped by con-
flicts between business leaders and social
workers rather than gender dynamics.
women in the state House
more legislation due to women's ability to
"I think we can get more legislation
passed- you'll see women will be able to
sit down and look through both sides of
issues picking through the better points on
each side. I think women inherently do that
- constantly moderating fights between
kids," Hammerstrom said.
Voices of the future
Women say their voices are not falling
upon deaf ears as often, but the volume of
their message needs to be amplified.
"(The political climate for women) is
better now than it was 10 years ago. You
would go into committee meetings and it
would be all men," Schroer said. "I would
feel like I would say something and no one
would hear me. Later a man's voice would
say the same thing and they would say,
'That's a great idea.' I'd scratch my head
and say 'Didn't I just say that."'
Kooistra added that women's input is
now being solicited for a wider range of
"I see a difference. Female views are
given more credibility. In the past, health
care, children's programs were seen more
as women's issues," she said. "Now they
are seen more as human issues. Economy.
andjobs that wereseen more asmale issues
are now seen as human issues."
Pollack put women's attempts to be
har an.1. in a. nann tavt