Women’s forum hosts mayor

By Neil Hughes
Published March 31st 2005 in Alligator: The Independent Florida

Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan talks to a group of students about gender and politics Wednesday night as part of Women’s History Month. Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan was honest with UF students about her feelings for a physics professor she had during her days as a UF student.

After receiving a grade she was unhappy with on a test, Hanrahan said she spoke with the professor about the test’s difficulty. “The guy looked right at me and said, ‘Well, I don’t think it’s that tough. You must not be that smart,’” Hanrahan said.

“I never went back to that son of a bitch’s class.”

Hanrahan’s candid discussion was part of a forum entitled “Women in Politics,” presented Wednesday as part of Women’s History Month.

The forum also included teachers M. Margaret Conway and Charles Grapski.

Hanrahan’s lecture, entitled “Gender Dynamics in Local Politics,” discussed both the positives and the negatives of being a female in politics.

Being a woman helps her, she said, because women make up a larger percentage of the population than men and also have higher turnout rates in elections.

Grapski told students in Riker Hall that the entire American form of democracy may be the problem.

“We need to question winner-take-all elections and look to alternatives,” he said.

He compared the need for change in American politics to the events of the civil rights movement. Grapski cited foreign governments that use proportional representation, saying that those nations’ governments are made of nearly 50 percent women, compared with 15 percent in the United States.

“If we can create a system that is more representative of women, we can create a system that is more representative of us all,” he said. “Then we would see higher than 13 percent turnout in elections like in Gainesville.”

Conway told listeners that if they want to make a difference about women’s involvement in politics, they need to get involved.

“Join groups that will support what you are interested in and be active in them,” Conway said. “You have to be active in all forms of government — local, state and federal.”