Women should seek political change through a "can-do" attitude that may involve time and risk-taking, several speakers said Tuesday night at a forum on women's issues at Kansas University.
"Often when women are involved in change it is a communal or collective experience," said Ann Weick, chair of the Lawrence Alliance, a city-appointed task force attempting to end racism in Lawrence, and dean of KU's School of Social Welfare.
"These efforts are aimed at changing human relationships."
Weick was one of four panelists who spoke at the 21st anniversary forum titled, "Women, Politics and Activism: A Tapestry of Change."
The forum commemorated the anniversary of the February Sisters, a group of about 100 women who in 1972 occupied a building at KU and demanded that the university begin to address child care and women's issues on campus.
PANELISTS at Tuesday's forum covered a broad range of topics, including trends in women's political movements, racism, and bills in the state Legislature on rape and abortion.
Panelist Laura Farha, community facilitator at Women's Transitional Care Services, a local battered women's shelter, said common trauma brings women together.
"Whether it's the trauma of rape or sexual harassment . . . there is trauma that all women share," she said. "Being groped at the bar or whistles on the street those are the things that make political activism."
Panelist Gail Harshaw, co-president of the Lawrence chapter of the National Organization for Women, said it was important for women to participate in "cycles of activism" that present themselves at various times.
FOR EXAMPLE, she said women helped to defeat the nomination of conservative judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court a few years ago.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, who was the fourth panelist, said it was important for people of color to participate in forums such as Tuesday's event.
"How many black people do you see?" she asked the audience. There were no African-Americans among about 70 people attending the forum.
"I hope it is not because everyone in this room is racist," Ballard, who is African-American, joked with the crowd. She said women of all backgrounds should work to bridge the gap between cultures.
She said it was important for people to talk about feelings of discomfort when associating with a group that is racially or socially different.
"BECAUSE if we're not talking about it, it's just hanging there," she said.
"We tend to isolate ourselves with others who look and act like us," Weick said.
She said discussions at forums or dinners that bring different people together may not immediately solve many problems in the world, but they help.
"We believe that kind of interaction can change some of the people who are affected," Weick said.