— Janet Knepper
Gone are the days when the mention of a female department chair elicits laughter; and judging by my first-year writing classes and my upper-level seminars, the majority of women have no trouble holding their own in the classroom. In fact, in those first-year writing classes, more males than females are at risk. But women still need support. Some women are pulled from academics by anxiety or relationship problems; others by family responsibility or child care. And women still tend not to choose careers in sciences or are not prepared for high-paying leadership roles in the careers of their choice. And leadership roles and equal pay are still often denied women.
Under the guise of “everything is fine now,” women’s issues are neglected. We need the childcare center re-opened at Clarion; we need to revitalize student women’s groups—groups that not only help women students address issues particular to them, but also that steer them toward leadership opportunities at Clarion and beyond. And we still need to teach men and women that violence against women is not acceptable.
For these things to happen, and to help create a campus climate favorable to the professional, intellectual, and personal growth for all Clarion University women, Clarion needs a strong Women and Gender Studies program and a growth in the number of courses that focus on issues of gender. For women and men to come to a greater understanding of how to flourish in this world, they must value women’s experience both in the past and in the present day.
Janet Knepper is assistant professor of English. She teaches composition, women’s literature, and medieval studies courses with a focus on gender and power.