Students, professors host lectures to discuss social issues


Chelsea Purgahn

Associate professor of sociology Gloria González-López talks about her research on sexuality and immigration at “Pizza Party Politics” Monday afternoon. “Pizza Party Politics” is a three-part series hosted by the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies that looks at the political issues of the election from the perspective of gender identity.

Jordan Rudner

The presidential debate last week focused almost exclusively on issues of healthcare and the economy. But for voters who want a discussion about social issues like women’s rights and immigration, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies is providing an alternative forum.

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies is hosting a series of lectures that examine this political cycle’s issues through a lens of gender identity while placing them in historical context.

In the second of three discussions in their “Pizza Party Politics” series, UT researchers discussed the often-overlooked racism involved in the early suffrage movement in Texas and the role that sexual violence plays in current discussions of immigration reform.

Anthropology professor Martha Menchaca said early Texas suffragists often campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform, capitalizing on the racism of white male political leaders who wanted to drown out the Hispanic voice in the electorate.

Associate sociology professor Gloria González-López, who has written several books on the issues of immigration and sexuality, said national debates often gloss over sexual violence within the immigrant community, assuming candidates mention immigration issues at all.

“Issues of sexual violence within transnational families have been overlooked,” González-López said. “I have been more and more concerned about the lives of Central American immigrant women who come into the U.S. and, in the process, are exposed to all sorts of sexual violence. But talk about sexuality involving immigrant men and women is largely absent from the discourse.”

Christine Adame, a 2012 UT alumna, said she came to the event to better understand political immigration issues through the lens of gender. 

“I’ve been watching the debates but hearing less about immigration, and I wanted to be able to analyze it from the perspective of gender issues,” Adame said.

Last week’s presidential debate touched mostly on health care and the economy, while the third and final debate will focus exclusively on foreign and domestic policy. If the candidates go head-to-head on birth control, abortion, immigration and other social issues, it will have to be during the 90-minute debate Oct. 16 in a town-hall style discussion. Adame said this was another reason she decided to come to the discussion.

“I don’t feel like these issues are getting enough attention,” Adame said.

Nancy Ewert, program coordinator for the center, said the lack of mainstream attention to social issues was one reason the center decided to host the discussions.

“Gender issues are very important in this election, because really, they affect every other issue,” Ewert said. “We want to give a deeper perspective on things that usually people only hear in sound bites.” 

The third talk in the series will focus on reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, and will be held at noon Oct. 29 in the GEB fourth-floor conference room.

Printed on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 as: Forum expands on social issues