At the newly-formed Women’s Political Forum, participants exchange political views over afternoon tea, where “pass the sugar” serves as both a useful phrase and a courteous introduction between women affiliated with different political parties.
Tiffany Clay ’06 and Jenny Rost ’06 co-founded the Women’s Political Forum, or WPF, this spring and proceeded to build a coalition of members through e-mails to female Yale Political Union members. Clay said the WPF hopes to encourage female involvement in campus political discourse by hosting debates, speakers and social events.
“Last semester 40 women signed in at the Yale Political Union and 200 men,” Clay said. “There’s an obvious discrepancy between amounts of participation by men and women.”
David Kroll ’05, Chairman of the Independent Party of the YPU, said he supports the movement.
“You’d expect [a women’s movement to come] more from the left, but it’s coming strong from the right too,” Kroll said.
Clay and Roth held an organizational meeting last spring with women representing all six political parties of the YPU. Clay said 35 women attended the forum’s first meeting this fall.
“We’re dedicated to improving the YPU and trying to increase membership of the YPU,” Clay said. “In recent years, numbers of the YPU have been waning and we see the WPF as one way to get those numbers back up.”
Meredith Williams ’06 attended an Oct. 10 WPF tea. She said she believes the forum is a perfect arena for women who are undecided about their political affiliations or opinions.
“We talked about everything from favorite classes to a recent article published [in the Yale Daily News] about the difference in women and men in English classes,” Williams said. “I felt there was a lot of agreement between all of us, even though we had people from all parties. It’s kind of like back-door diplomacy.”
The WPF has joined the Women’s Center’s Political Action Committee in sponsoring a faculty debate on U.S. Foreign Policy and Women’s Human Rights Abroad. Yale Women’s Center’s Political Action Coordinator Emily Wills ’04 said the date for the event has yet to be determined but the center looks forward to the event.
“It’s a project we’re planning together,” Wills said. “This is a good way to network with a new organization on campus. I think [the WPF] will do a lot to make the YPU think differently about its women members.”
Roth said the forum has met twice for social teas. The teas occur twice a month at 4 p.m. at different locations.
Clay said she has noted increased confidence and participation from WPF participants in recent Yale Political Forum debates.
“More women are speaking up at Yale Political Union this year than in past years, and more women are participating in parties’ debates,” Clay said.
Williams said the YPU floor is often intimidating for some party members.
“You don’t have to have these strong, adamant opinions to be involved,” Williams said. “Especially in this informal atmosphere it’s easier for people to be like ‘Yeah, yeah, I agree,’ or ‘No, I don’t agree with this.'”
Clay said the Women Faculty Forum and Women and Gender Studies Department have offered advice to the group about speakers and where to find organizational funding.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Humana Inc. Vice President of Government Relations Heidi Margulis, and nonprofit organization Women 4 Women Executive Director Ann Coffey serve on the WPF advisory board.