Columnist Gail Collins Speaks to UT Students on Gender Politics

Columnist Gail Collins Speaks to UT Students on Gender Politics

New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins says she never faced any career hardships because of her gender. But that hasn’t kept her from being fascinated with the changing roles of women during her lifetime—and writing a couple books on the subject.

“The truth is that I didn’t have any [barriers with gender] and the reason I didn’t was because I came in one second after the women who filed the suits, who filed the petitions, who got in the faces of their bosses,” Collins said to a packed crowd in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center’s Connally Ballroom on Monday evening.

Collins, who was a columnist for New York Newsday and New York Daily News before joining the Times in 1995, spoke as part of the 2013 Liz Carpenter Lecture series, presented by the Plan II Honors program. Since it began in 1984, the series has hosted politicians, writers, humorists and other notables on the Forty Acres.

Collins’ latest book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, was published in October 2009.

Collins remembered a time when women were expelled from traffic court for wearing slacks and she herself was forbidden to leave her Milwaukee dorm room wearing pants unless she was going bowling. The clothes were making women stay put, Collins said.

But then suddenly, it all changed. Collins believes the emergence of the birth control pill, the sexual revolution, the difficulty of supporting a family on one income after World War II, and the Civil Rights movement all played instrumental roles in this process. “Post-World War II, Americans became increasingly aware of issues of fairness,” she said. “This is why I’m convinced the Gay Rights movement will do just fine.”

Collins said she sees the high enrollment rates of women in college, the rising average marriage age, and greater flexibility for mixing career and family as successes for women.

“This change in the way the world looked at women and their role in the world … happened in my lifetime and it just knocks me out,” she said. “And we can do anything else we put our minds to.”

When the conversation turned to Texas politics, Wendy Davis, and current women’s rights issues during the question-and-answer segment after the lecture, Collins sounded upbeat.

“You have exciting times coming in Texas,” she said.

Photo by Julia Bunch.


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