Mock Debate Raises Issues of Women?s Roles

Eileen Rasnake
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Is a woman’s place in the home – or in the executive suite?

This question, which many people would argue is no longer relevant, and others were clearly pertinent during a debate March 14 in Plaza Vaquero as part of the celebration of Women’s History Month. Before a vocal audience of nearly 50 students, three faculty members backtracked to 1953 and debated a woman’s role in society.

Fully clad in ’50s attire, Roger Bowerman, acting social science chairman of the history department, and Peggy Renner, head of the history department, participated in the mock debate, while Steve White, interim vice president of Instructional Services, moderated it.

Bowerman played David Hutter, a conservative businessman who believed that a woman’s sole job was to stay at home and care for her family. Renner played Janice Merrick, a free thinking housewife who lost her factory job after World War II. White played Ralph Edwards, a local radio announcer.

Despite the ’50s setting in which the event was held, the debaters covered controversial issues that arise even today. Lisa Lubow, the coordinator of Women’s History Month at GCC, said that they chose the era of the 1950s because there are “similarities between the current political culture and the 1950s – not identical, but certain issues continue to re-occur.”

Beginning the debate was the topic of what age is appropriate for girls to start dating. Hutter took more of a conservative side and felt that “women should live in a protective environment” and “they shouldn’t date until their senior year of high school, at the earliest. After graduating from high school, a woman should concentrate on finding a husband,” Hutter said.

To no one’s surprise the women in the audience were appalled by Hutter’s views and insinuations about women’s low status in society. After his statement, “women are the weaker sex,” the audience reacted with outbursts and attempted to boo him off stage.

Merrick, the housewife, took a liberal stance and believed that girls are ready to date as early as age 15 to 16. The audience applauded and yelled approval, thus setting a pattern that would continue throughout the hour-long debate. Each time Merrick finished making her argument on a topic, cheers followed; each time Hutter completed his argument, there were jeers.

Other topics over which the debaters sparred included marriage, work and pay, control property, suitable clothing and sex. In each case, the audience was eager to chime with its approval and/or disapproval.

According to White, who played the moderator, students were amused because they began to realize that a woman’s roles in American society has evolved during the last 50 years.

“The debate was put together to display how women’s status has made progress and has changed since the 1950’s,” White said.