By Jesse Bihlmeyer
Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer a few hours at Kansas City’s Plaza Art Fair on behalf of UMKC’s Women Center. Overall, I had a positive learning experience in a great environment. I was able to inform the community about the Women’s Center and its events, host a challenging triva/plinko game, and give attention-grabbing Women’s Center prizes to a multitude of people. Prizes included Women’s Center feminism t-shirts, Women’s Center coffee mugs, fancy Her Art Project bags, and many others.
Still, one prize in particular seemed to be most eye catching – buttons of many different colors with the phrase, “This is what a feminist looks like.” After my shift on the last day of the fair, out of the very few prizes the booth had left to give, these buttons were in surplus. This, I thought, was curious. Nevertheless, I was able to experience firsthand a few other examples of interesting incidences regarding ‘The Feminist’ buttons. In one, a young male child, around the age of seven or eight was rummaging through the container of buttons, attempting to choose his prize. When he selected one of these “This is what a feminist looks like” buttons and showed it to his mother, standing over his shoulder, she praised him and wanted to have a look at it. When she read it, she told her son, “You aren’t one of those (a feminist),” instructing him to put the prize back, and chose another. I would presume that this women too, was not a feminist, and that was the reason she decided her son was not a feminist either.
I was taken aback. How is any person, let alone a woman, not a feminist? The only resolution I can come to is that there is a broad lack of understanding of the word feminist – this word may seem distasteful, radical, and man hating for the misinformed. On the contrary, the idea behind feminism is most simply put the livelihood of equality. Moreover, this is why organizations like the Women’s Center, Her Art Project, and more are in place – to inform and better the awareness of feminism to the community at large. For example, at the booth we were informing people of the underrepresentation of women in the arts. People were completely surprised that merely 13% of art is US museums was created by women. I have confidence that fair nature of feminism will come to fruition in the citizens of the world and I show my support of feminism proudly.