“Me too”: What’s the real message?

By Kara Lewis

You’ve probably seen a lot of “me too” posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels this week.

In case you missed it, actress Alyssa Milano started the movement Sunday night online, tweeting, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

The idea quickly caught on: “Me too” trended on nearly every social platform, and The New York Times  and CNN both covered the phenomenon. Milano’s original tweet amassed 47,000 comments.

Yet I can’t help but feel conflicted about Milano’s message. As powerful as it was to see “me too” flood my Facebook feed, I and many others won’t be joining in posting these words.

Simply put, women shouldn’t have to relive their experiences with assault and harassment to “raise awareness.” We live in a country where the one in five statistic, sometimes upped to one in four—representing how many women will be raped in their lifetimes—is widely known. “Me too” attempted to reveal a huge problem, but let’s be real: This issue hasn’t been hidden. Rather, like the recently exposed sexual assault and harassment perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein, it’s long been an open secret.

In fact, the “me too” cry seems to echo the reasoning of men who say they became more enraged about sexual assault after having a daughter. Yes, it can be shocking and emotional to find out your best friend, family member, former colleague or other Facebook connection survived sexual violence—but that shouldn’t be what it takes to fuel anger and disappointment.

Furthermore, posting “me too” can put the burden on survivors to answer uncomfortable questions, respond to doubts, and mediate family or friends’ devastated reactions.

Though on a small scale, the “me too” trend represents how much of our own energy and emotional labor women put in to combat sexual assault. Who’s supporting and working with us? This time, a like, share, or emoji isn’t enough.

Roofies and rape culture

By Ann Varner

As a woman, I have always heard about date rape drugs, the most popular being Rohypnol (or “roofies”). It is ingrained in women to never leave our drinks alone, to never let someone else buy them for us, and to never turn our backs.

Date rape drugs cause amnesia, blacking out, or loss of memory. Depending on the amount of alcohol ingested, the more aggressive the drug becomes. The person who was drugged appears to be very intoxicated, which is why this drug is so scary.

How do you know if you’re drunk or have been drugged? Depending on one’s tolerance, it takes more than a few drinks to get to the point of intoxication where one is vomiting, passed out, and having trouble moving or speaking. If you have only had one or two drinks in a matter of a few hours and suddenly feel very drunk or have any of the above symptoms, you may have been drugged. I know from experience.

It was supposed to be a fun night. My friend, her boyfriend, and his friend (we will call him A) and I all went out to Westport. I was barely 21 and I thought A was cute, so I made sure to have a big dinner and to only have a few drinks over four hours with water in between. I didn’t want to drink too much and embarrass myself in front of A.

I had one drink, vodka and sprite, at the beginning of the night and then drank water for a few hours. We were having a blast talking and dancing.

I decided to have my second drink and as I went to the bar to order it, I was approached by a man who was interested in me, but I did not reciprocate his interest (we will call him B). While I was ordering my vodka sprite, he hit on me. I once again told him I wasn’t interested. He thought I was alone, which is something men who drug women look for.

I went to the opposite end of the club with my drink to talk to my friends. I wanted to dance and not spill my drink on myself, so I set the drink on the table behind me– and turned my back. It was only for a few minutes, but that’s all it takes to slip a drug into a drink.

I nursed my drink for about 10 minutes. I hadn’t even finished my drink– and mind you this was only my second drink in a period of 4 hours— and I suddenly felt very drunk. The room started to spin, and everything around me was muffled. I told A that I needed to sit down.

The last thing I remember is thinking, How can I be this drunk? There is something wrong. Wait. I turned my back on my drink. B is here, and he’s not a good guy. Oh my gosh, I think I’ve been drugged.

What happened next is what my friends told me. I told them that I had been drugged and I needed to make myself throw up. I went to the bathroom, but never got a chance to force the drug out. I was found unconscious, face down on the floor with a cut on my forehead from passing out and hitting the toilet.

My friends said that the bouncer became angry and demanded we leave. They kept telling the bouncer that 30 minutes before I was completely sober, and that something had to be wrong. The bouncer didn’t believe them. I’m told I was unable to move and had to be carried out of the bathroom and laid on the sidewalk while they hailed a cab.

You see, B didn’t know I was with friends and had assumed that when the drug kicked in, I would be alone and helpless. He was wrong. My friends took care of me. I woke up the next morning with no memory of what had happened and I felt like death. I needed to go to the hospital, but I couldn’t even make it to my front door.

My friend called and told me what happened. She said that she had seen B following me around the club and waiting outside when we were kicked out.

Let this be a lesson to all women out there. You think it won’t happen to you—I certainly didn’t. Unfortunately, in our unequal society, it’s still important to be vigilant.

Living life on the defense

By Kara Lewis

Last week, actress and Academy Award-winner Brie Larson shared her experience with unwanted flirting via Twitter. The Room star wrote, “I merely smiled at a TSA agent and he asked for my number. To live life as a woman is to live life on the defense.”

Larson’s followers can clearly relate—the post has garnered over 4,000 retweets—but she’s also been met with negative reactions, ranging from angry to bizarre.

Among them, one user commented, “How is a guy supposed to win? He thought you were pretty and asked for your number. It’s not an assault. Just politely say no and move on.”

No, it wasn’t an assault, but the mindset that women should be open to being approached at any time and any place—while at work, going through security, on LinkedIn, or even while pointedly wearing headphones—certainly contributes to rape culture. And the thought that Larson elicits or deserves this because she’s “pretty,” compounds this situation.

The whole social media mess brought up several questions for me. First, why did a male Twitter user feel the need to tell a woman how she should’ve felt and reacted? Secondly, why is the number one objective making sure a man “wins” in almost any encounter with a woman?

As soon as I’d shrugged the story off, a friend recounted her experience being asked out while collecting interviews for a journalism project. Then, as if the universe remained determined to educate me about this issue, a man asked me out on Sunday as I loaded groceries into my car. Not kidding: This occurred after he ogled my lazy-day yoga pants and just as I hoisted four heaping bags of groceries into my arms (good timing, dude).

Perhaps the worst part is that this man, who seemed about 20 years older than me, used my “Kansas City is for Feminists” t-shirt as a pickup line. (Yep, it’s really cute… you can buy yours at the UMKC Women’s Center.) After asking me what a “feminist” really is and how to get involved in feminist causes, he listened to me explain with a glazed look in his eyes, then cut me off with, “So, can I take you out sometime?” The scene felt reminiscent of SNL’s and The New York Times’ recent take-downs of “faux male feminists.”

My answer was a definite no—and Larson, many other women and I shouldn’t have to explain our reasoning.

What Issa Rae’s CoverGirl status means to black women

By Korrien Hopkins

Insecure creator and star Issa Rae added a new achievement to her belt of black girl greatness. These last few years have definitely been life-changing for her, from the continuance of her hit show Insecure, to connecting with stars like Oprah, Ava DuVernay, Beyoncé and more. Issa has been gracing red carpets, television, and computer screens. Through all of this success, she paints a beautiful portrait of what it means to accept her awkward black girl magic. She so confidently expresses a different narrative of black sisterhood.

Issa’s come a long way from her award-winning web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which followed the life of a self-proclaimed awkward black girl named ” J.” Even in this debut project, her characters were definitely relatable and empowering to women. Issa Rae’s work uplifts the beauty of black women, no matter how “awkward” or “insecure” they may be. She represents them with narrative and cinematographic complexity.

Last month, CoverGirl recognized this beauty when it named the writer, actress and singer as its newest celebrity spokesperson.

“I remember being an awkward black girl in high school, reading the pages of my favorite magazines, casually flipping through CoverGirl ads, singing their slogan in my head,” Issa wrote on Instagram.

“In all my awkward, black years I never imagined I’d be a ‪CoverGirl! SO honored & SO excited,” she continued.

Issa joins the astonishing Rihanna, Zendaya, Queen Latifah, and more gorgeous women of color who have collaborated with CoverGirl.

I’m excited to press play on what’s to come from Issa Rae as she continues to redefine beauty, representing women who are often overlooked and underappreciated.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes : Take a step toward preventing sexual violence

By Kara Lewis

Our staff is fueled by feminism… and this week, a little more coffee than usual. We’ve been busy putting up fliers, plugging our Facebook event, and organizing crates of high heels.

Our biggest fall event and fundraiser, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, is this Thursday at 5:30 in the University Playhouse. Schools and other organizations across the world participate in different Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events each year. When men register for the march and strap on heels to stand in solidarity with women, they become part of the international movement to end rape and gender violence.

That sounds big, right? Yes, the issue is monumental— according to statistics from RAINN, one in six American women has survived completed or attempted sexual assault. The problem gains prevalence on campus: Women in college stand three times more likely to face this terrifying, inexcusable crime.

Our event Thursday offers an opportunity to start advocating by taking one step, then another, around the University Playhouse. Take this step with the dozens of others who have already registered. Take this step with people who are both long-term feminists and those who are new to the cause.

Take this step for a reason that’s important to you.

I choose to cheer at the event, design posters and write this blog because I believe we are all responsible in building a campus culture that pushes back against sexual violence.

Join me and register for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Bonus: Reward yourself with pizza after the walk— 15 percent of your bill at Pizza 51 will benefit the Women’s Center.

About our staff: Korrien

By Korrien Hopkins

Hello! I’m Korrien Hopkins, and I’m a sophomore here at UMKC. This is my second semester working at the Women’s Center, and I’m excited to be back!

The Women’s Center creates an environment that allows for positive discourse about feminism to take place, which I love. It’s a place where I teach others about feminism, as well as expand my knowledge and experience advocating for women’s equity on campus and within the community at large.
This semester, I plan to effectively educate the campus and community on feminism. I will work to change negative opinions toward feminism or other social issues. I will continue to learn how to effectively discuss social issues in a manner that will inspire others to get involved.
Come visit me at the Women’s Center!
I am always available with open arms, ears and an open-mind. I look forward to seeing you all at some of our wonderful events this academic school year.

 

A Raisin in the Sun: This 1950s play is still important

By Ann Varner   

Last week in my Intro to Theater class, we read A Raisin in the Sun. Coincidentally, this week’s reading in my Black Studies class also mentioned this award-winning play.

Lorraine Hansberry wrote this drama, becoming the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway in 1959. Set in the 1950s, Hansberry’s work addresses the racial and gender issues that occurred then and still ring true today. Specifically, Hansberry chronicles a black family’s move to an all-white neighborhood and the harsh, racially charged reactions they face.

Though Hansberry’s play reveals societal progress, it might cause a modern Kansas City reader to think of the Troost divide, or J.C. Nichols’ restrictive covenants (which kept African Americans from buying homes in certain areas, similar to the plight illustrated in A Raisin in the Sun).

For these reasons and more, Hansberry and her play remain relevant. She was the first African American playwright and the youngest American to receive the New York Critics’ Circle Award.

I won’t spoil the play, but if you have not read it, check it out. If you’re more of a movie person, you can watch the older version that was produced in 1961, or the newer version that was produced in 2008. Even these two versions emphasize how important Hansberry’s play is, as it continues to be retold in new, exciting ways for different audiences. Enjoy!

On Kylie Jenner, pregnancy, and privacy

By Kara Lewis

If you’ve been on the Internet this week, you’ve likely seen the rumors about Kylie Jenner. The question seemed to pop up everywhere: Is she pregnant or not?

According to a “source with knowledge of the situation,” yes. (But what does that even mean, BuzzFeed?) And according to the hundreds of people freaking out online, yes. Yet until Jenner herself speaks out, we should assume that the answer is no.

Of course, Jenner has built an empire on reality stardom, bestselling lip kits and a clothing line. She boasts 98 million Instagram followers. But underneath all of that— and regardless of how people feel about her personally—she’s a 20-year-old woman.

Here’s the bottom line: no one should have their pregnancy assumed, gossiped about, or judged. Of course, Internet commenters have already pushed this boundary, so here are my responses to some of their most common cringe-worthy reactions.

Reaction: “She and Travis Scott (Jenner’s boyfriend) have only been dating for five months!”

Response: “The length of a relationship doesn’t have anything to do with if two people are ready to have a child. People often get pregnant, give birth, and raise children outside of relationships or marriage. Regardless of how long they’ve been together, if Jenner and Scott are indeed expecting a child, they’ll decide how to co-parent.”

Reaction: “Can she financially support a child?!”

Response: This one’s easy. “Forbes estimates that Jenner’s net worth ranks at about $50 million, and the magazine named her the youngest high-earning celebrity this year.”

Reaction: “She’s just looking for attention, she’s a reality star.”

Response: “The two situations aren’t linked. Just because someone is proud of their career and open about their accomplishments, this does not mean they feel the same about their personal life.”

As media outlets continue to speculate and ask for comments, let’s remember one thing: Kylie Jenner isn’t obligated to tell us anything.

A different kind of yoga class

By Kara Lewis

Last week, my friend and I attended a parking lot yoga class on the UMKC Hospital Hill campus. A local organization called Superhero Yoga hosted the event, and its volunteers helped bring in lots of perks: Yogurtini coupons, boxes of Insomnia Cookies, and a Lululemon giveaway.

The biggest perk, however, came with an inclusive teaching style and premise. Superhero Yoga president Isaac Collins explained what the organization does: teach trauma-informed yoga in inner-city elementary schools, using the practice as a tool to build healthy relationships.

Right away, the class differed from any other I’ve taken. Yoga newbies joined without shame, spreading out towels instead of mats, and Collins slid into poses right on the concrete. “Look at my dirty feet!” He exclaimed about halfway through the event.

Collins encouraged us to dance in our poses— trust me, it made chair pose a lot more enjoyable— lean on our neighbors for support during balancing poses, and move at our own pace. We made a hissing sound while in cobra pose, which Collins shared kids love, and listened to empowering pump-up jams, like The Script’s aptly named “Superheroes.”

But dancing and animal sounds aside, what is trauma-informed yoga?

According to Social Work Today Magazine, trauma-informed yoga seeks to help those who practice it “regain a feeling of safety inside their bodies.” While trauma often results in a feeling of numbness, yoga for trauma survivors identifies of the goal of once again inviting and managing sensation.

Even the smallest details of trauma-informed yoga, like a teacher asking before they touch a student to correct a pose, empower and give agency to those who practice. In an NPR article that observed the usage of trauma-informed yoga in a girls’ juvenile hall, one girl shared, “Being asked to be touched, it gave us a little power back in a place where all our power is taken.”

As I learned last week, trauma-informed yoga can really help. In fact, in an article published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers wrote that 10 out of 13 recent studies revealed yoga’s positive effects on schizophrenia, depression, and PTSD.

Since yoga can be seen as exclusionary and non-diverse— numerous studies have pointed out its majority white and upper-class following— it’s refreshing to see trauma-informed yoga welcome everyone with respect.

Want to read more? Now that you know what trauma-informed yoga is, learn how yoga instructors can incorporate it into their classes.

Fridays are for Feminism

By Ann Varner

Last Friday, the Women’s Center had a great turn out for the showing of the movie Hidden Figures. There was all the pizza, popcorn, and M&Ms you could ever want while watching this funny and heartwarming movie.

I won’t include any spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it, do it now. You’re missing out.

This event continued our Feminist Friday series. Crafty Feminist Friday returns Oct. 13, and we’ll watch and discuss The Girl on the Train on Oct. 27. These events start at noon—think of them as long, feminist lunch breaks!

As always, stay updated with our events by checking the blogs or watching for fliers on campus.