A Summer at Women’s Center

By Caroline Turner

 

My experience as a summer intern for the Women’s Center is coming to a close with my last day approaching. I have learned more here than I even imagined I would. I’ve learned about gender equality, the existing pay gap and pink tax. I’ve studied and shared articles and info of women’s experiences striving for equality from the science lab to the glass ceiling. I’ve learned about how women are being treated in the media, in the streets, at work and at their homes. I’ve seen women stand up, embody their voice, and join together in the ups and downs that women experience.

One of the biggest lessons I think I’ve learned here is that life can be busy- it’s easy to become glued to our screens, focused on deadlines, or whatever work you have. But when we look up and have conversations with women around us, that’s when we connect and build the bonds that lift other women up. And when you lift other women up, it lifts you up as a woman also.

Sometimes it isn’t until you need a resource that you know where to find them. It wasn’t until I had experience with this that I wanted to help other women’s experience. Throughout my internship I spread awareness of the resources, support, and education available at the women’s center to many new students and people online. It’s easy to push away these social issues, until you realize how you are tied to them. But by learning what social issues are here and what women and others are going through, we learn what is within ourselves.

I am glad to have been here to share some insights and knowledge with you all over the summer. The most valuable thing I have learned and taken away, is being here. Your presence is a gift. Next summer the purple flowering bush by the Haag Hall entrance will be blooming, and I will be an official UMKC graduate. But it will be good knowing there will be women here helping, loving, and supporting others to be their best, as I am continuing to be the best woman I can be.

 

The Dress Code

By Caroline Turner

As kids, some of us dealt with school uniforms. Luckily for me, I did not. I would have hated the idea of being restricted to wear only two pairs of pants and two different colored shirts. In fact I remember writing school papers passionately siding on why kids should be able to express themselves, make their own decisions, and wear what they want without uniforms. In an institution that requires strict dress codes or uniforms, you know what you’re signing up for. But in the real world once we graduate from those institutions do we still have dress codes telling us what we can and cannot wear as grown-ups, specifically as women?

When men go shopping there are many options to choose from. Wear a bow tie, wear a tie, or no tie. Get a tight tee shirt or a loose tank top. Wear baggy pants or tight pants. Wear sneakers or dress shoes. All of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preference. Once the clothes are purchased and taken home, the man would probably not have a second thought when getting dressed in his new clothes later on.

When women go shopping, very similarly, there are also many options to choose from. Wear a bra, wear a push up bra, or no bra. Get short shorts or jeans. Wear a crop top or wear a tank top. Wear sneakers or heels. Again, all of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preferences. During the process of shopping, once the clothes are bought, or maybe both times, there is a thought that creeps into women’s minds when getting dressed. And it’s not about how the clothing will feel, or if the clothes will last a while.  It’s a thought about how others will treat her based on what she’s wearing. “Is there too much skin showing? Will people be looking at me unwantedly? Will they think of me as promiscuous, easy? Will they interpret this clothing as me wanting to make a sexual advance? Will I be respected or taken seriously?”

Sexualizing women unwantedly has largely become socially acceptable. The media and our culture works to pin-point styles and behaviors as being sexual, even if there is nothing inherently sexual about them.

The in depth report on the sexualization of girls by the American Psychological Association explains that girls can then self-objectify themselves by “(internalizing) an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” There is no clear dress code on what women can and cannot wear, but based on societal standards we monitor ourselves. For example, we may not wear shorts because they might be too revealing.

For women it seems there is a dress code, albeit one that is more clearly read between the lines. Some of us may be more aware of it than others, but it is one that is created by us, our sisters and brothers. This dress code is based on sexualizing women and teaching us how to monitor ourselves in the process. I never was a fan of dress codes, and this woman’s code is an especially sneaky one that has got to go.

No Lax on Pink Tax

By Caroline Turner

 

I took a trip to Target last night and I unknowingly got wrapped up in some sort of pink trap.

As soon as I walked in I checked out the “deals” section in the front. Now looking back, I can’t help wondering why there was there so much pink?! The entire sale section had a few themes: back to school for teachers, back to school for girls, summer party, and kids’ toys. Just glancing at the toys section, I could tell it was for boys, with images of cars in dark blue and red color schemes. The section I got caught in was definitely geared for girls. I bought two packs of stationary cards as well as a few things for a friend’s upcoming birthday. The intended event of the cards was left semi- general, but they were in hot pink, and other pink hues signifying a girl feel. Actually, this girl feel was applied throughout sale section where there was an abnormal amount of pink, glittery, bubble lettered office accessories, school calendars, etc. I was surrounded by groups of young girls and women, and could hear them giggling to each other while I walked around the short isles. The only time I saw a boy, was when I was in front of a small section of tech gear, where I bought a portable device that was non-gender specific.

A couple weeks ago my cousin brought me a surprise gift of a planner and stickers, and told me they were from the same “deals” spot in Target. These stickers were also clearly gendered- with a mix of encouraging sayings like “You go girl,” etc. Did I get suckered into buying these bright, pink, sparkly items because they were so clearly gendered and drew me towards them?

The pink tax is the extra percentage of money that women are paying for “woman” branded products in all areas such as hygiene, clothing, and toys. New studies are being done as this issue is becoming more noticed among consumers. U.S. News stated that, “Women, who statistically already make less money than men on average, may pay a premium for items marketed to them simply because they aren’t aware of this so-called “Pink” tax. The tax is applied to items that both men and women use such as razors, shampoo, soap, jeans, t-shirts, and more, except the up-charge is only applied to products that are sold towards women. You can easily point to these price differences in products usually coated pink or shaped differently – what people in the industry have termed “shrink” and “pink” to sell to women. But these minor choices in cut or color for these “feminine” products do not amount to the hike up in cost, possibly up to 50% more than the “male” product.

Photo: New York City Department of Consumer Affairs

 

I like a splash of pink, or any color frankly, to spruce up my office décor or bathroom supplies: But when color becomes a technique of manipulative strategy to box women into spending unnecessary extra money it crosses the line. And why was Target not advertising its slightly gimmicky door deals to men? Big business is banking on the profits of us not being aware of these traps being set up to vacuum away our hard earned dollars.

Although most of the deals I got that day were really good deals (from $1-$5 max) and am happy with the items I got, I can’t help but wonder if I would have even been drawn to them in the first place if I were not so conditioned to buy the pink and pretty items marketed for women only.  In the end, I think I inadvertently got goosed by the business of the pink tax.

 

Woman with the Pencil, Not the Pencil Skirt

By: Caroline Turner

Why do we notice women in the news for what they are wearing, and men in the news for what they are doing? Why are we more inclined to point out what a women has on than we are a man?

Source: Wiki-images

On Snapchat, pretty much daily, you will see story lines about what various female celebrities are wearing. Do women just dominate the fashion world? No. But why then is what they are wearing what makes them newsworthy? Men are rarely seen in Snapchat stories and media for what they are wearing. Rather, they are mostly mentioned for who they are with or what they are doing. So why is it that we are so focused on capturing, celebrating, and criticizing women for what they wear?

I did a Google search of “media’s focus on female fashion,” and many articles came up that illustrate why focusing on what a woman wears above all else, creates problems in the way they are perceived. The whole first page was full of articles about media coverage on female politicians and scientists. Attention for these women should focus on what they are doing in leadership and research, not on their fashion choices.  But that’s often where the attention goes and what makes the headline or story. The media never treats men this way. Part of the reason there are fewer women than men in these fields is because of this constant focus on what women are wearing, rather than what they are doing. This sends the wrong message to young girls and may discourage them from considering those careers. Focusing on a woman’s appearance devalues her professionally, and can , often to no avail.

When I changed “female” to “male,” in my Google search, what I found confirmed that this was largely a female issue. However, my searches did find that the media pays disproportionate attention to men with regard to sports and their athletic physique, which creates body image issues among young boys.  So maybe men are not being portrayed fairly in the media either; however, the specific focus that the media places on how women look and what they are wearing can be damaging to them professionally and can affect to how they see themselves and assess their own .

So why does the media focus so much on what women are wearing? How did this come to be?

The male gaze, coined by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975 describes the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. An object does not do anything, it is to be looked at. An object is something that we do things to or do things with, but it does not act on its own. Perhaps media outlets have become like Mulvey’s man behind camera. The male gaze through the lens of the media can objectify women and distort how we value them, and this can have dangerous effects.

As media evolves and grows, pictures become stories and videos become GIFs. These narratives that we create in order to understand ourselves and others are becoming more and more embedded into our everyday lives. As media becomes more connected to us through social media, it is important to  become vigilant in recognizing the male gaze in the media so we can rise above its influence and decide for ourselves what is truly newsworthy.

Gimme My Money

By Caroline Turner

We are now in the second half of summer with about one more month left to enjoy our sunshiny and stress-free break. A certain summer energy infuses the days even if you are busy taking classes, in an internship, working, or all or none of these things. As we prepare to transition into fall for a new semester and to dive deeper into work projects, it is a good time to look ahead towards what we expect and want.

I came across a TedTalk video called “Know your worth, and then ask for it,” where speaker Casey Brown explains that defining your value + communicating your value = your full earning value. This equation can be applied in different facets of life to realize different kinds of value. Understanding perceptions that we have of ourselves, and the perceptions that others have of us is important to get our message across and ultimately expand our action. The most obvious area that this equation applies to is your job, i.e. making profit.

While we approach our future jobs and careers, it is important to acknowledge that, although just as worthy, women have been and still are largely underpaid compared to men. One recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women are only earning approximately 82% of men’s earning. This pay gap is even larger for women of color and as women age past 55.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women throughout our history have repeatedly contributed to companies, products, and history without being acknowledged, let alone PAID. Recognizing your actual contributions and actual earnings is important to see how they balance out. The history of pay inequality and the current pay gap is a huge reason why we must demand that we be compensated for our true worth, so that we don’t allow our employers to place these old standards upon us.

As women it is especially important to be able to recognize and clearly define our unique value first to ourselves, and then to clearly communicate this to bosses, potential employers, etc. By doing this it will help break the current status of women’s earnings.  Do not go by how your bosses assess and value you, only you know your true worth. Bring to the plate what you have to offer and show them the price you are willing to offer it for. Like the TedTalk speaker Casey Brown, you will realize that many will be willing to pay what you rightfully deserve, and by being bold and truthful to your value, your job/effort will continue to thrive even more than you may have originally thought.

ANTI

By Caroline Turner

“Sticks and Stones Might Break My Bones…

But Your Words Can Never Hurt Me.”

Photo cred: Anti suffragettes postcard (c.1909) face of an ugly dimwitted woman -Wikimedia Commons

For years since the women’s suffrage era and the women’s rights movement, there has been opposition. Stemming from fear and hate, cruel images and fear mongering have been used to cut back, curtail, and end action that women have taken to obtain the same rights that men have. Propaganda worked largely to subdue the need for women to have these rights, and turned the suffragettes’ image into an ugly, violent, silly, monstrous abruption to society.

Many know of the suffrage movement, but not many are aware of the Anti-suffrage movement that also took place.

Women’s rights were posed as a threat to almost every facet of life- the home, children, marriage, jobs, business, politics, would all be at the stake if women were involved. Women were seen as a menace, dangerous, and catastrophic to the institutions and the glue of everyday life.

Today we now can see that none of these fearful effects actually happened. More rights and mobility for women led to more education, discovery and growth, and did not once undermine the role of males. It actually opened up mobility for men in turn by broadening their expectations and possibilities as well.

Photo cred: Anti-Suffrage Postcard, c. 1910 (22754363186).jpg -Wikimedia Commons

Although some rights were won, there are still many to go. Women face everyday battles and we are still catching up. This makes sense realizing that only into the 20th century woman began to acquire what we now view as basic rights such as the right to own property, right to vote, right to work, etc.  – which means 19 centuries of our history, institutions, families, completely shut out (or in) and silenced women.

People in present day are shocked that women are taking action to obtain the same rights men have, such as safety and security. There has been lots of progress, lots of change. But more change needs to happen.

I recently became alarmed to learn of a new, contemporary way of fear-mongering and labeling women. The term “feminazi,” mostly made popular by Rush Limbaugh in the 1990s, has been used to degrade and attack women who claim to be feminists. This remark is similar to the propaganda anti-suffragettes used to villainize suffragettes and turn them into “monsters”. What bothers me the most about the term

Photo cred: Anti Suffrage Postcard c. 1908 02.jpg -Wikimedia Commons

“feminazi” is the severity as well as the implication. The cruelness of being compared to Nazis are beyond comprehension. The motive behind everything the Nazi party did, as well as their leaders who constructed it, was anti-Semitism. Nazis were literally inhumane and their purpose was to carry out the Holocaust, leading up to the extermination of millions of Jews in Europe during World War II and almost wiping out an entire people from the planet.

To compare women who are advocating for freedom and rights to the inhumane, anti-Semitic evil of the Holocaust is more than extreme: it’s unspeakable. The term “feminazi” tries to strip away the Holocaust and tries to malign women. Nothing ever can or should attempt to compare to the Holocaust because it’s impossible- the only thing that can ever compare with it is the Holocaust itself. For one to do such degradation in the name of women gaining rights is a huge step backwards, and one that should not be taken.

The term “feminazi” is one people should take a deeper look at to truly understand the hidden motives and implications it carries. Like the anti-suffragettes in the past, people today who spit these words to lessen the efforts of women, are only throwing stones that reveal their true character.

STEAM: The Future is Female

By Caroline Turner

This week UMKC is hosting an Oral & Craniofacial Sciences Seminar, and with the Women in STEAM initiative going into its second year at the Women’s Center, it seems like the perfect moment to talk about Women in Sciences.

Reading through just a few stories of women in science history, I was shocked, surprised, and saddened as it alarmingly appeared repeatedly that teachers or dads told them that they cannot go into science or math. It was believed this wasn’t something a woman could or should do. Thankfully these women did it anyway, and contributed to these fields in ways nobody could have imagined. Although many of the women involved in our long history of science and math over many centuries faced issues of being told they can’t or shouldn’t do it, or lacked the resources that males received, the same root issues are still prevalent today. In a New York Times article about this, the author delves into how today these same attitudes dilute the science and math fields, even within women scientists. The imaginative possibility as well as the reality of being a woman in science or math is not something that is promoted – in fact it is perhaps unintentionally demoted. Women who continue to pursue sciences are underpaid, under hired, and discouraged throughout their academic and professional careers. The article talks about the quantitative and qualitative evidence of what causes there to be fewer women in these fields, through many statistics and the accounts of many women throughout the academic and professional field. The article states, “Only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s in this country are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American; of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14 percent are women. The numbers of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics.” From many of the personal accounts of the women who did pursue the field, many of them experienced being the only woman in the class, being ostracized and belittled by other male students and even professors, one who graded the male students with a “boy curve” and the one female student by a separate “girl curve,” explaining that, “he couldn’t reasonably expect a girl to compete in physics on equal terms with boys.” Faculty encouragement that should shed light on opportunities and open doors for women is often not there; consequently, they may even darken opportunities and shut doors to women.

The article however also points out the great improvements that have been done to include women. As more attention is being brought to why women are missing in these departments, it is becoming common for science and math fields to begin celebrating having more women, “boasting” their 30% female researchers, 40% female colleagues, etc. The call for action from the NYT reporter included asking for “scientists of both sexes to realize that they can’t always see the way their bias affects their day-to-day lives,” and, “most of all, we need to make sure that women-and men- don’t grow up in a society in which they absorb images of scientists as geeky male misfits,” referring to the popular TV sitcom, the Big Bang Theory.

Just earlier this month we shared an article on our Facebook page about the strides NASA has made with their recent training program, in which 5 of 12 astronauts in the new class are female. This news follows the success of the movie, Hidden Figures that came out this year. The movie tells the story of a group of women who worked at Langley Research Center, the precursor to NASA that was crucial to Sputnik and Silicon Valley, and produced many advancements to science/ math.

In fall 2016, the UMKC Women’s Center in partnership with several academic units at UMKC launched the Women in STEAM Program. Women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) was implemented as part of the Provost’s Strategic Funding Initiatives. The mission of the Women in STEAM Program is to foster the personal, academic, and professional development of female students in math, engineering, technology, and science and the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and to inspire and develop future female innovators with a challenging, integrated co-curricular experience that embraces the joyful aspect of play and discovery. This program benefits females in STEAM by helping to improve the learning environment at UMKC, and increasing the retention rate of female students in STEM fields.

The integration of arts in the existing STEM program has become a movement nationwide. Since the early beginnings of science, creativity and art have always been engrained in the best scientists. As early photographer Charles Negre (1820-1880) once wrote, “Where science ends, art begins.”

Today, although we are making progress, there is still much to be done. Recognizing where biases exists in STEM fields is the first step. Encouraging women within these fields is next step. Celebrating women existing in science and math is the third step, in which would create a cycle that encourages young girls to walk into an open door, a beautiful door of exploration, discovery, and limitlessness that is STEAM!

Pridefest or Protest

Photo credit: Julie Missbutterflies, “LGBTQIA Pride- Rennes-2017” via Flickr

By Caroline Turner

Kansas City celebrated Pridefest during the first week of June, but LGBTQIA+ communities have been continuing the festivities and activism around the nation and around the world throughout the entire month.

In KC, the three day festival at Berkeley Riverfront Park featured headlining musicians Betty Who, Citizen Jane, Well Strung and more. The celebration also featured many local business and vendors, volleyball, workshops, food trucks, and a Ferris wheel.

While reflecting on Pride Month, I came across the article by BuzzFeed questioning, “Should Pride Be A Party Or A Protest?” The article points out both trials and tribulations that the LGBTQIA+ community are going through, focusing on how Pride events have shifted since its beginning in New York 1970, which marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The author points out tension between the rising shift in the Pride movement being, “less explicitly about rising up against oppression and more about joy, visibility, affirmation and celebration in face of that oppression.” For some who feel their battle is not yet won, this presents a conflict. Some want to march to demand their rights and some want a party to celebrate their rights.

Themes of minority and majority come out within the tension, as the movement is made up of many people and groups. In the article, senior director of Casa Ruby, a well-known bilingual multicultural LGBT Organization said, “(There are) lots of folds in the community who don’t feel particularly represented.”

Whether people are protesting or partying, the main consensus seemed to be that as long as people are showing up that’s what matters. Showing representation of the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole is powerful. Get out there and enjoy the rest of pride month everyone!

The Struggle

Photo credit: via Flickr, “Struggle” by photographer: Sam Cox

By Caroline Turner

The 12th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference at UMKC last Friday sold out. It featured keynote speaker Angela Rye and focused on the theme, “United and Strong: Rising through the struggle”.

“The struggle” is a broad word that can be defined at large as the struggle that we all face day to day, our “daily struggles”. For some, the daily struggle can come from situations at work, school, relationships, clumsy hands, forgetful minds, or malfunctioning technology. But for some, the daily struggle is one that is experienced with people on the subway, institutions, personal narratives, glass ceilings and ol’boy club doors, stemming from a deep rooted history.

I am currently reading, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a marvelous book wherein Coates narrates his history to his son, and delves in the mysteries of race. In the book he explains that his son, Samori, was named after Samori Ture, an Emperor of the Wassoulou Empire who resisted the French until his capture. Coates says, “The Struggle is in your name, Samori.” Keeping in mind the experiences and truths of a young black person in the USA that Coates opens up and passes to his son (and to the reader), I can’t help but connect it to this year’s Women of Color Leadership Conference theme.

The struggle that only a woman, a person of color, a woman in leadership, and the combination a woman of color in leadership all face, are unique and real. A diamond in the rough, the flower that breaks through the cold concrete, is what the keynote speaker Angela Rye represents as she rises above and then challenges the struggle as a young black political strategist, activist, and CEO by spreading seeds to others. Understanding what the concrete surrounding us is made of is part of our mission. For women, the cement can begin from being told what we can or cannot do as children, identifying and reacting to injustice as adults, and what lies between and beyond. We are all striving to be our best flower blossoming as big and beautiful as possible, having our diamond light shine bright in the sparkling eyes of all others. This year’s Conference theme reminds us there is strength in numbers and unity, and the help of others is essential and necessary for us to rise through the struggle. As Coates emphasizes in his book, we do not rise alone. There are many along our journey that help us to rise.

This week, if you have a moment to reflect, do not lose sight of your focus. Do not forget what your struggle is for. Remember that, “United and strong, we are rising through the struggle.”

Angela Rye: Modern Day Angela Davis

By Caroline Turner

The keynote speaker for this year’s 12th Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference is Angela Rye, a political powerhouse who is being called “TV’s Wokest Bae.” Named after the legend Angela Davis, she has been living up to the movement of being the change. Angela’s continuous work has been connecting the public with politics, and growing the ever evolving sphere of politics and leadership towards one of equity.

Angela is deeply rooted in political leadership and has a very impressive history with political activism and education. A graduate of University of Washington and Seattle University School of Law, she is now the co-founder, Principal, and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, “an organization that seeks to encourage young professionals in three core areas: economic empowerment, civic engagement, and political involvement.” She has been featured in many publications and outlets as an influential politico, lawyer, and advocate. Angela serves on a number of boards including the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, and the Seattle University School of Law Alumni, and is a member of many groups including the National Bar Association, and has won 21 distinctive awards from 2010-2015. Catch her on CNN as a regular commentator, and read more about her history on her website.

Angela continues to speak at events and on media outlets, reaching local and national audiences. Her conversations are crucial to help new upcoming leaders, and help educate and advocate awareness of the issues that we face in our government and institutions today.