Learning To Be At Peace With My Vagina

Image from Flickr.com

By Kristina Gardner

I’m a self-proclaimed feminist, I believe in equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment for women. I believe in stopping the violence against women; and that’s why I work in the Women’s Center. But this semester has been an eye opener for me. I’ve learned that working in the Women’s Center and advocating for Women’s Rights and Violence Prevention, is more than just protesting, signing petitions, and putting on events. It’s about loving yourself for what and who you are….

And that meant coming to terms with my vagina…

But first I had to come to terms with just saying the word “vagina”. I stood in front of a mirror for 20 minutes at a time just saying the word, using it in sentences, and teaching myself that it is not a bad word, as I was brought up to believe it was. Not letting myself say some of the funny terms my parents and teachers used for it. That was the first step.

It really started to make me wonder why for eighteen years of my life, why have I never was allowed to say, or was never comfortable to say the word “vagina”. I mean, clearly, my parents and friends had a big part in it. I was raised to be modest and to act like a “lady” it just wasn’t something “ladies” said. They were never okay to say the word or talk about it, so neither did I, and I was perfectly alright with that.

Around this same time in my “blog rolling”, I stumbled across this documentary all about “the perfect vagina” and what women are doing to themselves (including get surgery to reduce the lips of their vaginas, and making themselves virgins again) to achieve “the perfect vagina”. The whole documentary is about learning to love what you have, and learn that everyone’s vagina is different.

Now, we had the Vagina Monologue Auditions, here at the UMKC Women’s Center, and the actual performance is in February.  I had never seen this play before, so I watched some of the clips from performances around the world, and found myself agreeing with these stories, knowing those things really happen to people. Seeing stories about people coming to terms with their own vaginas and periods, etc.; I found myself inspired – and quite frankly, a little upset – that I had delayed this self-acceptance, for so long.

So, if you aren’t comfortable with your vagina (or even just saying the word vagina), I challenge you to do the same, because your vagina is yours. You should love it, respect it, and be proud that you are a woman!


When Will Victim-Blaming Stop?

By Kristina Gardner

You’ve heard about it. These awful cases of victim-blaming; from the case of the Toronto Police Officer telling girls to stop wearing skirts to school or they will get raped, to the New York City Police Officer warning women to stop wearing revealing clothing on the streets of Brooklyn (and in general) or they will get raped, to the newest piece that came out about the Radio Host blaming the Occupy Wall Street protestors for getting “raped and groped”. Why would you ever even think to blame the victim of a rape or any kind of sexual assault for the action of the person that did that to them! I don’t think women go around saying “I hope wearing this very cute skirt to go out with my friends doesn’t attract rapists.” No, she’s thinking about having a night on the town with her girlfriends, and looking good to have a good time. Or whatever the reason – because let’s face it, skirts are pretty comfortable—she should be able to wear that skirt or “revealing clothing” without any worries about being sexually assaulted. But I digress.

We have got to stop blaming the victims of these sexual assaults, stop asking them what they could have done to prevent it, blaming them for wearing that skirt, or low cut shirt, and start blaming the people that are doing these crimes! And doing something about it! These police officers should not be worrying about what the women were wearing, but rather worrying about getting the person that raped them, or preventing the possible rapes.

So, what if a horrible thing like sexual assault happens? What should we do as a friend to the person that has been sexually assaulted?

What to do…

if someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, or stalking:

  • Believe them. People rarely lie about dealing with these issues.
  • Listen and concentrate on understanding their feelings.
  • Allow them to be silent; you don’t have to talk every time they stop talking.
  • Ask how you can help.
  • Don’t ask questions that imply that the rape, abuse, or stalking is their fault, such as “Why did you go to his room?”, “Why are you staying with that person?”, or “Why didn’t you run away?”
  • Offer to accompany them to the police, to seek medical attention, or to seek counseling.
  • Help them regain a sense of control by letting them decide what to do. Help them explore the options and then support them in making their own decisions about how to proceed.
  • Remind them that rape, abuse and stalking are not their fault.
  • Offer shelter or companionship, so they don’t have to be alone.

UMKC Violenc Prevention and Response





Dr. Pepper Ten, “It’s Not for Women.”

By Kristina Gardner

Dr. Pepper is telling ladies that they shouldn’t drink Dr. Pepper Ten. They are also saying that women don’t like action films, and asking if you are “manly enough”. Of course as soon as this campaign was released there was outrage; over the internet, on blogs, and especially on their Facebook Wall. But Dr. Pepper couldn’t let bad publicity reach their Facebook Wall about pushing women away, being sexist, boycotts, and shamefulness. So, the bright minds behind the Dr. Pepper Ten campaign have been deleting any and all negative comments about their product. There are entire blogs dedicated to the posts that have been deleted. Even popular websites that round up the “buzz” on the Internet have gotten into it, rounding up comments into one listing of the top ten comments about the outrage that women are having.

The saddest part is that, even the campaign alienates men as well. Listing ten man’ments of how to be manly, what you should never do as a man, etc. What man wants to be told how to be more manly and what they should and shouldn’t do as a “man”? 

There are plenty of feminists and feminist organizations that are calling for a boycott of the new ten calorie diet soda, as well as all other Dr. Pepper products; with Facebook groups, blogs, and even online news.

As an avid Dr. Pepper drinker myself, I find myself confused about what to do. I guess we all just have to ask ourselves, are we going to continue drinking Dr. Pepper because it’s our favorite drink, or are we going to look at the big picture, and boycott the sexist campaign until Dr. Pepper realizes what they did wrong, and change it.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Image from Flickr.com

By Kristina Gardner

By now I’m sure almost everyone has heard the news about Saudi Arabian women finally getting the right to vote. This is exciting because they are one of the very last countries to pass the right for women to vote. Which is hard to believe in our day and age, right? Well, not more than a week after this came out, it then surfaced that a woman was to receive 10 lashes for driving. You read that right, for driving, a car, like most of us do every day without thinking.

So it begs the question: Is Saudi Arabia moving two steps forward and one step back? They are moving forward to let them vote and make decisions for their country, but somehow they still receive lashes and sometimes jail time for driving a car, as well as not being allowed out of their home without a man with them, and they can’t vote in all elections or without a male relative’s permission Talk about oppression and sidelining women! This would be like in America if when women got the right to vote, in 1920, they weren’t allowed to have jobs or walk alone. But that was then, this is the 21st century! Can you imagine living your day to day life – especially as a mother or a working woman—and not having a car or be able to go to the grocery store without a male present? It’s crazy to think about but that is these women’s reality.  Is it too much to hope that they change their laws to include women instead of excluding them?

The White House…a “boy’s club”?

Image from Flickr.com

By Kristina Gardner

 It came out this past weekend that women in the Obama White House felt excluded and ignored during his first couple years of presidency. Christina Romer said she felt like she was treated “like a piece of meat”. The women that work in the white house feel as if they are outsiders in a “boys club”. One woman doesn’t believe that Obama is doing it on purpose, but other high ranking women say that they feel like Obama has just as much responsibility as the next guy for excluding women. It seems questionable that Obama, a man with a very strong and independent wife that he has to go home to every night and answer to would do something like this. Obama aides claim that this is completely false, and that these women are making unfounded claims, and were feeling “sidelined” for no reason.  So this begs the question:  Is the Obama white House being sexist? Are they being elitist? Is Obama’s white house the first to do this?

Personally, I think that it seems like a stretch that this is happening on purpose, to these women. But if they are feeling alienated, then something needs to be done about it. If it were any office and women made such a claim; there would be investigations, and things would have to be done about it. It seems like the things that plague the White House are things that plague us every day America women. Not getting called on for opinions, not really having a say in meetings, not getting promotions, and the like. It seems sad that these things still go on; but this coming out of the White House is just a sad reminder that this is still a daily challenge that women are trying to overcome. Although, now that Ms. Romer has said something about it, I’m sure things will begin to be fixed… The American women will be sure of it.

Where Are All the Women?

Image from NOW.org

By Kristina Gardner

I recently found this article in USA Today about the political institution in the United States and how women are only represented by 17% in Congress and that number is declining.  It shocked me that out of the 186 countries on the list we ranked 90th for representation of women in our political system. Believe it or not, even developing countries, and countries that are not even known for equality or human rights like RwandaUgandaTajikistanSouth Africa and Cuba,  ranked higher than us. I find this completely ridiculous, in a well-developed country, which has fought for women’s rights and is known for being more accepting, that we still don’t have as many women in our political system as we should. Schmitz also says that, “In fact, the total number of female congressional representatives could well decline for the first time in three decades.”  The article also talks about how women only make up 17% of Congress, but make up about 51% of the population; definitely not equal representation.

 What can we do? Encouragement! Encourage women to run of Congress, encourage women to run for local government. Support websites like the two they listed (sheshouldrun.org and runningstartonline.org.) And most importantly vote! Make sure your voice is heard.  In a country that strives for equality, we need to see more women speak up and be representatives for 51% of the population.  Majority rules, right?

A New Addition to the Women’s Center

By Kristina Gardner

Hi! I’m Kristina Gardner! I am a native of Kansas City. I went to Lincoln Prep High School. This is my first year as a college student. I am majoring in Communication (Interpersonal), and minoring in Political Science. I chose UMKC because it is close to home and it is an amazing school that is affordable. I plan on becoming a Political Strategist following campaigns around until I’m ready to settle down, then run for local government, state government, congress, and then a run for president in 2052. I am interested in working for the Women’s Center because I want to stop the inequality that I have experienced. As well as be an activist for the prevention of the violence that a lot of women in my life have been subjected to it.