Read My Lips: No “Mansplaining” Here!

By Chris Howard-Williams

Image from Flickr

So, I have a confession – I’m a little intimidated to be working in the Women’s Center.  Being a man, I am keenly aware that many of the difficult issues women face today are a result of mistreatment by the male gender. To this end, my goal this summer is to further my knowledge of feminism and women’s rights so that I may be counted as an ally. I want to know what I can do as a male feminist to support the many wonderful women in my life as best I can.  My first commitment?  No mansplaining!

The term “mansplaining” is thought to have its creation due to an essay called “Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Don’t Get in Their Way”, written by Rebecca Solnit in April 2008. In the essay, Solnit recounts a story where, while at a party, she began to discuss a book she had just written. She had hardly begun when she was interrupted by a man who began sharing about a book he had heard about on the same subject. As it turns out, he was talking about Solnit’s own book, but it took her friend interrupting him about four times, saying, “That’s her book,” before it sank in and he stopped talking. This is the essence of mansplaining.

An online article titled “6 Subtle Forms of Mansplaining that Women Face Every Day” further explains that mansplaining is not simply when a man is legitimately explaining something to someone.  Rather, it’s those times when a man purposely interrupts a woman to explain things she already knows because he assumes he knows it better than she does.  This can be as obvious as Steven Santagati insisting during an interview on CNN that he knows how the female host and guest of the program would respond while being catcalled, or it can be as subtle as the man who insists that you try something you know you don’t like, such as food or drink, because he “knows you’ll like it.”  The point is, the man knows best and you need to listen – mansplaining.

So, my first goal working in the Women’s Center is to keep it a Mansplaining Free Zone!  Instead, I want to listen.  I want to hear the stories the people in the center have to share.  I want to learn what I can do to further my stance on feminism and the fight for equity.  I want to share what expertise I have while acknowledging and respecting others’ expertise.  In short, I guess I want the opposite of mansplaining, which means I’ll make an effort to keep my lips sealed and my ears open.  No mansplaining here!

Kate Spade: The Woman Who Helped Young Women Enter Adulthood

By Ann Varner

My first Kate Spade bag was a bright blue, square-shaped purse with green polka dots on the inside. I still have this bag as it’s my favorite. The color and shape are so unique that everywhere I go I receive compliments and the question “where did you get that?” I usually tell them my secret – the Kate Spade surprise sale. This sale was the only way I could afford a Kate Spade bag. All the clearance items would be an extra 75% off. I could always get a bag for under $100 that was big enough to hold everything I needed it to. My Kate Spade bag gave me all the confidence in the world when I was 20-years-old and learning how to navigate life. I had just moved to a city where I knew no one and was figuring out what to do with my life, and this bag symbolized my quest to find myself.  I was learning what it meant to be an independent woman in today’s world and that bag helped me grow from adolescence into young adulthood.

Many young women like me felt the same way. According to a recent article in The New York Times: “Buying a Kate Spade handbag was a coming-of-age ritual for a generation of American women. The designer created an accessories empire that helped define the look of an era. The purses she made became a status symbol and a token of adulthood.” No truer words have been written.

Kate Spade, with her husband Andy Spade, launched the Kate Spade label in 1993. Her bags were quirky, much like her smile. They had bright colors and fun designs that made people smile. Unlike other designer bags, Kate Spade bags were affordable and women of all different economic classes could afford to have one of their own. All Kate Spade bags have their own personality, and it was easy to find one that matched your own. Unlike many of the male purse designers in the world who created neutral colored purses with large logos, Kate Spade knew what women wanted to carry around. She became one of the first women entrepreneurs in the fashion world with a high rise to success. A great quote in the Atlantic sums up what Kate Spade did for women:

“Working in an industry largely run by men, Spade didn’t invent the idea of the professional woman who also cared about style; she was just responding to the reality of what women were already doing…she solved the problem of what women wanted without elitism.”

Kate Spade is a Kansas City native. Born and raised in Kansas City, we are proud to call her our own. She also contributed to the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City after her friend suffered a traumatic brain injury. Her impact on the fashion world showed that a girl from the Midwest could become a fashion mogul in New York City.  Her red lipstick and smile will be dearly missed. I encourage you to not focus on how she passed away, but on her successes in life.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately. Go to a hospital, call 911, or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Former Teacher Joins Women’s Center Staff for Summer

By Chris Howard-Williams

Hello!  My name is Chris Howard-Williams, and I am delighted to be joining the Women’s Center as a work study student for the summer term!  I am currently a student at UMKC pursuing my Master’s in Couples and Family Counseling.  This has been a dramatic career shift for me as I spent the 15 years prior to becoming a student at UMKC as a 4th grade teacher in the Olathe (KS) school district.  It has been an exciting journey to transition from teacher back to student, particularly when I realize I’m not responsible for grading papers anymore!

During my time in the Women’s Center, I hope to deepen my understanding of what feminism is and the important role it plays in our society.  I come into this position as a true learner, knowing that I have much still to learn and yet being eager to do so.  I have a special interest in challenging “societal norms,” particularly in the areas of gender and sexuality.  I also enjoy working with youth to accept their interests even if (and most especially if) they do not match with our society’s norms.  Beyond that, I’m also really hoping that I get to learn how to knit as I hear the director of the Women’s Center, Brenda Bethman, has a real penchant for knitting!  Oh, and by the way … yes, my hair is really blue in that picture!  Feel free to stop in and see what crazy thing I’m doing with it next!

Summer Intern Works for Equity in the Arts

By Maleigha Michael

Hi, my name is Maleigha Michael. I’m from Parkville, which is within Kansas City and only about half an hour away from UMKC. I have just finished my first actual year at the University of Missouri where I am planning to major in Art History and minor in German.

I chose to apply for this internship because I wanted to gain experience in the Art History field through the Her Art Project, and learn and promote women in the art industry. Through MU, I joined the sorority of Kappa Alpha Theta, the first Greek letter fraternity for women. Our focus is on empowering other women and encouraging them to take leadership positions within their community. Being exposed to so many leading women this past few semesters has lead me to want to influence positive change and progress for women.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work in the Women’s Center over this summer of 2018! I hope to create a more positive environment that pushes equality around UMKC, to learn about gender representation in the art world, and to gain skills that I will be able to take with me after this internship is over.

Emmy Rossum Had No Shame Asking for Equal Pay

By Ann Varner

Emmy Rossum is the unsung hero in Hollywood right now after she demanded, fought for, and receive equal pay of her co-star, William H. Macy. One of my favorite shows is Shameless. The show is set in south side Chicago with Macy playing a dead beat dad with six children. The oldest of the children is Fiona (played by Rossum) who is truly the center of the show.

When Rossum began the show 9 years ago she didn’t have the equivalent experience as Macy, so the unequal pay wasn’t an issue to her. However, 7 seasons later and after directing many of the shows herself, she decided it was time to ask for equal pay.  Due to the extensive negotiations about her pay, production for the 8th season was put to a halt. Fortunately, Rossum got what she wanted and deserved and is now beginning filming for the 9th season.

While finding articles about her equal pay fight, I was pleased to find that Rossum had major support behind her fight for equal pay, including support from Macy: “It’s show biz’s job to get us for as cheaply as they can – and our job to say no…It’s unconscionable they would pay a woman less for the same job.”

Regarding becoming a champion for equal pay, Rossum stated: “This is across the board in every industry, how women are paid versus how men are paid. And then you take it further, that kind of bias extends not just to gender but to race, ethnicity, religion.”

Emmy Rossum is a role model and exactly who we need to inspire more women in Hollywood and the real world to demand their equal pay.

Book or TV Series: The Handmaid’s Tale is some scary sh*t

By Ann Varner

Last week, the UMKC Women’s Center bought the book The Handmaid’s Tale and less than a week later I finished reading it. My interest, like many others, first sparked when Hulu premiered The Handmaid’s Tale series last year. The second season recently premiered on April 25 which coincided with Denim Day, a national campaign that raises awareness of the misconceptions of sexual assault and rape – a very fitting coincidence. Only a few episodes in, and I already think that this season is more terrifying than the first. Despite the TV series doing a very good job of following the storyline of the book, I did notice a few differences in the TV series that may have been added to appeal to today’s TV audiences.

Many of the differences between the book and the TV series center on the characters. For instance, one of the biggest differences is that in the book, Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, and the Commander himself are actually a much older couple than portrayed in the Hulu series. In the series, they are a young, beautiful couple. The biggest plot difference is that Janine (or OfWarren) does not give birth to a healthy baby. In the book, the baby dies after a few days; whereas, in the show, the baby is healthy but Janine cannot give it up and attempts suicide and threatens to kill the baby. In the show, this causes Aunt Lydia to try to force the Handmaid’s to stone Janine to death. At the end of the first season, June (or OfFred) refuses to stone Janine and the other Handmaid’s follow. This is the first sign of revolt and the Handmaid’s refusing to follow orders.

Although the first season of the series was a complete retelling of the book, the producers have used the second season to explore the details of June’s character more deeply. For example, the second season addresses June’s affair with her husband who was married when they met. We also learn more about her relationship with her extremely feminist mom who ends up in the colonies. These glimpses into June’s past help to define the choices she makes to survive her current situation.

After reading the book, I am pleased to say that the writers of The Handmaid’s Tale series have done a great job sticking with the story line in the book, but are also using some creative license to expand the plot (with author Margaret Atwood’s involvement). The show is a horror story that I can’t stop watching, but it’s also a grim reminder of why we must continue to fight for women’s rights.

Good Wife, Good Fight: Good Feminist TV

By Ann Varner

The Good Fight is a spin-off of the show The Good Wife. The Good Wife was a wonderfully surprising feminist show. I didn’t expect The Good Wife to be feminist based off of its name, however, it features a strong female lead who goes back to working as a lawyer after 13 years of being a housewife. The Good Wife follows Alicia Florrick as she navigates the male-dominated profession as a first-year associate alongside younger, newly-minted colleagues. She climbs to the top and also finds herself along the way.

The Good Fight premiered two years ago, shortly after The Good Wife ended. The Good Fight does not have Alicia Florrick in it, instead my favorite character is another strong female lead character from The Good Wife series, Diane Lockhart. Diane is a well-seasoned attorney who built a firm but was ultimately pushed out following a scandal. She cannot retire because her money was stolen and needs a new job. Struggling to find a job, she only receives one job offer from an African-American-run firm. She joins the firm and as a partner, the firm becomes predominately women.

A show featuring African Americans and women as leads in professional fields is rare and a breath of fresh air. The show covers many hard topics such as police brutality, the #metoo movement, hate crimes, and rape. The show also shows women and people of color that they are not forgotten and can rise to the top. It is currently my favorite show and I look forward every week to it airing. The catch is that it is a CBS original, so you have to pay $5.99 a month to watch it (it includes all the other CBS shows as well). Because it is an original the show allows swearing and is not as censored, which is great for covering topics that are controversial. I highly recommend this show if you have an extra $6 a month.

Final Reflections

By Christian Deshazo

Being the Program Manager intern at the Women’s Center was an experience for which I am forever thankful. This internship, specifically, allowed me the opportunity to organize and execute events, which were fresh responsibilities that I had not undertaken. These experiences, in particular, enabled me to learn the invaluable skills of punctuality, administrative duties, and establishing an agenda and conducting a meeting. These newfound sets of skill will undoubtedly help me with future jobs.

One of the most memorable events, and also the event that was the most fun to plan, was the Women’s History Month Trivia Week and Tabling. I took this event in a direction where it had never been: I incorporated the spinning prize wheel, which until then had scarcely been used. I also incorporated large and fuzzy purple dice. I had a lot of fun organizing the event and a lot of fun at the tabling. It was rewarding to see participants enjoying the event while also learning about notable women in history.

My biggest weakness was the lack of experience managing programs. Which, of course, led to some conflicts during the internship. For the first couple of months, I was a bit lost. In other words, I was still learning the ropes and how to navigate this position. It took a brief moment for me to learn where files were, and which files I was supposed to turn to for assistance. However, every moment of this internship, the good and especially the hard, was a learning experience of which I am beyond appreciative. It has, ultimately, shaped me into a person who is a much more valuable in the workforce. Through and through, my time interning at the Women’s Center has been nothing short of pleasant. I highly recommend the Program Manager internship.

Closing Thoughts on My Time at the Women’s Center

By Megan Schwindler

Denim Day 2018 – I wasn’t behind the camera for once!

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this internship. The guidelines were clearly laid out, the goals and objectives identified, and the mission statement stated in big, bold letters. But what did all that really look like?

The day-to-day operations varied. Some days I would spend editing and writing blogs, other days I would help set up for events and take photos. But no matter what I was doing I was always surrounded by friendly coworkers and approachable bosses. Working in a feminist office-setting has completely changed my perspective on job-hunting and the type of work environment I want to be in. Instead of applying for a wide array of jobs, I’ve focused on companies with women in leadership roles or companies founded by women. I’d like to say I would have been more conscious of this before this internship, but I can’t say that I would have. Working with strong feminists every day and having conversations with them has really opened my eyes to the inequities women face within the workplace and everyday life. It’s easy to live within your little bubble but talking to women with different experiences and ideas has really opened my eyes to the importance of feminism and an inclusive campus. Every facet of the Women’s Center is important. The events and programming celebrate our diverse campus and provide a safe space for students, the blogs serve to educate and inform, and the staff represents the Women’s Center’s ideals in and out of the office.

My time at the Women’s Center has taught me marketable skills that I can use in my future career. I’ve wrote and edited blogs for a diverse audience, managed multiple social media sites, taken photographs, promoted events and programs, and learned how to be a team player. The work that the Women’s Center does could not be done by just one person. If this internship has taught me anything it is the importance of communication and patience. With so many people collaborating and depending on one another to perform it can be frustrating when things fall through. But in the end, it always worked out. The events we held, the blogs that were posted, and the pictures littered on social media show that this was a successful semester. I’m so happy that I ended my undergraduate career working at the Women’s Center alongside such a wonderful staff and support group. Thank you all for a great semester!

Final Reflections

By Hannah Hagan 

Ah, the end of the semester – as time grows shorter and my to-do list grows longer, as I begin to select my classes for next semester, and as I begin to recycle the copious amounts of papers that have accumulated in my binders and backpacks, I have little choice but to reflect upon what I’ve learned over the past four months. So far, the list looks something like this:

1. Don’t sign up for online classes if…you hate online classes (seems obvious enough, but bears repeating).

2. I really ought to move somewhere where it doesn’t snow IN APRIL, for Pete’s sake.

3. Caffeine will be there for me when no one else is.

4. If you must work (which I do, due to my unfortunate lack of trust fund/401k/etc.), you might as well work somewhere that aligns with your values.

All jokes aside, that last point really is important. While I’ve understood this about life for a while now, my lack of credentials and professional experience have generally limited me from enacting this ideal in my day-to-day life. Like most people my age, I’ve had more than plenty of experiences working in environments that ultimately do very little for my emotional being – retail, food service, “warm body” desk jobs, you know. And while these jobs are more than necessary, I never felt enriched by any of my experiences in these places. More often than helping me understand what my values are, they helped realize what they most certainly are not.

Enter: the UMKC Women’s Center.

The scene: I’m home, furiously scrolling through the course catalog, searching for something – anything – that will not only fill up my schedule, but offer a chance at professional development and the ever-elusive networking. An internship sounds nice, but where’s a gal like me supposed to intern with half an English degree and zero office experience? After a series of conversations with advisors and a plethora of online searches, I decide to give the Women’s Center a shot. I’m not sure if I’ll be hired, but at least it won’t be for lack of trying.

Fast-forward sixteen weeks and I’m officially on the other side of my first real internship. The goals I entered with – professional development and networking – now pale in comparison to what I’ve really gained. For the first time ever, I have a genuine sense of what I’d like to make a career in. My interest in women’s advocacy has blossomed into a passion, and it is a field that I never want to be separated from again. Through my work at the Women’s Center, I learned effective methods for identifying and communicating real issues facing women in our community and I had the opportunity to develop educational (and fun!) programs to address these issues. I had the privilege to work with strong women who are equally committed to gender equity, hear their stories, and become their friends. Most of all, I got to work within my values, and from those values produce real, tangible action. How lucky am I?

Turns out, I’ve learned a lot more than what can be articulated in a numbered list. And I still have so much more to learn – which is why I’m thrilled to be returning to the Women’s Center next semester! I’m looking forward to new programs and new faces, but I’ll always look back to this semester as “where it all began.” Until then, have a great finals week and an even better summer!