Hannah Says Goodbye

By Hannah Hagan

Throughout the semester, Hannah coordinated a number of events for the Women’s Center.

I write this end-of-semester post with a heavy heart. This not only marks the end of time at the UMKC Women’s Center, but at UMKC all together: I’m graduating in less than a week, and while I’m excited, it’s hard to let go of the people and places that made life so wonderful the past several years. UMKC is a friendly, beautiful, relentlessly unique place – it’s challenged nearly everything I thought I knew about the world and made me a better person for it. And though I feel like I’ve dipped my toe into nearly every club, organization, department or job I could find here, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this university has to offer.

Still, I managed to glean an incredible amount of school and work experience at UMKC, ones that have provided clarity and purpose for my present and future. Of these experiences, my time at the Women’s Center has perhaps been most essential. Through my two-semester internship, I was able to apply the theories and knowledge I gained from my women’s and gender studies minor to enact real, observable change. From creating anti-violence programs to leading group discussions to the minute details of everyday office work, this internship sharpened my work ethic and convinced me that I am, in fact, on the right track.

Although I’m graduating with an English degree – a degree I love, cherish, and will never regret earning – I plan to continue my education by studying social work at the Master’s level come fall 2019. This decision was unquestionably influenced by my time at the Women’s Center; it is the place where I first learned the satisfaction of working with communities to address conflict and to heal. Before then, though, I will be travelling to Senegal in January as my final hoorah with the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies department. There, I will learn from and work with local female entrepreneurs who are creating and directing programs to address social and health inequity in their country. Senegal is on the precipice of a gender revolution not unlike ours of the mid-20th century, and I’m rendered speechless each time I remember my opportunity to contribute to that transformation, however minimally. To meet the incredible people at the forefront of the Senegalese women’s movement will be an unrivaled professional and personal experience – I just keep waiting for someone to pinch me. If it weren’t for my involvement in the Women’s Center, I doubt I would have even heard of this opportunity. My work here has opened doors I never knew existed.

Gender, violence prevention, reading, writing – these are the subjects to which I’ve been devoted for the past 3.5 years. For a bookworm and self-described gender nerd, it’s been nothing short of a dream. As I continue my educational journey, I’m anxious to know where these passions will land me. In the distant future, I see myself working as a licensed social worker, hopefully consulting young women and queer people on healthy relationships, friendships, and sexual behaviors. In the meantime, who knows? I’m trying to keep my mind open the same way I did when I accepted this internship a year ago. My greatest wish is to never stop working for and with women, LGBT folk, and allies. If I can at least do that much, then I’ll be content.

Ann Reflects on Her Experiences

By Ann Varner

Ann attends the birthday party of a furry friend.

This semester was my fifth semester (including the summer break) with the Women’s Center. Over the summer and during the semester I took on a new role with more responsibility as a senior work-study student. This meant I was in charge of creating and planning events similarly to what the graduate assistant and interns do, as well as delegating responsibilities, creating schedules to keep the office running, and training new staff. It has certainly been an experience that created new challenges, but I feel it has helped me improve my skills in leadership as well as event planning and executing.

Event planning was a new role for me. I needed to understand the meaning of the events and what I hoped for students and staff to get out of them, which helped me continue to learn and understand feminism and equality. A simple event such as feminist film Friday or crafty feminist Friday has multiple meanings and lessons that we hope come out of it, which taught me more as well. I have also been challenged in writing for blogs, as sometimes it feels as though I have hit a writer’s block because I have written so many blogs in my time at the Women’s Center. It is a good challenge though, because I have had to search outside of my realm of comfort to find new topics to think about and research.

I look forward to next semester. I am studying abroad in Senegal and studying women’s health and development while I am there, and will be refreshed with new ideas and experiences. I am extremely excited as I am studying abroad with our Director of the Women’s Center, Brenda Bethman, and an intern who has been at the Women’s Center for a year, Hannah! It has been a busy and eventful semester, but certainly rewarding.

Nina’s Semester in Review

By Nina Cherry

Nina volunteering at Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in September.

As the year comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on my semester here at the Women’s Center. In August, I moved out of a tiny town of 220 people, immersed myself into the culture of Kansas City, and joined the Women’s Center staff in early September. Coming from somewhere so small, there were a few learning curves along the way, but I adjusted rapidly and found my place at UMKC and the Women’s Center. I have built a great sense of community!

In addition to this being my first semester at the Women’s Center, it was also my first semester of college. I have learned and grown so much as an individual this semester, and I look forward to continuing this growth in such a wonderful environment next semester.

Throughout the semester I took on more responsibility. Mid-semester I took over the Healing Arts Corners, found in several offices in Atterbury Student Success Center, The Rainbow Lounge, Student Health and Wellness, and of course, the Women’s Center. I look forward to continuing the Healing Arts Corners next semester.

This semester, I learned quite a bit about where and why there is gender inequity in many areas – especially in the workforce, and specifically within the arts. I also learned a lot about myself, and have been on a journey to find out what empowers me. Writing weekly blogs required a bit of research. I read countless articles on women’s issues. I am much more knowledgeable from doing this week after week.

I’m already excited for another semester at the Women’s Center!

Many Thanks: An Editor’s Farewell

By Samantha Anthony

This semester helped me grow as an individual and an advocate. In the future, I hope to travel and do more hands-on work to promote gender equity.

When I first began my internship at the Women’s Center in August, I was thrilled to be involved with an organization that has a meaningful purpose. Although my position as the blog editor left me in charge of our online presence, the greatest lessons I learned this semester were from my interactions with coworkers, students, and faculty in the Women’s Center. Not only did I add an extensive amount of material to my writing portfolio, but I also formed relationships which I will be thankful for long after my time here has ended.

I know I will miss working for the Women’s Center, but I’m looking forward to graduation and the completion of my undergraduate education at UMKC. Now that I am nearly finished with my internship, I feel (somewhat) more confident about what I’d like to do with the rest of my life. I dropped my minor completely in October to focus on my major, English language and literature. Following graduation, I will be moving somewhere much sunnier and warmer for a refreshing change of scenery. I’ve found a job unrelated to my major which will support me during a much-needed gap year. I know the importance of knowledge, but I can’t wait to forget about school for awhile and focus on my personal and professional growth. My plans are constantly changing, but graduate school is a major possibility for me. The coming year will consist of building a writing portfolio and applying to jobs more related to English, editing, and journalism. I have developed a love for journalism this semester through my contributions to the Women’s Center blog and University News. Although the Women’s Center blog is more opinion-based, I was able to work on my writing skills and master the art of advocacy through the written word. For the first time, I felt the gratification of providing support to a woman in need. Without this experience, I would not have discovered my passion for hands-on work.

This internship has impacted me in a way that is difficult to put into words. While I cared about feminist issues before joining the Women’s Center staff, I am now much more educated. I know about women’s issues and current events, and I am able to list multiple resources for any woman who may be seeking help. When something happens, instead of posting my thoughts on social media and then forgetting about it, I try to do something more impactful with my emotions. No matter where life takes me, I will continue to nurture my devotion to women and gender equality, and I know that I’ll look back fondly on the time I spent representing one of the best organizations at UMKC.

Marge in Charge

By Margaret Wight

Well, hey there.

My name is Margaret Wight, but friends call me Marge so feel free to do the same. I am the new graduate assistant at the UMKC Women’s Center. I am originally from the small town of New Market, Virginia. I received my Bachelor of Science from James Madison University (go Dukes!) in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Geriatric Study. I realized that this was not the career I wanted to advance in around my senior year of college. I just spent the last four years getting a degree in a field I no longer wanted to work in – so, now what?

I decided I wanted to continue my education, but this time I wanted to be sure about what career field I wanted to end up in. Since I was still uncertain about what I wanted to do, I could not enroll in grad school just yet, but I could not remain idle either – this lead me to apply to AmeriCorps. I ended up applying, interviewing, and landing a position as a Corps Member in a program called City Year-Kansas City: an education non-profit that focuses on closing the graduation gap created by the economic, academic, and supportive disparities low-income students face every day.

Through working with City Year and reflecting on my time at JMU, I realized I wanted to work on college campuses and focus on creating new programs and practices to increase the number of underrepresented students in postsecondary education. Now here we are, I am currently studying Higher Education Administration with a focus in Student Affairs at UMKC. When I saw the GA position at the Women’s Center become available, I knew that was the perfect next step for me.

The reason I was automatically attracted to the Women’s Center is because all kinds of #equity is a passion of mine. The Women’s Center’s mission is “to advocate, educate, and provide support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large,” and girl, I can get down with that! Let’s talk wage gap, feminism, body positivity, and human rights. I am so excited to be a part of this amazing team and work toward a common goal. Everybody, get hype for the awesome programs we have planned for you this upcoming semester and most importantly – come visit us in the Women’s Center!

Abusive Relationships

By Christina Terrell

Domestic Abuse: When Love Turns Violent

Heartbreaking stories of domestic abuse are revealed when Adrienne shares her traumatic experiences at the hands of Jada's father, the life-threatening event that finally made her leave him and the effect it had on Jada. Willow sits down with a 14-year-old girl who witnessed her mother’s abuse.

Posted by Red Table Talk on Thursday, November 15, 2018
Log into Facebook to watch Jada Pinkett Smith’s episode of “Red Table Talk” that deals with domestic violence at the hands of a romantic partner or family member.

It’s finally December, one of the most magical times of the year. Everyone wants to be cuddled up with their sweetheart, but have you ever stopped to take the time and realize just how sour that sweetheart of yours may be?

It is proven that 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Whether the abuse is emotional or physical, most women do not see it coming. A partner who starts off seeming too good to be true can sooner or later allow their real colors to show.

In Jada Pinkett Smith’s new online Facebook series called “Red Table Talk,” her latest show focuses on domestic violence and abusive relationships – and just how hard it is for women to tell if they are really in love or just being controlled. Smith even shares personal stories that detail abuse at the hands of her father, which shaped how she sought romantic relationships as a young woman.

The episode, which is titled “Domestic Abuse: When Love Turns Violent,” focuses on the topic of what most women experience when they are in an abusive relationship. It advises women how to tell when their significant other is trying to harm them and create a toxic environment by being overprotective, controlling, and manipulative. I feel as though this is important and something that not only older women deal with, but women of all ages. It is important to offer women the correct tools and resources to help themselves out of these situations.

However, even when offering women all of the resources that they may need, people not in an abusive relationship have trouble understanding that sometimes the only way a woman will walk about from domestic violence is if she is ready to do so. Most women do not reach this point until they are completely fed up emotionally – after all, the mental strain that an abusive relationship can put on you is probably the hardest thing to deal with as a woman. That is why it is extremely important that as sisters and women, we all stand and lend support to one another (especially when fighting against domestic violence).

Do Female Actresses Mind a Wage Gap?

By Christina Terrell

Watch some of television’s biggest female stars discuss their experiences in Hollywood.

When it comes to Hollywood stars, most people don’t see money as an issue for anyone – male or female. But what some people do not realize is that in today’s celebrity-focused world, women suffer from the biggest wage gape of all. These women come from different cultures and have varying ages and backgrounds, but that doesn’t matter to the entertainment industry.

In Net-A-Porter’s third annual Women in Television issue, four very well-known and talented female actresses gather to discuss why actresses don’t talk about their worth – and to talk about how they can use their voices to empower one another. These four women include Ellen Pompeo, Emma Roberts, Gabrielle Union, and Gina Rodriquez. Each of these women have held very memorable roles on the television screen. For example, you may know Ellen Pompeo from the hit show Gray’s Anatomy. In the YouTube video, she touches on her experiences with co-stars and crew members from the show, and how she found out that they were not getting paid equally, but still putting in the same amount of work as she was. For this very reason, Pompeo witnessed her hairdresser walk off set in the middle of shooting.

“I’m battling every day.”

Ellen Pompeo

This television debate also touches on some other reasons as to why women in the film industry suffer from such a big wage gap. The talented actresses say that they have experienced cultural discrimination, not just gender-based, and have not been paid equally or allowed to participate in certain projects. Gina Rodriguez, for example, speaks from her experiences and tells viewers how she has taken a job before where she later found out that someone before her was offered the same role, but for much more money. Rodriguez went to the directors of the project and asked for that same amount and was told no. She said that the personally felt as though the people working on the project did not see her as valuable and felt that she could easily be replaced.

“Growing up as a Latina in the United States, I didn’t see us portrayed positively on TV.”

Gina Rodriguez

Throughout the Net-A-Porter video, these gifted actresses go on to share many more experiences that they have had in Hollywood. They also debate ways in which this can be overcome, and share valuable tips about how to empower one another as females working in the entertainment industry.

Tips on Discussing Women’s Issues During the Holidays (Without Throwing Dinner Plates)

By Christina Terrell

Avoid familial drama – without feeling like your voice is being silenced.

We all have that not-so-favorite aunt or uncle who has something controversial or annoying to say about women, and how they should not feel dehumanized when it comes to abortion, politics, or gender equality.

It’s just impossible to hold back your opinion, right?

Your mother might have advised you to keep silent about your feminist views. However, no matter what she says, the key to not having to keep silent about your views is to pick your family opponent wisely.

Some of the best ways to get a dad or uncle – who might not understand where you are coming from – to see the light would be to share some of your personal experiences that can persuade them to have a more open mind. After hearing about some of the situations that their own family member has been through, the males in your life will be less likely to blame those experiences on the woman who endures them.

Naturally, this approach may not work when speaking to a male ego. However, this is okay, because you should be prepared to be disappointed by how they react to the information you share with them. Since it seems that women are living in a troublesome sociopolitical climate, we repeatedly hear that our opinions are not valid – which can make us women feel as if our right to speak up is being ignored.

Don’t feel defeated at this stage; there is still a way to rein in the conversation without turkey and mashed potatoes flying across the dinner table. Simply reply to your dubious family member with the facts – there is no better way to prove your point than with the truth. There are so many organizations that advocate for women by providing statistics and research-based information to the public. So, drop some self-knowledge on that family member of yours.

To help you out, we’ve gathered a few statistics that you can memorize:

“Since 2009, 60% of sexual assaults have gone unreported.”

The American Association of University Women

“One in three women are sexually abused at some point in their lifetime.”

VERVE

“Women from around the world aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria.”

Makers

If all else fails, don’t be discouraged. Practice self-care by reminding yourself that your opinions are valid, and leave the conversation knowing that although women’s issues may not mean much to your not-so-favorite uncle, they sure mean something to you. All over the world, women are uniting to bring their voice to the table – even if it is just a holiday meal.

Meet Caitlin, the newest intern at the Women’s Center

Hey everybody! My name is Caitlin Easter, and I am the newest addition to the UMKC Women’s Center staff!

I was born and raised in a small town called Warsaw here in Missouri. If you have heard of it, or it sounds familiar, it’s probably due to it being right on Truman Lake and The Lake of the Ozarks.  I am currently a first-year freshman here at UMKC, but I did manage to get some of the dual credit hours I earned in high school to transfer so I am a little farther ahead. (Yay!)

I have always felt a strong need to help people, and I never knew how I wanted to do that until I got to UMKC. I wasn’t sure how my need to help people was going to transfer into a career, and so I took a super stereotypical route to become a doctor. I decided I wanted to become an ER Trauma Doctor, and I chose to come to UMKC for our fantastic Biology program. Before even starting the first day of the semester, I changed out of all of my classes because I knew Biology just personally wasn’t the best way for me to help people for the rest of my life. Plus, I honestly didn’t think I could bear to learn about cells all over again one more time! After some exploration, I found that maybe the functions of the body that I wanted to learn about were more mind-based. I am currently majoring in Psychology, and have loose plans to develop a career in Psychiatry moving forward.

What specifically interested me about the Women’s Center was their goal to reach equity amongst the genders. I have always been interested in the way gender and sex play into how we are treated, and being a girl, I always felt disparities due to my gender. When I signed up for the Women’s Center’s emails at the beginning of the semester, I wasn’t ready for how much the idea of it would draw me in! The emails I showed me the relentless and constant energy that these people were putting into educating and advocating to make sure I was given a chance to succeed despite what gender norms used to constitute. Once my seasonal job in my hometown ended, I didn’t have any more excuses to not try to become a part of the team! I am looking forward to becoming more knowledgeable about some of the issues facing women, and working with these incredible people to hopefully continue to lay the groundwork for a better place for women in this world. I am looking forward to helping in any way I can, and I am really just excited to get started!

Loving Yourself During the Holidays

By Samantha Anthony

One of the very first concepts I understood as a young girl was the importance of beauty.

As I’ve grown, I have begun to understand that beauty does not have just one physical form; however, any woman can sympathize with my struggle to resist diet culture and toxic beauty standards, especially during the holiday season. For many of us, the word “skinny” has become synonymous with “better.” Corporations want this, because diet culture is extremely profitable. The U.S. weight loss market is worth $66 billion and is projected to grow even more, according to a 2017 study conducted by Market Research.

In an effort to preserve self-love, some women have made a vow to give up diets entirely: in her article about the negative impacts of succumbing to diet culture, Samantha Mann writes about how she has noticed the ways women talk about their health. “I still accidentally tell women they look skinny as an automatic compliment,” she says. “It feels nice to make other people light up, and nothing does it as quickly as telling a woman she looks thin. Most people want to make their friends feel confident and happy, but we have to find better ways of doing it.”

It is especially important that we avoid thinking about food in a toxic way, because the holidays celebrate food in a way that is troubling for some of us. In “Diet Christmas: when did the holiday season become a time for disordered eating?”, Deirdre Fidge notes, “For those of us staying home over the festive period, food is a huge part of celebrations. It can mean connecting with our own family by making a specific dish, or passing down traditions of our own.” Fidge continues, “If we allow ourselves to be consumed by diet culture, we run the risk of missing out on these meaningful moments around us, and of the pure joy in celebrating with others. We also, of course, may find ourselves with an unhealthy obsession.” 

This holiday season, I plan on following the words of these wise women and avoiding conversations about dieting, or complimenting my friends on their weight. This contributes to the idea that our value is rooted in our appearance, which isn’t true: instead, we should be recognizing the beauty in others that cannot be tied to a number. (It doesn’t hurt that the easiest way to combat diet culture is to eat what I like during the holidays.)