New Intern Eager to Jump In

Here I am at the Farmer’s Market, one of my favorite spots in KC.

By Samantha Anthony

Greetings! My name is Samantha Anthony and I will be working in the Women’s Center this semester as the blog editor and social media intern. I am beyond excited to have been selected for this opportunity and I look forward to promoting our mission through my love of reading and writing.

This is my third and final year of undergraduate study here at UMKC. I am earning my degree in English literature, along with a minor in manuscripts, print culture, and editing. With my degree, I hope to become an editor. The Women’s Center is the perfect place for me; in addition to writing, I am passionate about women’s rights. My favorite female role models include Emily Dickinson, Amelia Earhart, and Marsha P. Johnson. I am also an advocate for LGBTQIA rights, and I look forward to bridging the gap between these two identities of mine.

If I don’t have my nose in a book, then I am probably quilting, hanging out with my cats, or pursuing my latest story for the university newspaper. I am not a Kansas City native, so I love exploring new places both on- and off-campus (in fact, I think I have perused almost every queso spot and bookstore in town). If you happen to see me on campus this semester, don’t hesitate to say hello!

Guess Who’s Back?

By Chris Howard-Williams

Hello again, everyone!  Chris Howard-Williams here, back after a brief 2-½ week stint between semesters!  It seems like just yesterday that I was bidding a fond farewell to the Women’s Center, so I am beyond excited to be on board again with a whole new role to play.  This time around, I’ll be working as the Center’s graduate assistant, and I can’t wait to be a part of all the exciting events and programs we’re planning for the school year!

As well as working in the Women’s Center, I will be starting the second year of my Couples and Family Counseling Master’s program at UMKC.  This semester, I will begin my practicum in the Community Counseling and Assessment Services center in the School of Education building, meaning I will be meeting with clients soon to practice my counseling skills and start putting into practice what I’ve learned so far.  It should be a sensational year!

Hannah Rejoins Staff for Final Internship Before Graduating

By Hannah Hagan

Hello, again! My name is Hannah, and I’m quite excited to rejoin the Women’s Center staff as an intern this semester. I’m originally from a small town outside of Lawrence, Kansas, but now live in Kansas City. I’m graduating in December, and while the thought of leaving UMKC saddens me, I’m grateful to be ending on a positive note by working with the Women’s Center again. I’m studying English and minoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies; I’m particularly interested in how sexually-/gender-diverse populations use literature as a means of political activism and community-building. After I graduate, I plan to attend graduate school and obtain a Master’s in social work!

At the Women’s Center, I’ll be planning several of this semester’s events, including the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes! Through my events, I hope to contribute to a campus culture that understands gender equity and social justice as essential to a positive college experience. I’ll be working in the Women’s Center several hours every week, so come say hi!

Bye, Everyone!

By Maleigha Michael

My time at UMKC’s Women’s Center has come to a close. For my first internship experience, I’d give it two thumbs up. I’ll admit, I made a LOT of mistakes, mostly due to my lack of knowledge on how to conduct research work, and also just my general forgetfulness (thanks, ADHD). Thankfully, Arzie was in the center for most of my internship time so that I could ask her all of the dumb questions that should’ve asked weeks before I actually asked them.

Working at the Women’s Center wasn’t just a job – it was a responsibility to represent this campus’s women and promote the best image of a woman that this college community should uphold. Whether I was doing that through Facebook and Twitter posts, or while working the Women’s Center table at the Orientation Resource Fairs, it was a greater responsibility than I thought it would be. It also helped me become a more educated feminist, since I had to do daily posts for the social media pages. The resource fairs were more intriguing though, since it involved real interaction with the students and their families. Let me go off on a little tangent about the parents really quick — I found them very interesting. You either got a parent way more enthusiastic than their kid and you could tell they were already getting empty-nest syndrome, or you had a mom come up saying, “Oh, I’m just interested in this for myself. I have a son, so he doesn’t need this!” which is clearly SO wrong. I heard this comment multiple times while working the table with Chris Williams (one of the other workers in the Center), which made this even more bizarre, since he’s a man… You’d think the mom would stop to think, “Wait, if this man is supporting the Women’s Center, maybe it’s important for other men, including my son, to be just as educated on women in order to further promote the equality of men and women!” (Sorry, I don’t mean to exclude those that are non-binary conforming, I just don’t think that this hypothetical-mom would have included them).

Okay, tangent over. Back to what I learned. The majority of my learning came from the actual internship research work I did. This research work was regarding women’s representation in the arts, specifically art museums around KC. I was looking at stuff like how many women artists were represented in museums, how many works of art were created by women in those museums, and how many women were being exhibited in museums versus men. One thing that I learned that stuck out to me was that while there are plenty of women in Missouri art museums that are able to work their way to the top of their fields, nationally and globally, however, women are still insanely underrepresented in those areas. Arzie taught me that this is bad, not just because there’s a lack of equity in this job field (like most job fields), but because when there is no equity in these prestigious jobs where works of art are being decided on whether or not they should be displayed to the public, the women’s perspective isn’t being represented. This means you end up with statistics like less than 3% of the artists in Modern Art sections are women, and yet 83% of the nudes are female (http://www.guerrillagirls.com/). These statistics enforce ideals in their viewers that women are allowed to be used by men, and that their art isn’t as valued or important.

Something else the Women’s Center pushed me to do was to be a better feminist. In my head, I’m a pretty great feminist, but that’s different when you’re out there in the real world. I can think as many progressive thoughts in my head as I want, but I normally don’t take action (like I should) to promote these thoughts, or even seek out new information to learn more about feminism. The Women’s Center made me get more involved in what’s happening with feminists around the world today and it made me share those findings with other feminists to hopefully educate them more, as I have myself. Simply working at the Women’s Center has motivated me to think about feminism much more than I previously had. Don’t get me wrong – I have a very feminist mindset. But for instance, at my job where I work as a waitress, there are so many people there that are such unbelievably regressive-thinkers. And normally, I would just brush them off, maybe make a small comment if they said something that REALLY got under my skin, but that’d be pretty much it. I didn’t think that what I could say could really change what they thought. By working around so many inspiring feminists at the Women’s Center, I have felt empowered enough to speak up at any chance I get to defend feminism and try to chip away at their misogynist minds.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to work not just in a program that immersed me in the art and art history world (since that is my major), but one that immersed me in it with the perspective of a feminist. While feminism applies everywhere, there aren’t many internships where the focus and expectation is to actually study and promote gender equality. While I try avoiding sounding cheesy at all costs, I’m definitely going to miss being in a place where feminism is the main topic of discussion, AND where I can geek out about art history. I don’t think this is my final farewell though… I’ll probably check in with the Women’s Center every so often to see how they’re surviving without their main star player. (Kidding, of course.)

Goodbye, everyone!

 

And So Ends a Season

By Chris Howard-Williams

It’s hard to believe my summer is almost over.  In many ways, I’m very excited.  As I’m writing this, I’m preparing to take my last final for my summer classes in just a few hours, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  I have enjoyed my classes, but the pace of summer grad classes is intense, and I’m looking forward to a few weeks of having my evenings back before starting another semester of the grind.  I also just really like fall – the cooler weather, the colored leaves, and the pumpkin spice everything!  I long for the return of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, and all the food, family, and fun it brings.  For the most part, I welcome the end of the summer season, and this summer is no exception!

Well, except that’s not exactly true.  There is one part of my summer that I will miss, more than I ever anticipated – my work study job at the Women’s Center.  Eight weeks seemed like such a long time back in June.  How did it go by so quickly?

I’ve learned a lot this summer.  I’ve learned how I can best support feminism as a man.  I’ve learned how to smile and talk about the Women’s Center to tired-out freshmen and their parents after a long day of orientation.  I’ve learned the best area shelters to refer women to when they call for help.  I’ve learned the ins and outs of pig ownership (you’ll have to talk to Ann about this one), and I’ve learned that I have quite a knack for making rocks out of Sculpey clay!

But most of all, I’ve learned that UMKC has one heck of an amazing Women’s Center!  I feel privileged to have been a part of it in some small way.  If you’ve never checked it out, then you need to make your way to Haag Hall, room 105, immediately!  The people who work here have been some of the friendliest, most accepting staff I’ve met on campus, and I can’t wait to stop in and visit them in the fall.  It truly has been one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever experienced.

But seasons do have a way of ending, and sadly my season as a Women’s Center work study student ends as well.  It has been an honor to be here, an honor to research and write these blogs posts, an honor to find different issues and articles to post on the Women’s Center Facebook and Twitter pages.  I am thankful for my time here, and I know that I leave a different person than I came.  This has been a truly incredible summer season, and the Women’s Center has meant so much more to me than I could have imagined.  Here’s to hoping that the next season in my life will be just as great!

Out with the Old; In with the New

By Chris Howard-Williams

My summer with the Women’s Center is drawing to a close.  During my time here, I’ve tried to educate myself about feminism and what I can do as a man to promote the cause of feminism.  For my last blog post in this effort, I want to focus on a slightly different question.  Instead of the “how”, I want to touch on the “why” – Why should I, as a man, support feminism?

I’m not going to lie … there are many articles out there already that explain the importance of feminism for men that will put it more eloquently than I ever could.  A quick Google search of “How men benefit from feminism” pulled up many different articles to read.  Reading through just three of the first articles that popped up from the Independent , the Crimson White, and the Medium, I realized there’s nothing I can really add to the discussion that would be new, save for one thing – my own voice.

So, in my own words, why do I support feminism?  Here’s my short list based on my own personal experiences with the inequality and toxic masculinity that still exist:

  1. Because I want to be able to cry and show emotion without it being seen as showing my “feminine side”;
  2. Because I want to be able to enjoy cooking and baking at home without being teased about making someone a “good wife”;
  3. Because I want to be able to say that I don’t enjoy sports without wondering if I’ll be viewed as “less than a man” because of it;
  4. Because I want to be able to stop the “male posturing” for strength and dominance without being called a derogatory term for the female anatomy;
  5. Because I don’t want to be regarded more highly than someone else simply because of my gender (or the color of my skin, while we’re on the subject);
  6. Because I want the women in my life to be considered for who they are and what they can accomplish rather than to be viewed through antiquated stereotypes;
  7. But most importantly, because it’s the right thing to do!

There’s probably more that I could list, but those are the big ones, folks.  Equity and equality matter, and they’re needed.  Men, if you don’t understand why, it’s time to educate yourselves.  It can start with a simple Google search, but it takes a real inner-self search as well.  It’s time to usher out the old, the outdated, the ignorance and the broken gender roles.  It’s time for the new to become the norm.

Celebrating Vera Rubin

By Ann Varner

Vera Rubin in 2009

On this day, July 23, in 1928, a woman who made “ground breaking observations that provided evidence for the existence of a vast amount of dark matter in the universe” was born. That woman was Vera Rubin. It is always important to celebrate our women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) and today is a great day to celebrate this great American astronomer.

Vera Rubin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on December 25, 2016 in Princeton, New Jersey. The New York Times reported that Vera became “entranced by astronomy from watching the stars wheel past her bedroom window.”  She went to Vassar College for her undergraduate degree and graduated the sole astronomer in her class. The New York Times also states that she had hoped to go to Princeton to get her PhD but the astrophysics graduate program did not admit women. Not deterred, she went to Cornell to obtain her master’s degree and then earned her PhD from Georgetown University.

Rubin taught at Montgomery College and Georgetown and then The Carnegie Institution. Despite the sexism she was met with in her field, she was able to build a successful career making important scientific discoveries, winning awards, and being an advocate for women in science. She was admitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Rubin is a pioneer in astrophysics for women and an inspiration to keep pushing forward in a male dominated field.

The Transformation of My Opinion on Selfies

Ann’s selfie

By Ann Varner

Over the past 10 years selfies have become incredibly well-known. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a selfie as “an image of oneself taken using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks”. If you have social media, you’ve likely had many friends who post selfies, whether it’s just of themselves or with others. I’ll admit, for many years when I would see the same woman or man posting 10 pictures of themselves every other day, I would roll my eyes and think to myself that they were being vain or seeking attention. This is actually a common thought — that selfies are narcissistic. More often than not, I would think this about the women who posted their selfies more than the men. However, the American Counseling Association states that the personality traits that indicate narcissism are much more evident in men than women. Essentially, their studies found that when men took selfies, the act was for the most part linked to narcissism. But that same link was not nearly as present with women.

As selfies have become more and more commonplace in my social media feeds, I have watched as women began to explain why they were taking the selfies. One woman had an autoimmune diseases that would cause her skin to flare up. To help her become less self-conscious, she would post selfies of herself during a flare up to receive support from her online friends. Another woman had lost a lot of weight and wanted to show it off, so she would take selfies as a way of self-motivation. My eye rolling began to lessen as I began to see that selfies didn’t necessarily mean that these friends on social media were vain or seeking attention — it was a form of empowerment for them.

Curious about this realization, I reached out to my social media friends and asked one question: Are selfies empowering or narcissistic? Most people responded to say that they posted their selfies because they were proud or feeling good about themselves. Some responded that it depended on how often they posted their selfies. In all, it appeared that most people (limited to my social media) were supportive of selfies as empowerment.

One article perfectly explains the misunderstanding that people have with confusing narcissism with empowerment when women post selfies:

“Novelist and poet John Berger once wrote ‘You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure’. In a way, selfies are a perfect example of this. It isn’t permissible for a young woman to take control over how she is depicted, so people get worked up and freak out when a woman posts a picture of herself that somehow gives her social empowerment and validity”

In the end it comes down to this: we all have our own struggles and self-consciousness even if others can’t see it. We all have different reasons for our selfie posts whether it’s a hidden disease, weight loss, or feeling great about life. Try to empower your friends when they feel confident enough to post a selfie instead of rolling your eyes. After removing the bias from my mind, I now love seeing other’s selfies and encourage them to keep on posting.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog Posts …

By Chris Howard-Williams

So, I’m going to ask you to indulge me a bit this week.  Normally, I write blog posts that deal with being a male feminist and what I can do as an ally to best support the cause of feminism.  I’m going to take a break from that this week to talk about cartoons.  Well, I want to talk about one cartoon in particular, a small offering from the Cartoon Network called Steven Universe.

During the July 4th week, Steven Universe became the first children’s animated series to showcase both a same-sex proposal and marriage. Responding to questions about this decision, Rebecca Sugar, the show’s creator, said that we must absolutely tell LGBTQ+ children that they belong in this world and deserve to be loved.  “We cannot wait until a child grows up to tell them they deserve to exist and that their story matters,” she went on to say.  “I am overwhelmed with emotion thinking of the years of tireless work from all of us on the crew leading up to this moment.”

While this alone is pretty phenomenal, it’s just one more thing on the checklist of amazing firsts and highlights that Rebecca Sugar has woven into the show.  Here are some other groundbreaking facts about Steven Universe:

  • It’s the first animated show on Cartoon Network to be fully created by a woman.
  • It has a diverse voice cast featuring many women of color. Deedee Magno, Michaela Dietz, and Estelle voice the three main female protagonists (Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet, respectively).
  • It seeks to fight against gender norms, offering us a male main character who is empathetic and regularly shows his emotions, many strong female characters, and even an androgynous character who is openly admired by both male and female characters in the show.
  • It has characters who represent many different kinds of sexuality, including straight, gay, and bisexual characters. There is even a character that Rebecca Sugar has confirmed represents a polyamorous relationship.
  • Finally, it presents all of this as normal within the contexts of the world it has built, allowing us to see a world that could exist if we keep fighting for gender and sexuality rights and equality.

So, why does it matter?  Quite simply, representation matters!  As one article put it, when underrepresented populations don’t see people like themselves in media, they get the message that they are invisible, that they don’t count.  In short, they start to feel that there’s something wrong with them.  Even more important is a genuine representation of themselves in media and not a “one-dimensional” characterization of themselves.  And this is exactly the kind of portrayal that Rebecca Sugar is striving for with Steven Universe.

And she has achieved it.  How do I know?  Because the representation has mattered to me personally.  As a gay man watching with my partner as the first ever children’s show featured a same-sex marriage, I cannot express how validated we felt as the union was treated with respect, with dignity, and with love.  I will admit a few tears were shed as we grabbed each other and commented about how beautiful it was to see our personal lives represented in some form on the small screen.  I can only imagine how others have felt watching the show over the years … the girls being shown that they can be strong warriors, the boys being shown that they can be empathetic and find peaceful solutions to conflict, and the many LGBTQIA+ people being shown that our love is just as valid, just as worthy of respect. We can all be Crystal Gems, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about there, I have a show that you need to watch!

Choose Your Words Wisely

Image from Flickr

By Chris Howard-Williams

I believe in the importance of the words we use.  Perhaps this is why, one of my first weeks working in the Women’s Center, I noticed something interesting about our mission statement: “The mission of the Women’s Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is to advocate, educate, and provide support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large (emphasis mine).”  It’s a small thing, but for some reason, it struck me that the mission statement used the word equity as opposed to equality, and it immediately got me thinking.  Was there a reason for the specific choice of words?

A quick Google search turned up an article from Forbes that very succinctly describes the difference between gender equality and gender equity.  Gender equality does not mean that women and men will become the same, but rather that their rights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not be dependent on whether they were born female or male.  Gender equity, however, means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. It understands that, while equality is the ultimate goal, there may need to be some “leveling of the playing field” in order for equality to be achieved.  It is the concept that “fair does not always mean equal”.

So, why is this distinction important?  Well, in my mind’s eye, I see it like a road map.  Gender equality is the destination we want to reach, but gender equity is the route we have to take to get there.  As much as we may want equality between the genders, we have to realize that we aren’t there yet and we have to do some work in order to arrive. The Global Gender Gap Report 2017, put out by the World Economic Forum, ranks the United States as 49th out of 144 countries in their ability to close the gender gap in their country. As shocking as this statistic is, it is even more disheartening to learn that the 2013 report ranked the US as 23rd (out of 136 countries ranked that year) on the list. We not only have a gender gap problem … it’s getting worse!  And according to the 2017 report, it will take 217 years at the present course to achieve gender equity!

So, is one little word important?  It absolutely is!  While “equality” is a good reminder of where we want to be, “equity” is the wake-up call that we aren’t there yet.  As Dr. Nancy Southern puts it in a blog post, “most people don’t see how important (gender equity) is to creating a healthy society.”  She goes on to argue that we need to change the conversation in America to “how we can create the institutional, economic, cultural and other conditions so that women can equally contribute their knowledge, skills, and experience to creating a better society.”  The truth is, without equity, we are missing out on a big part of our potential as a society, and that’s a lot of weight bound up in just one simple word.

So, choose your words wisely … they may just be the keys we need to unlock our future!